I don’t even think this is something one can debate, but looking at punk and hardcore releases from 1982 and compare that to any other single year’s output, and pound for pound, you’ve got the absolute pinnacle of great hardcore.
Now you could say that this year is the best for hardcore. And part of me would agree with you fundamentally, but I’ll say that none of the releases that come out this year will be better than half the releases from 1982.
You could say that 1984 was the best year for punk and hardcore. I’d argue that the bands that released stuff in that year also released stuff in 1982 (Black Flag, Descendents, D.O.A. come to mind immediately) and the stuff that came out in 1982 is far and away better. Part of this is that it’s more primal, more raw, and more urgent. Punk is ultimately about urgency — that urgency you feel when you’re young and everything’s very very important. Now, I’m not saying that things aren’t important (in some cases they are very important) but with youth comes impatience, and urgency. 1982 encapsulates that for me.
You could say that 1977 was a far better year for punk (not hardcore though). If you believe that Damned Damned Damned by The Damned is more crucial than Bad Brains ROIR tape, that’s a debate I want to hear. The only argument I could conceivably make is that The Damned had a direct influence on the DC scene, and likely Bad Brains, so without the one there wouldn’t be the other. And you could say that 1977 had a whole lot of important punk releases that ultimately were groundbreaking, convention-bending, culturally and musically important. You wouldn’t be wrong. BUT 1982, was volumetrically better from more diverse populations. While releases from 1977 coalesced around New York, London, Los Angeles and Toronto — 1982 releases were worldwide. Yes, it took a while for worldwide youth to hear about punk and turn it into it’s own thing, and that wouldn’t have happened without the output of 1977, 1982 is where things were improved upon so much in so many different regions. Look at the Indigesti/Wretched split from Milano, Italy, Crucifix and MDC from San Francisco, D.O.A from Vancouver, The Stalin from Tokyo, Terveet Kädet from Finland, Subhumans from the UK, just to name a few bands who had releases from 1982 — there’s a wider variety of sounds in the subculture than what existed in 1977. I say that purposefully, because some of you will attempt to argue that 1977 punk was less defined and therefore less homogeneous. I would argue that 1982 was in fact less homogeneous as more people were pushing the envelope in what they were attempting to sound like. While some of that argument is distilled into the herd like mentality of the punk uniform (leather jacket, boots, mohawk) I’m not making an argument about the culture of punk, but the music.
So with that preliminary argument, I’ll put it to you. Was there a better year for hardcore and punk music than 1982?
As a side note, I’m going to be doing a March Madness style bracket playoff for the best punk/hardcore song of 1982 on Twitter. Follow @GenAdmShow on Twitter, and play along starting Monday, March 18. Also retweet if you like, it’d help get the word out about this zine/blog.