Growing up in a church youth group, record labels such as Tooth and Nail, Solid State and Facedown introduced me to independent music in a distinct way. Through MxPx and Figure Four and others, I learned it was possible for bands to exist outside of mainstream circuits such as radio and television. And as I sought out more independent bands, my musical taste grew as my awkward body did. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like this path is possible today; it seems most bands and labels have openly embraced MTV culture with glowing dollar bills in their eyes.
I used to be really into Solid State Records' Stretch Arm Strong, a South Carolina band that played aggressive but catchy hardcore, taking a lot of cues from pop-punk. No longer on Solid State's roster, Stretch Arm Strong hasn't stopped making records, but it has stopped playing anything that resembles hardcore. Free At Last, an amalgamation of Papa Roach and Fall Out Boy, is evidence that the label "hardcore" is, unfortunately and wrongfully, increasingly expanding. From outdated angst ("The Hardest Part") to mechanical fast parts ("Faces") to just sucking ("Flight 828"), the members of Stretch Arm Strong have made a record that will teach youth-group kids that hardcore is a blanket term that includes everything except for country music. And for that, I cannot forgive them.
Stretch Arm Strong Web site (streaming audio)