Time Out says
Washington, D.C., is a one-business town, and during the scary ’80s, when the streets cleared out at night, a fearless kind of music emerged. Scott Crawford’s propulsive, decade-spanning chronicle of hardcore is marked by the same traits that typified the bands themselves: It’s brainy, loud and tinged with a hint of insider preciousness. The evolution of the scene rushes forward like a rocket, with groups like the radical all-black Bad Brains and pivotal Minor Threat staking a claim for seriousness. Elsewhere, we learn how to assemble our own vinyl sleeves, take the reins of distribution and energize a youthful base: A black X on the backs of hands (indicating an underage bar-goer) becomes an emblem of solidarity.
Interviewees like Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl testify to being blown away, and if the music still sounds like a frenetic, sludgy mess, it nonetheless finds a flattering showcase as a phenomenon of teenage aggression. The most fascinating part about Salad Days, unusual for any rock documentary, is its owning up to middle-class privilege: These were the children of well-employed, educated parents, many of whom were supportive. (A photo of Henry Rollins working his day job at Häagen-Dazs is a scream.) It makes sense that the bands got political in both lyrics and behavior—here’s where abstemious “straight-edge” comes from—but their discipline allows for a reboot, 1985’s “Revolution Summer,” that made the music even better. Crawford has produced an inspiring primer, sure to remind viewers that the power has always been in their hands.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf