Case Number 18030: Small Claims Court


MVD Visual // 2009 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // January 7th, 2010

The Charge


The Case

After watching this DVD and listening to the accompanying CD, Judge Victor Valdivia was inspired to write a letter (in pencil and paper, of course) to his favorite local punk fanzine:

Dear Comrades,

Hey there. I'm a suburban upper-class teenager who's living at home with my parents, who pay for everything. Therefore, I epitomize 98 percent of your readership and am happy to say that I know exactly how the world should work. Everyone should be a vegan and not work for corporations, because otherwise you're just a sellout. That's how I live my life everyday and I'm not starving, so I don't see why everyone else can't just suck it up and make the sacrifice like me.

Everyone should also run out and buy the new CD/DVD package by Harley's War, Harley's War: Hardcore All-Stars. It's totally righteous hardcore rage by Harley Flanagan, the former leader of NYC hardcore legends the Cro-Mags. I know that he's from NYC because three or four times per song, Harley bellows, "NYC hardcore!" Even in the thick haze of, er, smoke that I was watching the DVD through, I did catch that. Frankly, I'm not sure there was that much else to remember, although it was still righteous.

Harley Flanagan, of course, was the bassist and songwriter for the Cro-Mags, whose 1986 debut album The Age of Quarrel pretty much defined hardcore. He was filmed performing various shows in New York City, Germany, and Japan between 2005 and 2007, accompanied by such hardcore musicians as Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George, Bad Brains bassist Daryl Jenifer, and Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma. Here are the set lists for each show:

New York City 2006
* "Death Camps"
* "Criminal"
* "Who Survived?"
* "Spirit of '77"
* "Urban Screams"
* "Down But Not Out"
* "Sign of the Times"
* "Regulator"
* "Life of My Own"
* "Can You Feel"
* "World Peace"
* "Malfunction"
* "Steal My Crown"
* "Street Justice"
* "Survival of the Streets"
* "Don't Tread on Me"
* "It's the Limit"
* "Crush the Demoniac"
* "Life of My Own"
* "Hard Times"
* "We Gotta Know"

Germany 2005
* "Scarred for Life"
* "Days of Confusion"

Japan 2007
* "Part 1: Knichiwa Mutha F&@kas"
* "Part 2: The Cro-Mags Is Harley's War"
* "Part 3: This Is New York Right Now"
* "My Life"
* "Signs of the Times"

As I say, brah, this stuff rules. Harley will play one song loud and fast, and then the next one really loud and fast, and then the next one loud and really fast. You get a real variety. That may sound like I'm saying that all the concerts sound exactly the same, but that's not true at all. One takes place in NYC and one in Germany and one in Japan -- that's like, three totally different continents. The "all-star" band aspect is great, too. The band members randomly wander on and offstage during the shows, sometimes in the middle of songs, so you'll get to see them all. They can't perform together at all as an actual band, because they're too sloppy and disorganized, but isn't that totally punk? His lyrics are also totally righteous. You can't really understand them because half the time he simply bellows them indistinctly and the other time he screams far away from the mic, but I'm sure he's sticking it to all the poseurs. He does make sure to state clearly for the record that the other members of the Cro-Mags have no legal authority to bill themselves as the Cro-Mags without him, so at least when he needs to make himself clear-for copyright infringement purposes, that is-he can. That's also totally punk rock, man.

Oh, I haven't mentioned the technical quality of the concerts. Judging by the video and audio quality, they all appear to have been shot using someone's cell phone -- someone's cheap, almost-entirely obscured cell phone. How punk rock is that? Sure, the video is almost painfully blurry and overlit and the audio (both the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes) is excruciatingly muddy and tinny, but technical proficiency is so mainstream. Anything remotely competent is inherently evil and corporate -- just ask Steve Albini. Included on the DVD as an extra is an interview with Harley Flanagan himself, who gives a fairly thorough history of the NYC hardcore scene; it's by far the best part of the DVD and actually looks and sounds much nicer than the concert footage. Also included are a photo gallery (so you can see all the pictures of tattooed sweaty guys playing onstage you can handle) and a brief chat with the owner of legendary punk club CBGBs, which closed for good in 2006. There's also a music video for "Hardcore NYHC-OG," a new song by Harley that incorporates hip-hop scratching and rhyming with hardcore guitars. That's totally cutting edge, man. I mean, what's more cutting edge than Harley building a time machine and traveling all the way back to 1987 so that he could rip off Anthrax's "I'm the Man"? Clearly, the dude knows just what the kids like, if by "kids," you mean aging thrashers whose beer guts are stretching their Minor Threat T-shirts.

The package comes with a CD mixing up some 2003 studio recordings by Harley, some demos he recorded in 1982, and part of the NYC concert. Here is the listing for the CD:

* "Hardcore LAMF"
* "Nightmare"
* "You Don't Know"
* "Hardcore NYHC-OG"
* "Last Days"
* "Criminal for Life"
* "Parasite"
* "Spirit of '77"
* "Urban Screams (C-Squat)"
* "Scarred for Life"
* "Who Survived"
* "NYHC X-Mas"

1982 Demos:
* "Don't Tread on Me"
* "Wake Up (Do Unto Others)"
* "Dead End Kids"
* "Why Don't You"

CBGBs 2006:
* "Intro"
* "Signs of the Times"
* "World Peace"
* "Show You No Mercy"
* "Malfunction"
* "Days of Confusion"
* "Street Justice"
* "Survival of the Streets"
* "Don't Tread on Me"
* "Do Unto Others"
* "Last Days"
* "Crush the Demoniac"
* "It's the Limit"
* "Life of My Own"
* "Hard Times"
* "We Gotta Know Signs of the Times"

As you can imagine, when you stuff thirty-two songs onto a 75-minute CD, you'll get a whole lotta really, really, short songs. Which is good, because they all sound pretty much the same. There is virtually no difference between the 2003 recordings and the 1982 demos, and that's awesome. It shows that Harley doesn't fall for such corporate sellout notions as "growing," "evolving" or "becoming more accomplished at your craft." If he did, he wouldn't be punk rock. Also, the live recordings sound just as terrible as they do on DVD, except without the visuals. That makes you want to run out and buy it, doesn't it?

Of course, I know what the poseurs and conformists (i.e., anyone who doesn't think exactly as I do) are going to say. They're going to argue that Harley should have tried harder to make this set more useful by actually coming up with good audio and video quality and more variety in the performances. They'll say he could have at least put some more work into the actual packaging instead of just a CD case with a tiny insert. They'll claim that you'd do better to spend your money on The Age of Quarrel, the one album in which Harley pretty much said everything he had to say. To which I say: F -- -- You, Poseurs! You're not punk rock! Harley is punk rock! This whole package is punk rock! It's sloppy, incoherent, and utterly lacking in thought or effort. You just can't get more punk than that!

Peace & Anarchy,
Scuzzbutt (formerly Judge Victor Valdivia)

The Verdict

Guilty of being more punk than you.

Review content copyright © 2010 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 30

Perp Profile
Studio: MVD Visual
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bonus Footage
* Interview
* Music Video
* Slideshow