Itʼs been well over 20 years since punk started, so it would be great to report that the punk underground is doing what it should be doing long after its survival has been guaranteed – you know, putting together a stormy mix of music reminiscent of Ritchie Valens going down on Etta James while she spins Yellow Magic Orchestra with Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. But the truth hurts: The white middle-class youth of this country are apparently hanging out with the white middle-class youth of this country. They have, in effect, created a genre of race music, ending this century like we began it, with white people like Josh Hooten, in the liner notes of Nowcore!, declaring that they have the inside track on “being a human on planet earth.”
Nowcore! The Punk Rock Evolution is a hard-core compilation featuring the “best” of this countryʼs most insular musical genre, from the one-time chart-registering drivel of Hum (“Stars”) to the ex-Dischord lackluster of Jawbox (“Savory”). What is hardcore, you might ask? According to this album, it requires above-average guitar skills (i.e. better than the Ramones) but below-average songwriting skills (i.e. a shitload worse than the Ramones). Of course, if this were its only problem, than the album would merely suck. Instead, for whatever god-awful reason, there are also no women in this collection, which makes Nowcore!ʼs claim to be at the top of the evolutionary arc that much more laughable.
Any exceptions? “Why Did Ever We Meet,” the Promise Ring track that starts things off, because the bandʼs musical honesty doesnʼt seem to hurt my ears as much as the protestations of bands like Seaweed; and Modest Mouseʼs “Convenient Parking,” mainly because the band sounds like a dilapidated version of Gang of Four – which is a compliment.