Friday, November 20, 2009

Dissed & Dismissed

“Kicking, grabbing, fighting to get out. My only release is when I get smashed. I gotta rid myself of liars and cheaters, and anyone in my way is gonna get bashed!”

Most people I know who listen to hardcore punk have a soft spot for at least one NYHC band. And I don’t mean Urban Waste and Antidote either. I’m talking about bands you lump in to the tough guy mosh category. Usually it’s a guilty pleasure. You hate macho assholes that like to fig
ht a lot, but there’s always that one band that gets to you. While you may not enjoy violence at shows, there’s a part of you that yearns for the days when you felt a sense of danger at a show. This is the void that tough guy hardcore fills, and you like it when you hear a band thinks you’re too much of a pussy to listen to them. For some people, it’s Madball or Sheer Terror. But my main NYHC soft spot is for Breakdown.

“Sometimes everything sucks and you fight all alone. No one’s on your aide, feeling rotten to the bone. Things will change; they always do, wait and see. Just fight for what you know is right. Be who you want to be.”

In Effect was a mid-‘90s NYHC zine that used to pop up in stores and distros around here from time to time. I always enjoyed reading their interviews, even if I wasn’t interested in a lot of the bands they covered. When Breakdown started playing shows again in 1997, In Effect interviewed vocalist Jeff Perlin for issue #10, and that’s where my interest in them began. Breakdown started in 1986 and released a demo a year later that becam
e a huge influence on the NYHC approach. You can thank or blame them for starting that tough guy moshcore thing that exists in some form or another today. Even Hatebreed owes a bit to them and they’re huge now. But the Breakdown demo was more filthy and grimy-sounding than the more polished metal mosh bands, and thus better to me. Like Sheer Terror, Breakdown was the antithesis to straight edge posi-core crap like Youth of Today. A lot of political punks in the New York scene didn’t care for them very much. Apparently, they saw Breakdown as drunken white trash tough guys. They used the word “faggot” in the song “Safe in a Crowd.” Their shows often drew a crowd of crazed urban rednecks from the woodwork that would turn the pit into a war zone and destroy the club.

“Abused, cheated, fooled and betrayed. Now I’m going on a rampage. Sick of shit being thrown in my face. I’m gonna quit being nice.”

Despite the criticism, Breakdown still managed to cross dividing lines when most bands didn’t care to try. Check out the video at the end of this post. Breakdown is playing at Tompkins Square Park in 1988, and the pit consists almost entirely of skinheads and random homeless
dudes moshing it up. They knew what hardcore was about. It was all music from the streets to them, so they were regulars at the CBGB matinees as well as crusty punk shows for Squat or Rot. But make no mistake about it; these guys would bring the streets to you if they deemed it necessary. The In Effect #10 interview tells some stories about the band members roughing up rip-off promoters and stealing parts to repair their broken-down van.

“No one cares where you went last night. Or who you were with, or if you started a fight. Bragging about things that are untrue, no one gives a fucking shit about you.”

A shortened version of the 1987 demo was reissued as a 7-inch, and Breakdown was recognized on seminal compilations like NYHC: The Way It Is and Where the Wild Things Are. But aside from that, they never really got their due outside of New York. Their constantly rotating lineup made it hard for them to do any serious touring or release any new records. Instead, they put out demos that were accessible only to the most die-hard of hardcore fans. When Lost and Found bootlegged a ton of late-‘80s hardcore bands in 1995, Breakdown’s demo and comp tracks were one of the CDs they released and that’s how I finally heard them. It’s been legitimately reissued since then. Breakdown has also continued their on-again/off-again existence, finally releasing new records in the mid to late ‘90s. I hear they started playing shows again recently, with a new record on the horizon.

“Locks on my doors, but there’s nothing to steal. It’s hard to figure out what’s fake and what the fuck is real. I’m fighting just to survive. Fighting every fucking day to try and stay alive.”

Dissed and Dismissed compiles Breakdown’s classic 1987 demo, plus the songs from the aforementioned compilations. When I was in my early twenties, I was bouncing around various couches, squats, and street corners in Berkeley and Oakland. The Breakdown CD became a big part of the soundtrack to that time when I dubbed it onto a tape with Agnostic Front’s Victim in Pain and Age of Quarrel by the Cro-Mags. Sometimes those three recordings remind me of things like panhandling on rain-soaked streets. Stale cigarette smoke and homeless body odor combined with the dust and filth of an abandoned house. Police flashlights and a stiff boot to the ribs. Soup kitchens. The line of decapitated meters when the tweakers decided that everyone deserved free parking for a few months. Urban, desperate, drunk and drugged out: the way hardcore should be.

Get dissed here.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Hell ya!!!! Always like to read/hear about what certain music means to people...when and where they were at when they first heard certain bands.