The way that author Steven Blush unfolds the story of "American Hardcore" makes it sound like the music and its scene are prehistoric dinosaurs. The emergence of skateboarding and Ronald Reagan are described in terms that seem directed and uninformed readers born after the death of Kurt Cobain. In roughly 400 pages, Blush tells the tale of "American Hardcore" and follows the format of a documentary film (incidentally Blush is responsible for the well done documentary of the same name) with narration simply linking quotes from the likes of musicians, labels, anarchists and others in the know. And, in true hardcore style, the completely black and white text includes insets of album covers, concert fliers and photos.
Blush breaks the story into regions of the United States and hits all the "important" bands -- Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, The Cro-Mags. It's easy to understand Blush only has so many pages he can fill but the coverage can be unbalanced. Just the section of the book devoted to Black Flag is seemingly never ending. Meanwhile other bands get such a minor mention -- a sentence or less -- that it's almost curious why they're mentioned aside from benefiting the ego of the band. Fans of more obscure bands, and even some not so obscure bands, might be disappointed with the lack of coverage devoted to their favorites.
It's a heavy tome -- both in physical size and weight but also in tone and content with plenty of testosterone oozing from between the lines. There's almost as much blood and violence as there is musical content, a real reflection of the scene and its scenesters.
"American Hardcore" is the amalgamation of zines, the zine to end all zines. Blush maintains hardcore's in-your-face attitude, informal style, honesty and grammar. If you're into this music and somehow you didn't pick up the first pressing, do yourself a favor and grab one now. Check out the documentary, too, while you're at it. And if you're new and looking to get into a few new bands, "American Hardcore" is a great place to start with all the bands in one collection. A must read for hardcore and punk fans.