Going Underground: American Punk 1979-1989 by George Hurchalla (PM Press)


Going Underground’s subtitle may say “American Punk”, but the book almost exclusively covers American Hardcore. Of course author George Hurchalla couldn’t really use that phrase because of Steven Blush’s similar book American Hardcore. Even though Hurchalla’s survey of the regional scenes that dotted the map of American hardcore has some redundancies with Blush’s better known book, it has plenty of unique merits which make it valuable. Most importantly, it focuses heavily on bands whose stories haven’t already been told in great detail. So, while there are obligatory passages on the big guys – Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains…etc. – there’s an equal amount of ink spent on smaller acts like The Fix, Government Issue, and Toxic Reasons. Even when Hurchalla writes about hardcore’s biggest acts, he finds new avenues to explore, like Minor Threat’s cold war with T.S.O.L., or the night Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys led a one-off group called Lucifer’s Imperial Heretical Knights of Schism in a musical roast of sorts at the expense of the Bad Brains and their Rastafarian beliefs. Hurchalla’s own experiences as a fan in Florida and Philadelphia play a large role in the book, with firsthand reports from shows by both local outfits and national touring acts. He also takes excursions into music that was important to him during this era which doesn’t neatly fit into the hardcore genre tag, like The Gun Club or the SST art-punk comp Keats Rides a Harley. Lastly, Going Underground features a ton of photos that capture the raw excitement of the era, most of which I haven’t seen published before. Like the music itself, Going Underground moves quickly, providing a raw and unflinching look into one of the most important youth movements of the 20th century.

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