Moving crap from one corner of my garage to another a couple of weekends ago, I set my eyes for the first time in years on an OC Weekly cover tied to a story I'd written. It was an illustration of Ronald Reagan with the headline "The President Who Created Punk Rock" (or something like that; I'm too lazy to go through that pile of bird-cage liner again). I'm next to sure the cover went with this Sept. 21, 2006, story: "Strange Days Indeed: The Gipper, Tricky Dick, American Hardcore, The U.S. vs. John Lennon and deja vu all over again."
The American Hardcore book and documentary that came out of it time-tripped me back to the days that shaped my worldview, back to the Contras, another Iran, union busting, the first AIDS deaths and so many more sick-makers. Several look at the same era fondly, which only illustrates how divided we are. To me, that time is best summed up by X's question-and-answer call during a live version of the anthemic "The New World" (praise be to John Doe and Exene):
Mrs. Reagan, do you gotta quarter?
Aw, I don't think I can spare it.
The whitewashing of the Reagan years was in full force by the American Hardcore movie's 2006 release, so I appreciated and started my story with this inclusion from Vic Bondi of the Chicago hardcore band Articles of Faith: "Everyone was saying it was 'morning in America.' Someone had to say, 'It's fucking midnight, man.'"
It's a period of time that also serves as the launching point for Antonino D'Ambrosio's new documentary, Let Fury Have the Hour, which debuts today on video on demand and goes beyond American Hardcore--and America, really--to show how artistic movements that sprang out of those dark days continue to propel us forward in post-teabaggy today.
Among the artists, musicians, comedians and social commentators who turn up on camera are: Shepard Fairey, Chuck D, Lewis Black, Eve Ensler, John Sayles, Billy Bragg, Wayne Kramer, Tom Morello, Elizabeth Streb, Hari Kunzru, Tommy Guerrero and Suheir Hammad. Ian MacKaye, the Fugazi/Minor Threat/Teen Idles' front man and straight-edge forefather, is featured prominently (and deservedly) in Let Fury Have the Hour and American Hardcore.
Here is the trailer:
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D'Ambrosio's 94-minute documentary, which was a 2012 Tribeca Film Festival spotlight presentation, is a nice bookend to American Hardcore and a breath of fresh air to anyone who looked with horror at, say, the possibility of a Sarah Palin vice presidency. Lewis Black, who as a comedian seems to hate everyone, and Gogol Bordello front man Eugene Hutz speak eloquently and positively about the fight-the-power movement's future, something I now look more forward to than my Social Security disappearing.
But as someone who would reply, "Guilty as charged" to looking with horror at the possibility of a Sarah Palin vice presidency, I also found much preaching to the choir in Let Fury Have the Hour--or, perhaps more appropriately, given the musical genre--shredding the throat to the mosh pit. About three-quarters of the way in, you're thinking to yourself, "This may play well at a Stop the War free-trade coffee klatch." I found myself wanting to see a thread on those who applied some of the same DIY/punk/hip hop ethic to ways of thinking unlike my own. The same world did give us Lee Ving, Johnny Ramone and the ever-thought-provoking Joe Escalante, after all.
But by the end, D'Ambrosio had so filled this viewer with the knowledge that the spirit of citizen-artist Joe Strummer not only lives on, but also informs new generations that it got me infuriated all over again by an obit I'd read in which the writer tried to claim the Clash's front man as a conservative icon (because of "Rock the Casbah" or some-such). And that got me thinking, "Let conservative punks make their own bloody movie about their experience. We'll still be over here tearing shit up, thank you very much."