We here at Low Fidelity love New York hardcore. But we also feel that amidst the current NYHC mania, classics from other areas are being overlooked.
It’s a shame that some people seem to not give old records a chance unless it came from New York, especially seeing as NYHC came along relatively late in the game, picking up the ball properly only around ’83.
I suppose have catered to this so far, so today I wanna talk about Washington DC, and the first bonafide hardcore label, DISCHORD RECORDS.
I was first exposed to hardcore via BMX videos such as Criminal Mischief (TSOL, Black Flag, Anti Heroes), Nowhere Fast (Bad Brains, more Black Flag), and possibly most importantly, Props Videomagazine. Me and my mate Tank got hold of a copy of Props Issue 45, and the first section of it was the Binghamton Skatepark jam in upstate NY. The first song on it was called ‘Straight Edge‘ by the band Minor Threat, and in 45 seconds it kicked my little 14 year old head off. I remember being blown away by two things in particular, a) i had never heard anything like it, punk at hyperspeed b) it was under a minute long! I already knew Black Flag and Slayer at this point, and to my feeble teenage brain this seemed like a meeting in the middle of the two, punk rawness and vicious speed. This led to us getting hold of the Minor Threat discography, then the Year In 7″s collection, and my love of early Dischord records was born.
So, what follows is another pointless top five from possibly the strongest opening salvo of 7″s in hardcore label history.
5. YOUTH BRIGADE – Possible EP
The latest record in the list, and perhaps as a result, the most ‘progressive’. When I say progressive I’m obviously not on about theramins and 25min songs, but there was little things like echoed vocal sections, slow almost drone-like parts, and varying tempos in the same song that the Dischord releases before it didn’t really mess with. This record is full of absolute crackers, just a shame that my favourite YB song, ‘I Object’, wasn’t included. I was going to say more people have probably heard SIDE BY SIDE covering the first song more than the original, but for some reason SBS are also criminally underrated and no one ever knows their songs. Like the song says…sick of things the way they are, it’s about time that we had a change!
4. GOVERNMENT ISSUE – Legless Bull
Government Issue is one of those reunion bands I was actually excited to see, then wished I hadn’t straight away. Reason being, this 7″ is unreal and I’ve loved it for years, so when they came out at Damaged City Fest and chatted for ten mins before each 30 second song with their bank manager cheat-drumming, I was a bit gutted. Anyway, this thing rips, it’s so catchy and strong, yet really juvenile sounding at the same time. The over the top bratty start of ‘Rock & Roll Bullshit‘ still gets me as excited as it did when I first heard it back in school, “wow man kick ass rock & roll…pass the bonggggg…I need some drugs…”, then that guitar stutter, and by the double snare whack you’re pogoing all over the place. Unlike most early Dischord hardcore bands, GI did some cool shit after this too, including the ‘Make An Effort’ 7″, made infamous later on by Alone In A Crowd. Essential.
3. TEEN IDLES – Minor Disturbance
When I first got into hardcore, I started playing drums around the same time, and for some unknown reason, I wasn’t really interested in playing drums in hardcore bands. That is, until I listened to this record. I think the lyrics to ‘Get Up And Go’ were part of it, “a bit too much distortion, the feedback hurts your ears, say we need more practice, maybe in a couple of years, GET UP AND GO!”, but the whole thing just makes me want to DO shit, be it slam around, start a band, whatever. I wish I could have created something with this much power when I was 17!
For those who don’t know, this was Ian Mackaye’s band before Minor Threat, and he plays bass here, with fellow future MT personnel Jeff Nelson on drums. I think this might be my favourite production on a Dischord release, everything on it sounds HUGE. The bass rumbles like post-curry guts and the guitar sounds like a tractor. All in a good way, of course. People knock this for being basic and monotonous, and Jack Rabid claims that its ‘toneless garbage’, but I often wonder if they’re listening to the same record. Cool structures, mean as hell sound, great drumming, pop hooks, shit there’s even cool guitar solos. Classic.
Ps. Check out their unreleased early tracks on Disc 3 of the Dischord 20 Year box set, they sounded great before they discovered light speed too!
Pps. This record is extra sick as it is the first real documentation of X’d up hands as a symbol, after they had come up with it as a way to be let into clubs to see bands
2. STATE OF ALERT – No Policy
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this was the first HARDcore record. No palm muting, no mosh parts, just hard music. Everything about this is mean. The whole record sounds like it’s played by neanderthals and feels like it’s on the verge of exploding the entire time.
For those who don’t know, the frontman of SOA was one Henry Garfield, the violent military school fuckup that went on to become Henry Rollins, and his vocal delivery here is brilliant, along with sick anti-drugs n booze lyrics. I believe this 7″ actually spans two or more recording sessions, with two different drummers, one of whom learned drums just to be in the band. In all cases it sounds like Sid off Toy Story is playing with hammers. Sick style. People might hear the simple drumming, muddy bass and fucking wacko guitar tone (achievable by switching to the bridge pickup, then turning the bass all the way down and treble all the way up on your amp, also how Iommi got his tone) and think “what the fuck is this?”, but in my humble opinion this record is hardcore perfection.
1. MINOR THREAT – s/t EP
As if you thought this wouldn’t be number one. This is one of those records that I’ve listened to for so long and love so much, that it seems like I almost forget about it sometimes. This also happens with things like ‘Age Of Quarrel’, ‘Pick Your King’, the Negative Approach 7″ etc, and then I put them on and instantly remember exactly why I’ve listened to them six million times. Same goes for this, the record that brought you the joint-greatest guitar break ever (in ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It‘, tied with the one in ‘Angel Of Death‘) and the term ‘straight edge’, the first Minor Threat EP. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to give this any praise that hasn’t already been heaped upon it, but I’ll see what I can do.
Minor Threat carry all the hallmarks of a truly great hardcore band, elements that need to be taken notice of by more bands today. There are a million different things in a million different combinations that can make a band great, but for me these are just some of the factors that push Minor Threat up onto that all-time great podium;
Tuneful almost to the point of melodic, while still retaining that wild aggression. Perfect hyperactive drumming, hammering away without even a hint of laziness in the bass drum or hi hat departments. Simple guitar played extremely well, percussive and precise bar chords hit HARD, and that classic Gibson/Marshall duo certainly doesn’t hurt. Great lyrics and hard, catchy vocals that usually don’t follow the guitar line, but actually form their own tune over the top of the music.
Add to this the perfect length of the songs, the sheer velocity, and that every part of every song makes you wanna slam, despite containing very little in the way of what we would now call ‘mosh parts’ (did ‘Screaming At A Wall‘ have the world’s first mosh part? Answers on a postcard), and you’ve got one of the best records from one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time. Just fucking listen to it.
So there it is. If you haven’t checked out any of the above, I urge you to do so. Some of the finest up-tempo rock music you’re likely to hear.
A few other great Dischord records not listed above due to format etc:
Void/Faith split 12″
Flex Your Head LP compilation
SS Decontrol ‘The Kids Will Have Their Say’ LP (split release with X-Claim)
Faith ‘Subject To Change’ LP
Deadline ‘Demo LP’ (not strictly a Dischord release but a Dischord band all the same, and it’s sick as fuck)