Still calling it “rock ‘n’ roll”? You need to cut straight to the core.
“Alternative,” as you know, has become mainstream, and heavy metal’s been prematurely pronounced dead.
That brings us to core. We are not talking apples. Core is a new tree in rock music with nearly a dozen branches, and more leaves sprouting.
First came hardcore, the offspring of punk that arose in the early ‘80s in New York and Washington, D.C. A crop of earnest young bands such as the Cro-Mags and Minor Threat, still lugging around punk’s change-theworld values, played fast and furious songs about Real Life.
Eager to push the musical envelope, bands like Napalm Death doubled the tempo, chopped their songs into stop-and-start stews and turned their vocals into weapons of assault. Grindcore was born.
New bands inspired new cores, which were quickly coined by fans and rock critics. Entire record companies with descriptive names such as Earache and Roadrunner were built to serve them.
“This core, that core - now they’re calling bands like Spin Doctors and Phish ‘hippiecore,”’ says Dave Chaos, a Dallas disc jockey. “I’ve even heard of ‘Southern core,’ which is bands like the Black Crowes.”
“It’s categorization overkill,” says Mark Woodlief, editor of Warp, a youth culture magazine in Southern California. “There’s so many - you can make up your own.”
But who needs to? Not when you’ve got emocore, cybercore, homocore. They may sound like fiction, but they’re the real thing. To get to the core of core, here’s a chronological survey:
Hardcore: The premiere core, started as a subculture of punk rock. It’s since broadened to include any and all loud, hard music. Pioneers included Minor Threat and Bad Religion.
Foxcore: Basically the “babe” version of hardcore. When the term was coined in the late ‘80s, there weren’t that many women in the field: L7, Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill. Thankfully shortlived, foxcore’s been overtaken by the equally absurd “riot grrl” tag.
Deathcore, or death metal: Huge in Britain, deathcore is actually a heavymetal offshoot. Dirge-like ballads make it less hyper than the usual core, but the lyrics - from the medical obsessiveness of early Carcass to the cartoonish satanism of Florida’s Deicide - can be, like, a major bummer. Spotting a deathcore band is as easy as hearing the name: Cannibal Corpse. Death. Massacre.
Grindcore: A major mutant of hardcore with nearly unlistenable music, breakneck tempos and vocals that sound like the singer’s swallowed broken glass. Where deathcore bands revel in decaying corpses, grindcore bands such as Godflesh, Brutal Truth, Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror carry on the semipolitical agenda of their hardcore ancestors.
Speedcore: A cousin to grindcore, speedcore’s faster and the attitude is all different. Speedcore bands such as D.R.I. champion fun, with drinking beer and skateboarding high on the list of song topics.
Sludgecore: Another grindcore cousin from the Louisiana bayou, sludgecore stalwarts such as Eyehategod and Grief slow down the tempo even further, although the outlook’s still dismal as dirt. Fave album title: “In the Name of Suffering.” Have a nice day!
Emocore: Hardcore offshoot centered in Washington, D.C., is rough and tough on the outside, soft and warm in the middle. Original emocore bands such as Embrace and Soulside played raucously loud music but its vocalists were man enough to shed a tear on stage. Emocore now includes any noisy band with a sensitive side.
Homocore: Hardcore music played by gay musicians. Pansy Division from San Francisco made homocore a buzzword after touring with the hugely successful punk trio Green Day. But like foxcore, this splinter group is bound to be shortlived - there just aren’t that many gay hardcore bands out there.
Bluescore: A segment populated by arty New York types who turned to the blues after punk got boring/ unprofitable. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is the icon of a genre that also includes Come and Royal Trux.
Jazzcore: Another New York minor-core that’s as pretentious as its bluescore buddy. Most prevalent practitioners are middle-aged guys like John Zorn who never seemed able to carry a tune in the first place.
Cybercore: Said to straddle the fence between core and dance music, ambient-sounding cybercore bands like Digital Poodle travel so far from the traditional hardcore sound, they offer the first clue that this core thing has gotten completely out of hand.