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InEffect Hardcore reviews 'A Hardcore Heart'

"If you need a break from your current bleak reality, there are few better escapes than 'A Hardcore Heart: Adventures in a D.I.Y. Scene'. I spent the better part of two months immersed in David Gamage’s 1990’s England and enjoyed all 653 pages of color photos, flyers, and memorable tales. 'Hardcore Heart' traces not just the trajectory of Gamage’s bands, zines, and labels for over a decade, but also the evolution of the surrounding punk ecosystem."

"After an intro from Frank Turner, Gamage introduces you to early ‘90’s hardcore and punk in 'sunny Tunny' or Tunbridge Wells, England, and frames the narrative through his three bands: first Couch Potatoes, then Joeyfat, and finally Rydell. There are heaps of fantastic anecdotes along the way, from Lungfish doing some housekeeping to Avail’s first international show. Other highlights include the Pseudo Hippies' German tour, a prank involving a bathtub full of crabs, and a recurring gag involving beers being shaken up at the end of every practice. British rural environs permeate various vignettes, from bands practicing on farms to an uninvited goat taking a leak in a recording studio. And among the laughter and triumphs, Gamage artfully weaves in the tensions and realities affecting every band involving the responsibilities of jobs, school, and personal commitments."

"While I was less aligned with the style of bands later in the book, unforgettable moments still abound, like the soundcheck at a Rydell/Hot Water Music show at an ornate venue in Vienna and a detour to the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. I share Rydell’s ire when a reviewer didn't recognize two combined cover songs for a tribute comp and the suspense leading up to their planned US tour. And before Rydell’s poignant demise, they played some last great shows, including 'often the shows you thought might not be good that turned out to be the best ones'."

"I’d need more than two hands to enumerate all the bands that I discovered or revisited due to their presence in the book, from Shades Apart's Revelation Records-era releases to the lone Jailcell Recipes track on Spotify. Much of this stuff is still available, including the Couch Potatoes – 'Excess All Areas' on Spotify and the Strength Alone 'Never Enough' 7” on YouTube. Many others can be found on Gamage’s Engineer Records roster."

"Gamage could have potentially shorn some pages by including just the headlines of his band’s reviews rather than printing multiple full reviews from various fanzines. But I get that he wanted to provide an honest, complete, and unvarnished representation of the reaction to the releases at the time. Besides its narrative and evocative stories, one of the elements that makes 'Hardcore Heart' such a delightful read is its lack of ulterior motive. It’s a genuine and generous history with plenty of heart, hardcore and otherwise. Pick it up from Earth Island in the UK or DiWulf in the US."

Becky McAuley

(Earth Island Books, Published February 2023)

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