For those not in the know, post-hardcore grew out of hardcore punk in the late 1980s. The movement began with DC's Revolution Summer, the moment in 1985 when hardcore punks tired of hardcore. After spending five years playing four-chord ragers about teenage alienation and “the system, maaaaaan…” erstwhile punks tinkered with musicianship while maintaining their passion and intensity. Post-hardcore was born, known for angular, edgy guitar work, off-kilter tempos and impassioned, wailing vocals.
Don't be fooled by new jack whiners with silly outfits and sillier names like The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower. The original wave of post-hardcore was legit as shit. Remember that next time you're trying to impress some girl at a bar by talking about “math rock.” Here are the five best post-hardcore albums.
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Jawbox's roots lie in Government Issue's demise, as Jawbox's front man J. Robbins played in the final incarnation. They first gained exposure on Maximumrocknroll's They Don't Get Laid, They Don't Get Paid, But Boy Do They Work Hard compilation, released before the punk Bible decided that post-hardcore wasn't punk. “Savory,” off of For Your Own Special Sweetheart, got the band some buzz when 120 Minutes featured it, but the band ultimately couldn't capitalize on the '90s alt-rock explosion. They disbanded in 1997 with Robbins and fellow guitarist-vocalist Bill Barbot forming Burning Airlines.
In On The Kill Taker
Fugazi are one of the most overrated bands of the '90s — had the band not featured Ian MacKaye (formerly of Minor Threat) and Guy Picciotto (of Revolution Summer superstars and emo progenitors Rites of Spring), few would have cared. Still, for better or worse, they basically defined what post-hardcore meant, from sound to style to ethos. In 1993, they struck gold with In On The Kill Taker, their only consistently listenable effort. The record displays an edgy, aggressive angularity that other efforts lacked. And remember kids — no moshing allowed when Fugazi come to town.
Shellac frontman Steve Albini, formerly of Big Black and Rapeman, and
producer sound engineer on Nirvana's In Utero, was post-hardcore before post-hardcore was cool. His earliest efforts had more in common with the shape of punk to come than with the “loud fast rules” ethos of his contemporaries. 1998's Terraform isn't edgy, it's downright creepy. The sound is as sparse and stark as the album's front cover, depicting the first arrivals to an alien landscape. The 12-minute opening track “Didn't We Deserve A Look At The Way You Really Are” will haunt you like a nightmare, while the two-minute closer “Copper” is likely the most poignant song ever written about an inanimate object.
Challenge For a Civilized Society
Post-hardcore bands rarely had a dearth of talent, but Unwound had musicianship to spare. Anyone around in the '90s can tell you about the sheer embarrassment of seeing legions of bands who thought they could incorporate Unwound's jazz elements without the band's jazz chops. Famous for only playing all-ages shows, the band's legacy is largely in its influence, with luminaries of indie rock like Blonde Redhead and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead name checking the Olympia post-hardcore superstars.
If there were any justice in the world, Quicksand would have been the biggest underground band of the '90s. Energetic, technically proficient, impassioned and noisier than highway construction, Quicksand featured Walter Schreifels, formerly of Gorilla Biscuits. Often compared to Helmet, Quicksand straddled the fence between worthwhile alt metal and the cream of post-hardcore. The band quickly went nowhere, despite some buzz for Slip's lead single “Fazer” and a college rock radio hit, their cover of The Smiths' “How Soon Is Now?”