Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kickin' it old school with xANCHORx - 3.17.2012

When I first moved to New York in 1997, CBGB's matinees replaced church as my place to be on Sundays. As excited as I was to witness the legendary NYHC scene first hand, I was quickly inundated with enough third-tier bands to make me bored of breakdowns and calls to "support the scene." And who can blame me? After all, it wasn't the HC-by-numbers style of Chain of Strength or Bold that got me into hardcore - rather, it was bands from Sweden's adventurous (but no less irate) Umeå scene - Breach, Drift Apart and the mighty Refused.

[Cred whore check - I was into Refused years before Shape of Punk to Come was released; eat it, haters!]

Enter xAnchorx, whose 5th anniversary as a band coincided with their KL appearance (one of three shows they played in Malaysia alone - that's some fearless globe trekking). Since Swedish straight edge vegan hardcore pushes all kinds of nostalgia buttons for me, I decided to check out the shenanigans on my way to the airport (I had a red eye flight to Manila, and a date with a certain Japanese death metal band).

Insert Cool Hardcore Slogan Here
Die Regiment opened the show in an energetic fashion. They do the old school thing right down to their basketball jerseys and MLB caps - which is pure HC fashion statement, as basketball isn't big in Malaysia and baseball is nonexistent. Still, local heroes and all, the kids were more than keen to dance like happy prospectors to the well worn chord progressions and sloppy double bass drumming, and I was more than keen to get out of their way. I have to say though, having tiny Malaysian kids bounce harmlessly off of me is a nice contrast to hardcore shows in NY where I regularly felt my neck creak when some 200lb stagediver landed on my head.

Now dance like a happy prospector. Happier! HAPPIER!

Continuing the old school HC nostalgia was a band who call themselves (slaps forehead) Homerun - again, I can't overstress the fact that NO ONE PLAYS BASEBALL IN MALAYSIA, but they do get points for soundchecking with Refused's "Rather Be Dead" - a shout-out to the headliner perhaps? Their songs all seemed indistinguishable from one another - to me, and apparently to their drummer as well, who had a few false starts. Their half hour set would have been a breezy 10 minutes without the between-song lectures. Despite the fact that I don't speak Malay, I'm pretty sure he wasn't saying anything I hadn't heard before. That goes for the music as well.

[interlude - Old man yells at Malaysian Hardcore]
It makes me wonder how much of the Malaysian hardcore scene takes its cues from Youtube videos and little else. The clothes, the music...it's all such a blatant copy of what was going on 15 years ago that it verges on self-parody. Compared with how Swedish hardcore bands used the American style as a jumping off point to create something distinct, or even how the Belgian H8000 scene took sXe hardcore and meshed it with Euro-thrash, our own contributions to the genre seem generic and disposable.

Maybe it's something in our Asian character and colonial mentality that leads us to copy blindly without adding anything of our own. My favourite example: Koffin Kanser, a local band that saw the way Sepultura mixed metal with their own Brazilian heritage on Roots, and were inspired to follow suit...by ripping off "Roots Bloody Roots" for an entire album (you'd think that they'd look to integrate metal with their own culture, but that would take effort).

Thankfully, Anchor learned the lessons of their own countrymen. Rather than simply rehashing the old school formula, they intersperse classic HC with jagged rhythms and some muscular rock a la Abhinanda and Nine (one of their members raved about my Catharsis shirt, so clearly they're a band who recognize innovation). And the kids responded to it in a big way; I haven't seen a pit this enthusiastic in Malaysia, ever...hopefully a few of them even take the hint that hardcore doesn't mean merely regurgitating what's come before you. Though I'm sure the most I should expect the next time I'm at a local show is a couple Malaysian bands who sound exactly like Anchor.