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MUSIC FLICKS: American Hardcore

MUSIC FLICKS:  American Hardcore (photo)

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American Hardcore follows the history of punk rock/hardcore music from 1980-1986, and as most of the interviewees in this documentary will tell you, that was the genre’s most volatile and pure era. Some of the underground luminaries interviewed even suggest that punk rock died in ’86–an issue that can be debated from now until 2086.

American Hardcore (2006)
Directed by Paul Rachman
1 hr. 40 min.
Rated R

Taking the lead from Steven’s Blush’s book of the same name, American Hardcore, directed by Paul Rachman, doesn’t deviate from the standard music documentary formula we’ve seen before–talking head interview, still photos (w/ Ken Burns effect), live performance clip, repeat. That doesn’t mean, however, a very interesting story is not being told.

As expected, American Hardcore does sit down with the big names of the era–Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and Mike Watt–but it’s also refreshing to hear perspectives from punk rockers and scenesters who may not be recognized by every patch-wearing fan of hardcore music. Because these guys and gals haven’t been given as much face time over the years, their sound bites come off a little more raw and unpolished, than say those of Rollins and MacKaye. Sometimes this works really well and some times you can’t wait until the camera goes back to a familiar face.

The production value of American Hardcore is, hmm, punk rock to say the least–lav mics clipped to the front of t-shirts, lens flares, an interview with Keith Morris where a tree branch casts a horrible shadow over his face, and some other audio and lighting issues. This wouldn’t fly on MTV or VH1, but because the documentary is telling the stories of don’t-give-a-fuck teenagers who were recording full-length albums on 4-track recorders in their bedrooms, it’s totally acceptable.

American Hardcore succeeds with its brutal honesty. Some may romanticize the early 80’s punk rock era as one where crusty outsiders gloriously united to create a happy punk rock utopia, but after an hour into the film, you soon realize that–like in many other music scenes–drugs, machismo, robbing, stealing, and our-scene-is-better-than-your-scene feuds weren’t exempt from punk rock music.

Fortunately the film balances out the bad of punk rock with the good. In one of the more interesting stories, MacKaye explains how he took apart an album cover, to find out how manufacturers glued them together. MacKaye would then trace over the album cover and use it as a template for thousands and thousands of his band’s records, which were all assembled by hand, using only elbow grease and Elmer’s glue.

The many, many performance clips are also exciting to watch, and make you want to damn your parents for not being born earlier in life. Who wouldn’t want the chance to see Minor Threat, Bad Brains, D.O.A., Zero Boys or Black Flag in their prime?

As a fan of punk rock and hardcore music I thoroughly enjoyed American Hardcore, but for someone not familiar with this time and place in music, I don’t know if they would be able to enjoy it as much. Rachman squeezed in a ton of bands and provided a nice overview of the era, but a few questions–at least for me–remained unanswered. I wanted a more in-depth look on why Ronald Reagan pissed everyone off so much in the 80’s (since he became the de facto bad guy on so many punk rock flyers), why there were so many three-lettered bands from that era (D.O.A., D.R.I., DYS, MDC, S.O.A., YDI), and why so many of the punks back then are still bitter today? For an era that has made many feel so liberated, it bums me out that some of its forefathers are still talking like it’s 1986.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.