Music That Still Matters

Why New York City Hardcore Still Matters Written By Ray Hogan

Two weeks ago, I found myself up front for the New York Hardcore legends the Cro-Mags. This is the John “Bloodclot” Joseph and Mackie Jayson version — the real version — that call themselves Cro-Mags JM due to legal issues. Monikers aside, this was a quartet of New York hardcore all-stars (also featuing A.J. Novello and Craig Setari) performing music from the immortal “The Age of Quarrel,” the 1986 album that marked the music’s true arrival.

Five months earlier, I did the same for the Eddie Sutton version of Leeway (Leeway NYC), likewise in an opening slot for a metal band.

Thirty-something years later, the question must be asked: why does New York Hardcore still matter?

Simply put, it’s because you can’t kill it.

The music, which Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret once told me initially formed around 20-30 people on New York City’s Lower East Side and called itself hardcore to classify itself as a more extreme form of punk, has remained a symbol of musicaland muscular purity. Murphy’s Law, Sick of It All, the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front. Most of the genre’s originators have remained active in one form or another.

Initially a home for disillusioned youth, the music that blossomed on the Lower East City and legendary clubs such as A7, Great Gildersleeves and CBGB, became a lifestyle and that also made it hard to kill.

So in 2019, when we are bouncing to (yes, many of us traded in our moshing habits in the interest of self-preservation years ago) the sounds of “The Age of Quarrel” or “Born to Expire,” we are naturally reminiscing and getting nostalgic. But we are also celebrating what we still are. Joseph, at 56-years-old, is a 10-time iron man and author. Sutton is, and he will be the first to tell you, lucky to still be alive. Unlike the nihilism of other punk sub-genres, New York Hardcore was about triumph, overcoming the odds and personal strength, group unity and perseverance. When guitarist Todd Youth, one of the most respected musicians to come out of the scene, died last year, it seemed like the first major hardcore death in a few decades.

Two semi-recent movies have done exceptional jobs of putting New York Hardcore in context. Drew Stone’s “The New York Hardcore Chronicles” (2017) is so comprehensive that one has to think he has at least two more documentaries on the scene in him. “The Godfathers of Hardcore” was released the same year and focuses on the unbelievable and unlikely longevity of Agnostic Front.

Rather than get too caught up in lofty ideas about such a streetwise music, let’s present a baker’s dozen of immortal NYHC albums/eps. This is a starting point with all of the music relatively easy to find. If it’s your thing, you’re already digging deeper. NYHC. Just. Won’t. Die.

  1. Agnostic Front — “United Blood”

  2. Cro-Mags — “The Age of Quarrel”

  3. Murphy’s Law — “Back With a Bong”

  4. Leeway — “Born to Expire”

  5. Underdog — “The Vanishing Point”

  6. Token Entry — “Jaybird”

  7. Supertouch — “Searching for the Light”

  8. Sick of it All — “Blood, Sweat and No Tears”

  9. Gorilla Biscuits — “Start Today”

  10. Warzone — “Don’t Forget the Struggle, Don’t Forget the Streets”

  11. The Crumbsuckers — “Life of Dreams”

  12.  Prong — “Beg to Differ”

  13. Youth of Today — “Break Down the Walls”

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