Some of the things that really grease the wheels of that noggin up there come to me at the most unexpected times. I recently asked Matt Pike (he books a lot of your favorite bands and that whole American Nightmare reunion) to do a Five and Alive of his favorite AN songs. While he sent me the criteria of a Five and Alive, he also sent me a well worded intro. In perfect timing, I just so happened to be listening to Poison the Well - probably one of the most important and influential hardcore bands in the genre for me. If the band's first two albums were blueprints drawn from Cave In and early Piebald, they were the contemporary blueprints for the unfortunate third wave thereafter. When the band redefined their sound (The double take of You Come Before You and then the underrated, but firstly rejected Versions), they did the scene a favor but only noticeable years too late - like most of the re-inventors.
I've always wondered why I was so attracted to the genre. I didn't grow up in the mean streets of anywhere. I never had it "that rough." I surely was never a fighter. Then again, I never listened to hardcore's brute side. I was never a tough guy. Also, I've still never gotten into that side of it today - unless it's as brutal as Trash Talk - but my favorite hardcore bands are also my favorites lyrically. Touche Amore has written one of the best this year with Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. Lyrics are what can make and break a band for some. Generic pop music and Nickelback have survived for years, so I know that's not the case for the majority of people - considering it seems like the majority of America is still uneducated in art and literature due not to the educational system by the contemporary media and social networking alike.
With that, the hardcore I grew up on was generally about girls and friendships. It bridged the gap of the tough guy to the emotionally the tough guy with a broken heart and a melody every once in a while. Hardcore has always been about more than community - it's therapy. It's a musical AA and a wall that bounces back your frustration instead of absorbing it. It worked during the Regan era, and it's even more frustrating now to grow up in some of the muck we can't work past.
Punk music has always rode this social line of the times. While mostly political, there's only so many times you can talk about the system sucking. The reality of the situation is that the system has always sucked, you just need to make it work for you. There's aggression in the class struggle, friendships and societal norms - and well, love - that when thrown against the driving chords of hardcore, it strikes a nerve with many. The guy in the pit isn't putting on a show, he's having a therapy session right in front of you. The kid climbing over the first two rows for the mic really needs to meld his voice with that of the band because that one line means more to him than anyone else in that room - or even anyone who has heard the song as well.
The hardcore community can be closed minded (see also: Bridge 9 forums), but in the end it's more about the individual that makes up that element of community or backbone than the community as a whole. When Bob Ritchie told us to "get in the pit and try to love someone," he was speaking about the group therapy part of it. Healing personal and social wounds through music. From all of my studies on the scene, it's very tribal, and that element is the most important.
The lyrics that comprise most of the hardcore community - from "Institutionalized" to "Hearts" - they are the language of that tribe. It's why certain lyrics are printed on the backs of shirts (of course showcasing the pit, stage dive, group shot, family photo every time) and how a particular line can light up a room vocally in unison.
When I was younger and sifting through hardcore records, I used to think of them as being the barbaric stereotypes we all know them to be. There's something in the way the choruses are executed that grabs you as the problems start stacking up. It's a beautiful genre that contains many of the stereotypes we've come to know, and even love. At the end of the day, pop-punk kids will turn emo and the metal kids will either turn to ambient noise or nowadays, dubstep. I think when hardcore bands reunite, they tend to have the biggest draw because the message was never lost as it was being handed down. It's one of the few genres that young kids dig at when discovering what came before their favorites. Hardcore is the fury in our head and heart, and its lyrical prowess - when penned meaningful enough - is the open door to the aforementioned furnace that burns inside many of us.