Radio Silence
A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music
MTV Press

At first glance, Radio Silence/A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music, a 224-page book comprised largely of photographs, seems to have some incongruities. First there’s the fact that it’s published by MTV Press, the publishing arm of the television network that pretty much ignored the hardcore scene of the ‘80s. Then there’s the book’s format, which catalogs each piece of visual evidence like an art exhibition, a very formal treatment for a genre—with its marker-scrawled t-shirts and homemade record sleeves—that reveled in informality.

But such nitpicks aside what authors Nathan Nedorostek and Anthony Pappalardo have put together is an energized assemblage that captures the creativity that flowed across state boarders throughout the period.

In the book’s introduction, Nedorostek emphasizes the technological difference between then and now: before desktop publishing album artwork had to be pasted together by hand; before the internet photocopied zines were the main source for information; before email a band had to rely on friends and bands in other cities to get them shows if they wanted to tour. In keeping with that DIY spirit, as Nedorostek explains, the authors wanted to meet people and get the stories behind their contributions. While it’s the book’s imagery that captures the imagination, the commentary that is sprinkled throughout depicts the reality of the times.

Radio Silence is loosely divided geographically, chronologically and aesthetically, giving a bird’s eyeview of the scene as it developed, but also is a barrage of images. The book gives equal treatment to the artwork and t-shirts the bands created as to photographs of the bands themselves. It works, effectively throwing several things at the reader and once in a frenzy suitable to the music.

One of the book’s best features is its last quarter, which presents an incredible number of 7-inch and album covers and t-shirt artwork side-by-side, one after another. More than anything this shows what a fertile time this truly was, with an immense amount of bands being productive. The hardcore scene of the ‘80s proved that will, youth and creativity can overcome any obstacles, and that for a brief period, the kids had their way.
Stephen Slaybaugh