“Then as now”: The seminal hardcore punk compilation, originally released on cassette in 1982, finally gets a proper vinyl reissue. Among the artists featured: Die Kreuzen (pictured above), Void, Double O, Hüsker Dü, Articles of Faith, Toxic Reasons, Personality Crisis and the Misguided.
BY CARL HANNI
Here’s a red hot poker in the eye and a definitive middle finger to both the military/government/establishment media nexus and hippie complacency: the first ever vinyl reissue, via Radio Raheem, of the legendary, cassette-only 1982 hardcore compilation Charred Remains. Originally compiled and released by long-time archivist, ‘zine publisher, and all-around renaissance renegade Bob Moore for his Noise ‘zine and Version Sound label (then in Xenia, OH), Charred Remains was the first compilation that took a national (as opposed to local or regional) look at the burgeoning scene that was quickly gaining ground on old school punk rock; the more aggressive – and some would say reductive – snarling beast of hardcore.
Moore, as it turns out, was the right guy at the right time, and blessed with great instincts. Charred Remains contains, among others, the first ever released recordings by Maryland’s Void and DC’s Double O, the first by Milwaukee’s fabulous Die Kreuzen, perhaps the 2nd ever release by Twin Cities giants Hüsker Dü and early recordings by Articles of Faith, Toxic Reasons, Personality Crisis, Misguided (before they morphed into Das Damen) and eight others. Featuring 30 tracks spread over two discs, it’s an expansive document, with a thick, expanded original booklet full of photos, lyrics, notes and paste-up graphics mayhem from back in the day.
Hardcore attracted a relatively small but absolutely dedicated audience; it was a lifestyle choice that not many were prepared to commit to. But the surprise here is the (relative) variety; the acts here sport a mix of approaches, including several longer and some slower and mid-tempo tracks, while staying more or less true to the hardcore template of very fast, very loud, anti-authoritarian, extremely aggro and politically pissed off. It’s not just a classic document, but a great opportunity to reassess early hardcore, when it was not far removed from it’s early 80’s inception in garages, basements and dingy clubs from coast to coast.
Remastered from the original 1/4 tape, the audio quality is about as good as it gets for a collection of tracks by a bunch of presumably broke-ass bands that was originally released on cassette. The sound quality varies from excellent to ok, but really; what else did you expect? The word is that the new, remastered vinyl version is far superior to the original cassette version.
Cheery picking standout tracks is of course subjective, but personally I’m all about the four tracks by Articles of Faith, especially the amazing “Belfast;” ditto the massive “Somebody Help Me” by Toxic Reasons and the expansive, hardcore-heavy psych hybrid that District Tradition bring with “Psychedelic” and “Vast Realms.” Rebel Truth, Violent Apathy, 5051, Sin 34, Void and Die Kreuzen all throw down classic tracks; but really, it’s all pretty great, if you’re in the right state of mind.
Hardcore was (and remains), as Moore points out in some recently penned liner notes, a product of the times. Reagan and Thatcher were in office, the squares had the upper hand, police state tactics and nuclear apocalypse haunted both the future and the present, and suburban communities in the U.S. were seething with aggressive guys (hardcore was a guy thing) looking for something to grab onto. Although some of the political perspective was pretty reductive, us-vs-them/you’re-with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, the feelings were undoubtably real. Nothing that’s happened since then takes the edge off of any of the concerns or sense or urgency; if anything, the overall global political situation and government backed police states are arguably even worse, despite the alleged ‘end of the cold war’ (nobody told Putin), election of a smart black prez and supposed benefits of the European Union and the elusive benefits that free-trade was supposed to bring.
So, hardcore then is as hardcore now. Drop this super sucker on and head for the nearest mosh pit; we need it now more than ever.