Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

IS HARDCORE THE NEXT INDIE TREND?

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A year ago, this site published my review of Rohnert Park, the then-new album from San Francisco based hardcore act Ceremony. I cited the similarities of that record with those of comparatively more popular acts Fucked Up and Pissed Jeans, two groups that record for “indie” labels that are distinct from those owned by the hardcore subculture. It appears I was not alone in that observation, as Matador Records has announced Ceremony has signed with them, effectively leaving hardcore imprint Bridge Nine. Artists leave smaller labels for bigger ones all the time, but this instance potentially signals a nascent trend in indie music: “popular” hardcore.

Unlike pop punk, so peppy and easy-to-digest, the kind of hardcore I’m referring to here is often scowling and anti-social, taking cues from both the subgenre’s unglamorous seventies/eighties originators as well as that same period’s “no wave” artisans. King Of Jeans, Pissed Jeans’ exceptional 2009 album for Sub Pop–yes, that Sub Pop–, was a dark and furious romp showered with #whitepeopleproblems galore (Pitchfork ranking: 8.3). Ceremony’s Matador labelmates Fucked Up just unveiled a rock opera (8.6, with “best new music” status) that has been received by discerning listeners as positively as their breakthrough The Chemistry Of Common Life (8.8, “best new music”). Even oldtimers are getting a second chance, as Black Flag/Circle Jerks alum Keith Morris is experiencing with OFF!, an invigorating quartet that dropped the SST-referencing The First Four EPs compilation (, “best new music”) on snarlingly irreverent and hipster-centric Vice Records. The latest act that Pitchfork is fawning over? Scandinavian punk teens Iceage (8.4, best new music). Taking all that in account, Matador’s snapping up Ceremony makes logical business sense.

So if hardcore is now what the indie scene wants, what does this mean for the, erm, hardcore scene? It’s not hard to identify other acts that could cross over. Deathwish artists Blacklisted transitioned from nihilistic metallic menaces to art-core notables with 2009’s LP-only No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me (subsequently released on CD in 2010). I’d be amazed if Matador or some other like-minded label hasn’t been courting the Philadelphia act. Other candidates I see as potential beneficiaries from the emerging indie romance with hardcore: Soul Control, Touché Amoré.

The metallic and toughguy strains that dominate the hardcore scene will probably see little material benefit from this, as Naysayer or Trapped Under Ice wouldn’t exactly work on a bill with Kurt Vile or Dum Dum Girls, though I wont rule out the likelihood that Ceremony might turn indie scenesters on to modern hardcore bands not on Pitchfork’s approved list. In fact, tied with the Matador announcement was a parallel one from Bridge Nine announcing Ceremony’s final release for their label, a 6-song covers EP with the band’s take on cuts from Urban Waste, Pixies, Crisis, Eddie and the Subtitles, Vile and Wire.

Let’s just hope this trend fares better than electroclash.

-GS

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