By Melanie Rogers
It’s an every day thing. Gravity puts its invisible lead boot down on the top of my skull and grinds me down into the primordial gruel I seeped up from; and gradually, I will be comminuted to a similar pap, too. My existence is the hum drum pinnacle of tedium. My life has turned into a sort of perpetual yawn, with its jaws locked, aching, and engorged with the ruddy glow of hope that its very own hinges will snap fatefully. I wake up at 6:50 every day, and I see the gaping mouth hovering over the tangle of bed spread and leg muscle, like that giant motherfucking head from Zardoz. But my god doesn’t spew guns and dick jokes. Instead, from those lips curls a spiraling fog of mundanity. I ooze off my mattress, play with my turn table, and slather myself in dirty laundry. At around three, I return from class to my animal den, where I simmer in the stale stink of my own sleep and pity. Then the head rears again and tells me to go to work. I hunker into my jew oven on wheels, and grudgingly barrel toward minimum wage at the local supermarket. The second my finger punches in the necessary identification numbers, I become completely anesthetized. The only thing charging through my wits is the hiss and crackle of silence. My brain curls and sputters like a strip of pig skin on the surface of my second nature. I move and operate much like the way the moon revolves around earth. That insipid hunk of lunar basalts doesn’t know what it’s doing, and it doesn’t have much say in its career. It just exists. I could get another job, but I’m too used to the brainless beat that pulsates through my hands as I shove food into plastic bags while engaging in mandatory social affairs; I am too meek to do myself any justice.
I thought today was going to be the absolute nadir of my week. The idea of smiling robotically while chanting, “have a nice day” made me want to fake a fucking seizure, replete with the biting of the tongue and blood capsules. My spine clenched, squeezing the chemical that induces nausea into my organs. I sat crouched on my floor, leafing through vinyl sleeves for a last request when my futile sigh was slashed and deflated by familiar imagery. My hands froze as my eyes fell upon the cover of Black Flag‘s Damaged LP, and there was Hank, peering up at me past the cracks in his reflection from what has become a legendary portrait worthy of the terminology “iconography.”
There was something in particular about how my despondancy seemed to align with the imagery of the cover which compelled me to put it on that day for the first time in a while. There was a beautiful irony in the way the needle glided gracefully into the opening groove of the LP in contrast to the choppy wallop of Ginn’s guitar, which spat out of my speakers like a pack of Chinese firecrackers. There have been louder records since, but very few possess the sardonic charm and relentless pace and consistency of Damaged. This is living, sparking brains all over the fucking wall… and despite its consistency and intensity, it is but a mere foreshadow of the siezmic catatyclism of the hardcore genre’s peak known as My War.
Still, Damaged is the kind of thing that has instigated teenagers to become destructive and unruly at almost no benefit to themselves… this came from a time when there was territory to be forged and hardcore wasn’t merely relegated to a style or fashion. It meant a fuck of a lot more than assholes in air tight jeans and skunk hair. What kids call hardcore today seems to be what they called bad metal back in the mid 90s – there is a very strict criteria now when it comes to “qualifying” for hardcore status these days. Now, garbage like Horse The Band occupies the hardcore label, which has been modified into other bastard categories like emocore and metalcore. Now we must contend with cum drooling apes who need shoe horns to put on their bitch pants and artistically placed blond streaks, prattling on about “sick breakdownz” and flailing around like a horde of epileptics scrounging for change off the floor, worshipping horrible testicle-bereft bullshit like Job for a Cowboy; waifish pricks with girly cuts in black denim and ironic metal t-shirts and mustaches, who huff, puff, and clash in front yards with each other over nothing at all and praise the virtue of violence. They must inflict suffering upon each other for they are ashamed that their lives are bereft of true conflict or cause. These are the Danzig Fratboys.
At The Waterfront is a brilliant film, sure to be a shitty band name next year which encompasses a bunch of culture cannibals in mid riffs screaming about how their ex-girlfriend has made them immortal and unfeeling as the raging sea, or some stupid melodramatic bullshit like that. For a culture that’s poised on a supposed pit of sonic and carnal violence, it sure is funny that they whine so much about their fucking emotions. Does anybody really find a man who whines about his broken heart and how some vapid cunt made him as unfeeling as the walking dead by giving his BFF a drunken handjob intimidating? How have these children been convinced that this is hardcore? These dudes can’t even handle simple break ups without losing their shit. It’s not Auschwitz, you pussies. You’re not sucking storm troopers off every day. Seriously, fellas: SUCK IT UP. Pick up the broken pieces of your lives, drop the screamo Dear Abby bullshit and move on. Find a fucking purpose. There is, after all, no dignity in being a blubbering vagina.
At that moment, Henry Rollins’ voice stirred something inside of me that I hadn’t felt in a while. Hardcore used to mean, “made for people like us.” Kids catering something real to other angry kids. It was fast, loud, nasty, and frustrated. It wasn’t a street team of hyper-sensitive self-martyrs screaming out livejournal entries over a cliche of mindless power chords and masturbatory jazz fills, all in the uber vain attempt at being scene or hardcore. The new “hardcore” child is more concerned with fashion, drugs, and falling apart in the most glamorous manner possible than the actual composition of what they’re listening to. The neo-hardcore scene only uses art as an accessory to justify and validate its own self-indulgent existence. The music is a mere afterthought to its own fashion. I can’t help but wonder if anyone really likes this shit, or if they’re just too lazy and ignorant to dig deeper. For the longest time I lived symbiotically with these evils. I witness them every day as I am greeted with, “hey, I heard you like hardcore music. Have you heard the new As I Lay Snoring CD?” People like that make me ashamed to be a part of the of the age bracket we share. I can see why old people hate us so much. Your average mod hardcore kid is a pile of affected effort. They strive to belong, to fit in, to be something very specific that falls under a very specific tag. They are joyless, insincere, and unnatural, they pound themselves into shapes in what could be construed as the aural equivalent of a sex change. It’s no longer a movement; it’s a fucking job.
As Damaged progressed, all the frustration hemorrhaging from the stereo began to clott in my brain. Thus began a small personal revolution that got me into inevitable trouble. I waited until the last possible second to move the needle back. I got into my car and began driving to work. Right as I was about to pull into my usual parking spot, I had an epiphany. The words of Black Flag’s “No More” reverberated in my head until there was no refuting it. “No, I won’t believe that this is all! I’m not happy, I’m not free! Pay check to paycheck, living for what!” Without any further doubt over what I needed to do to maintain my sanity, I pulled out of the parking lot and kept driving. Why should I have to do something I don’t want to do? I don’t want to become a wage slave. It’s not living; it’s existing. There is a grave difference between the two. Anyone can exist, but actually living is something that very few people know how to do anymore. The genes for existence are encoded into the DNA of every living thing. All of us know the basics of survival. We all know how to hunt, reproduce, and defend ourselves. Happiness is something that cannot be expressed in nucleotide sequences. It’s something that people strive to find (usually in the wrong places). It’s also something that cannot be forced. No one has the ability to compel themselves into bliss.
On that day, as I watched the store fade out of my rear view window, I knew that I was happy. It was the first time that I knew these feelings were completely genuine. The place I eventually ended up was a sewage plant. I used to go swim in the toxic shit water and jump off the cliffs back when I didn’t have a job. Those were the days when I didn’t care how many dead bodies were found submerged in the water, or what a half sunken car was doing there. It’s pretty pathetic how a miniscule paycheck can force you to forget the importance of these things. My friend and I walked along the chain link fence to the muddy cave that had been neglected for so many months. We called it the “Piss Cave” for obvious reasons, and it was the only place in the world I wanted to be. Its crumbling walls and cigarette butt littered ground brought out a certain adolescent splendor that almost passed away unnoticed. In this generation’s cold i-Pod heart, I thought that I’d never witness a moment of unadulterated beauty ever again. As I sank my fingers into the mud, the superficial world gravitating around paychecks and “necessary evils” was washed away by sewage water.