Book Review: The Hard Times: The First 40 Years

Release Date: October 29th, 2019

If you’ve seen headlines such as “Singer Billy Joel Quits Green Day” or “Self-Conscious Punk Keeps Jacket on in the Pool” while scrolling through Facebook, then you know what The Hard Times is. Often referred to as “The Onion of Punk Rock,” the site launched in 2014 and features satirical articles about the punk rock and hardcore scene. Now, they recount their totally accurate and definitely true history of the brand in their new book The Hard Times: The First 40 Years.

Writers and editors of The Hard Times share their “accurate” accounts of their humble beginnings in the 1980s when they were making zines by hand leading up to the launch of the website in 2014. At times, the “history” is written in such a convincing voice, you almost believe it’s true. That is until the anecdotes get more and more outlandish. They share memories of excessive drug abuse from the editors, run-ins with the Russian Mafia, and the occasional ceiling fan decapitation. These accounts are some of the funniest and most unexpected moments of the book showing off the brand’s twisted sense of humor.

The highlight of the book is the “hard-hitting” reports on the punk rock scene. These articles from their “archives” present their skewed commentary on the punk and hardcore scene of the 70s, 80s, and 90s along with fan-favorite articles from their later years. They poke fun at scene stereotypes, punk fashion, and musicians with headlines like “Metalhead Can’t Find Single Inoffensive Shirt to Wear to Airport,” “Punk Mom Embarrassed to Drop Off Juggalo Son at Concert” and “Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello Confirms It Was a Fax Machine.”

They even address issues within the scene, like lack of female representation and musicians preying on underaged fans with headlines like “All Warped Tour Stage Moved 100 Feet from Audience to Comply with Sex Offender Laws” and “Male Fronted Hardcore Band Proves that Guys Can Rock Too.” While they’re funny, it also shines a light on some of the scenes more problematic aspects. Not every article will be a hit –references may go over your head or jokes don’t land – but for the most part, it’s a fun look at punk rock through the Hard Times lens.

The Hard Times: The First 40 Years is a loving celebration of not only the website but of punk rock and hardcore as well. Clearly, the writers and editors are fans of these music scenes but aren’t afraid to poke fun at them. The strong, funny writing shows the comedy isn’t just in the headlines. The articles are witty and clever and the site’s “history” is a wild ride full of unexpected twists and turns. If you’re a fan of The Onion and consider yourself a music junkie, this book is a must-read. And next time you see one of their headlines while scrolling through Facebook, make sure to read the entire article. You won’t regret it.

The Hard Times: The First 40 Years
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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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