Throwback! “Hardcore: An Expression of Emotion or the Newest Trend?”

by M. Lewis Barker

Back in April 2003, I wrote an article for the local zine (the long defunct Oi! Zanesburg about my distaste for the post-hardcore/screamo/emo/metalcore/thrash music that was so abundant at the time. I can’t tell you what was happening in Provo at the time, but I sure remember crystal clear the happenings of Zanesville, OH circa 2003. And since this site hasn’t had a proper update in like, three weeks, and I just discovered this article I once thought lost to the ravages of time, I decided to share the thoughts of the teenage me with you (I hope you can endure the even worse writing):

It seems like this new music has swept up our fair town of Zanesville. Some call it Hardcore, some call it Screamo, and some just call it crap.

It’s difficult to say exactly where this music came from. It started off as an extension of punk and the term was tossed around when bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat started the indie circuit in the early 80’s. The short songs and unprecedented speed and anger really made for some odd music. You either loved it or hated it. Bands like The Butthole Surfers or Husker Dü changed the style even more. Perhaps when Fugazi (with former Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye) came about and the term “Emocore” was often used to describe them, many of today’s Hardcore bands saw this and tried to copy with their own little twists.

No matter what the origins, it’s obvious that this “Hardcore” music has come into Zanesville like some sort of high breeding rabbit. Perhaps it came with the breakup of The Star Athletes, for punk seemed to dominate this town when they were around. The start of The Hush-Hush and the rising of This Winter’s Dream probably contributed to the popularity of Hardcore in our town. It seems like everyone’s favorite bands include From Autumn to Ashes and Poison the Well, two major influences of Y-City’s Screamo scene. Hardcore has taken a metal turn as of late, with bands like The Makeshift Theory and Lenorah (former Coldfire) pulling many influences from metal.

Lenorah’s singer Matt enters the crowd. Summer 2003. Yes, that is me on the right there.

Maybe people just want to be the next Matt ——- (Jagger-esque, angst-ridden front man of Lenorah). Editor’s Note: Last name removed. He is one of the few lead singers to grace this town with an energetic live show that involves banging on a snare drum and looking ready to cry. It could all be part of some plot to become a Zanesvillian rock star… but that doesn’t really count, does it? After all, he’s just fitting the lead singer persona that’s been done by people like Roger Daltrey of The Who and Steve Tyler of Aerosmith. People love it though. They come to see a show and he gives it to them.

Maybe all of this is just an outburst of testosterone and one’s own manliness. This sort of thing is embodied in mosh pits, which occur frequently during Hardcore shows and involve people trying to beat the shit out of each other. Our Hardcore scene seems to be highly based on how utterly insane you can act. It’s anyone’s guess if most hardcore acts have gone through the pain in life that seems to be expressed in their music. Hell, it’s also anyone’s guess if what they are playing is even music.

This is most likely a biased article coming from a boy that has hated most anything Hardcore after he heard The Locust, and the closest he gets is Fugazi and The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower (Note: Still true today), but it is only an opinion article. I find the energy that many Hardcore bands project to be good for odd dancing and moving your head around until it hurts, but there’s no way I could sit down and listen to an album of this stuff. Perhaps it’s missing some sort of intimate link with me, and I find it more like listening to a girl whine about school work instead of an intelligent conversation with an old friend.

Of course, music is music and some people like certain kinds while others like completely different kinds. Some people just go with the flow and will like what their friends listen to. I wonder if this is why Hardcore has become so popular in this town. Is it because of people hopping on the bandwagon? Or is it by chance that everyone seems to have shifted to liking this music at the same time? Others will go out and find the music themselves, giving disregard to what others think. I advise you to be one of these people. There is some excellent music out there and you need to find it yourself. Music is a form of art and can be entertaining while simultaneously making you think about life. It can remind you that your world is not as bad as it seems, or perhaps is much worse than you’ve noticed. Music can make your heart skip a beat when that perfect note rings or the vocalist howls with all the passion his vocal chords can muster… although a simple moan can show more feeling than the loudest scream (listen to Beat Happening for an example). There are many kinds of music out there and if you’ve limited yourself to a few genres, Hardcore especially, you need to start expanding your tastes. Do not dismiss anything or claim that the band is untalented just because you don’t like it, and insulting a person for their music tastes is as low as it goes. I ask you to think twice when it comes to music.

Well, this article has ventured completely off the subject. I suppose I’m just trying to tell you that Hardcore has become a hippest new trend in town and limiting yourself to it can be a mistake. I find going to shows increasingly difficult when it seems like half the bands sound like the last one. If you agree with me, start your own band and bring some diversity and originality to this scene. If you don’t, well that’s your own opinion and I respect that. I realize that many of the people in these bands listen to a wide variety of music, but they don’t seem to show it. Maybe the members just compromise with each other too much. My old philosophy is that the band that you are in should be your favorite band (or as close as you can make it), and if it isn’t… then you are in the wrong group.

Just think twice.

Some people never change. At least not very much. I was just as much an opinionated asshole back then as I am now, maybe even worse. I received a couple angry e-mails, just as I do now.

Show at a tattoo parlor in Zanesville Ohio. Lewis Barker can be seen on the right, concentrating intently.

But what gets me about that old article is basically its essence: people latching onto trends. Screamo bands are few nowadays, though not without their audience, as the Deathstar has proven. How many people making indie music today were once in an emo band? How many of those were playing pop punk before then? And how many abandoned that music as soon as the tide turned? It’s certainly not everyone, and maybe not even a majority. But trends are a strong force, one to which I am also subject. Unlike the podunk city of Zanesville, Provo has a very diverse kind of music. As prevalent as “indie folk” is, only around 1/3rd of Provo bands actually play some variation of it. There’s more Rock than Folk.

I listen to music a lot, but I don’t listen to a lot of music, because whenever I’m listening to something that I like, but don’t love, it feels like a waste of time. It feels like cheating on your spouse with a cheap whore. Great music defies trends and lasts forever.

Sorry that I haven’t been updating. Looking at the site stats, it’s like a desert with one mountain in it (the week of the Battle of Bands). Though the site has still been getting a few dozen hits per day, even without new content. I just started a new job at Graywhale down at University Mall, and it’s the best job. Come by and say hi, or throw a rotten tomato at my face if you have complaints (though I can’t promise not to have mall security throw you out).



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