CALGARY — New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s, pre-Giuliani, pre-The Disney Store opening in Times Square, is easy to mythologize. It’s a city where Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle can wish for a rain to wipe the scum off the streets as easily as it is for Woody Allen to worry in Annie Hall (1977) that “the rest of the country looks down upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers.” The skinhead subculture can be composed of devotees of black ska and reggae, or it can be neo-Nazis. Hardcore bands can be muscle-bound, martial arts practicing, straightedge vegan Hare Krishnas.
The latter adjectives, and probably a few more, apply to John ‘Bloodclot’ Joseph McGowan and the legendary hardcore outfit he fronted. Like the city that spawned them, the Cro-Mags are marked by a overabundance of stuff: over 20 musicians that could be called members, whole albums that the current line-up disavows (2000’s Revenge has nothing to do with the band as it stands), a knife attack, songs written by former members picked up and reworked by current members, dozens of aligned and associated acts. It all devolves into round after round of he-said-he-said stretching back to when those involved were children.