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Somewhere along the way, “hardcore punk” just became “hardcore”. These days, there’s whole swathes of hardcore records that sound vastly removed from the sounds that spawned the genre in the 80s and 90s. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but sometimes, I want to hear something that captures the energy bands like Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, or the NYHC or Boston 2k scenes had. Sadly, there’s not many bands or labels capturing the feel those records had, and as great as the original bands and records were, hardcore is very much a genre that should exist in the now. Sitting at home listening to Start Today for the hundredth time is all well and good, but seeing a decent live band is much better; and hearing new records by bands taking such influences and playing with passion and talent is a rare joy these days. Thankfully, French label Straight & Alert have been putting out releases for just over a year now that will surely satisfy anyone like me, who is a big fan of the older sound of hardcore but feels that there’s too few bands playing those styles now.
The label don’t just release old-school hardcore, though. Amongst the mix of Youth Crew, Boston, and NYHC sounds produced by Clean Break, Cut Loose, Dogchains, Jack Move and Raw Justice, there’s the darker, more modern sound of Lodges, who’s Walking On Hands And Knees will surely please fans of the likes of Trap Them and Cursed. Then there’s the alt-rock influenced new album by Dutch band Said And Done, which proves that good song writing will always have a place regardless of genre boundaries, and is something I enjoyed far more than I expected to. Meanwhile, the latest release on the label, due for release in May – combining the two demo tapes by Social Damage (previously released on Criminal Rights Records) on to a single 7″ – absolutely blew me away with its straight-ahead hardcore intensity that fans of bands like Judge and Straight Ahead would be well advised to check out.
From a critical viewpoint, writing individual reviews of most of the records put out by the label would be a redundant exercise. The majority are short, lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, and do nothing to reinvent the wheel. But what they do, they do very well. Each band here plays with energy, passion, and conviction, sweeping you along with their energy and momentum. And that’s exactly what hardcore played in this style should do. Ranking each release would be a tough task, but my personal favourites would be Clean Break‘s Face Value 7″ with its infectious PMA that doesn’t come across as cliché or forced like it does with so many other bands; and the Boston 2k sounds of Dogchains, who simply write some of the best songs of the style that I’ve heard in a long time, and venture in to some more adventurous waters for the final two songs on their Give/Take 7″.
Overall, Straight & Alert is a label that anyone with a genuine passion for hardcore should check out; whilst many of their releases are of more old-school styles, the releases by Said And Done and Lodges show that they’re not dogmatic about it. In a scene that often prides itself on a peculiar sense of narrow-mindedness when it comes to music, that’s very encouraging indeed. It’s the kind of label that reminds me of what I originally found so great about hardcore when I first discovered it as a teen, and demonstrates that there’s more to old-school hardcore than the past.
Most of their releases are available to download and stream for free via bandcamp, and physical copies can be ordered through their store/distro section, which carries a lot of other quality releases of more genres than just hardcore.