Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

VICTIMOLOGY REDUX: TWO SWEATY STINKIN’ VIOLENT NIGHTS IN THE TATTERED, SENTIMENTAL HEART OF NYHC (PART TWO)

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(Read Part One here)

When Saturday Night Live recently aired a hilarious sketch where an 80s hardcore punk band reunited at their singer’s daughter’s wedding, it underscored an interesting dilemma. With many of their seminal, most urgent records released nearly three decades ago, how do hardcore acts from those bad ol’ days prevent themselves from becoming embarrassing, irrelevant caricatures of their former selves? One band that manages to rise above the fray is Killing Time, whose record release concert utilized levity and honesty to negate any charges of purely pandering to the nostalgia set. Armed with a new album’s worth of tunes, Killing Time may have grown up yet they haven’t lost their connection with the sentiments of hardcore.

Night Two: Wall Of Hate

Like so many great bands, Killing Time never received a level of fame proportionate with their talents. Coming together in the late 80s, they technically missed out on first wave of NYHC by just a few years. If we’re to believe folks like Steven Blush, author of the entertaining, oft-glib American Hardcore: A Tribal History, anything released post-1986 isn’t as real or as good. Yet despite being released in the same year as the Cro-Mags’ Best Wishes, Killing Time’s 1989 debut Brightside breathes the same stank air as Age Of Quarrel. Yet it also sits very comfortably alongside releases from contemporaries like Madball and Sick Of It All. Over two decades later, Brightside is deemed a NYHC classic by many, though the group’s handful of breakups and hiatuses leaves them with a slight three-album discography, the latest of which was only just released a few weeks ago. Still, the quality over quantity argument undoubtedly applies here, as Three Steps Back is remarkably sincere in both its sound and its vibe.

Throughout a robust set of new tunes and old favorites marred only slightly by technical gremlins, frontman Anthony Comunale delivered stage banter on such non-hxc topics as parenthood, weight gain, and marriage. His anecdote about his father’s refusal to change diapers was less comic relief than unabashed reality check. It was if he were saying, Look, we all got older, none of us are really who we were fifteen, twenty years ago, and that’s that. The audience didn’t mind since many assembled (including former Gorilla Biscuit Walter Schreifels) probably could empathize. Still, none of that stopped people from forming rambunctious pits and climbing on stage during familiar cuts like “Telltale” and “Fools Die.” People were ready to let loose, as was the band. And they did.

Many bands operating under the banner of hardcore today dull their message under the dueling pistons of bombastic breakdowns and indecipherable vocals, a regrettable shift from the straightforward three chord tornadoes and anthemic gang-chants defined by pioneers. Thankfully, Killing Time’s new songs aren’t trying to emulate what’s popular. The songs off Three Steps Back are catchy, frequently anthemic, and legitimate. To the uninformed, “Spaceheater” could have been a B-side from Brightside, and in the live setting it was even harder to differentiate it. Killing Time aren’t trying to repeat themselves, though at the same time they aren’t breaking any new ground, which almost ensures that they’ll remain underground heroes, bolstered primarily by dividends earned decades ago. But can we honestly blame them for doing what they do best? Call it dated or call it timeless. Your choice.

That sticky wicket applied to the night’s opening acts as well. New Jersey’s long-running hardcore act Vision had a minor hit ten years ago with “Close Minded,” which was the shining highlight of their otherwise passable, digestible set. Their fellow Garden State residents Ensign, on the other hand, felt damn vibrant and abrasive during their filth-and-fury fueled set. Their disdain for playing in Knitting Factory’s hipster-dominated Williamsburg neighborhood was made evident multiple times. Earlier in the night, Reign Supreme reminded us of hardcore’s present day with their Converge-esque delivery. Their singer cold knocked one allegedly unruly dude the fuck out. I was reminded of Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van–until the frontman began apologizing profusely. Metallic regretcore, anyone?

-GS

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