Is This Orgcore or Not?

Hugo Reyes
6 min readSep 15, 2023

Maybe out of boredom, I’ve been revisiting music central to my life a decade ago. It’s resulted in me listening to a lot of stuff that I end up describing as orgcore, which was a way to describe the kind of music Punknews would cover when it was central to punk subculture. In revisiting a version of punk that feels like it doesn’t exist, I decided to look at an orgcore playlist on Spotify. The playlist is way too long for me to review each song. It is over 100 songs. I randomly chose about fifteen. This exercise is a ridiculous thing you should not take too seriously since it is not a real genre in the first place. Enjoy it, or quietly seethe that you had to read something so inane.

Jawbreaker You Still Hate Me?

I am already finding reasons to get annoyed at a playlist for a genre that isn’t real and more of a construction of one website. Jawbreaker was certainly influential for the stuff that Punknews would cover in the 2000s, but it feels far enough removed to place it into the orgcore bucket rings somewhat false. I could understand putting it in an orgcore playlist. 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, in some ways, is the blueprint for the beer-soaked punk that orgcore would represent. I would experience it firsthand when a friend of mine would cover this song at every solo show he played, so much so that I cannot disentangle it from that experience.

Sincere Engineer-Corn Dog Sonnet No 7

I think Sincere Engineer meets my imagined definitions of what orgcore is in my head. Deanna Belos spent her childhood loving much of the Lawrence Arms extended universe. But, in some ways, considering punk of the later 2010s, orgcore feels weird. Even when I saw her around this time, I wasn’t thinking of her in that context. I saw them for the first time in 2015 when Fireside Bowl briefly threw on shows again. Two years later, the full band record came out. Now, with hindsight, 2017 felt like the death rattle of the kind of punk that orgcore was used to describe. It’s become increasingly rare to find young bands (emphasis on young) doing this kind of punk.

Leatherface-Springtime

I can see how they can be included in an orgcore playlist. I would say no; I will add a caveat, though. Leatherface, similar to Jawbreaker, is proto-orgcore. I don’t think we would get Hot Water Music and others without Leatherface. But they come a bit before what I think of as orgcore. If, for some reason, you’ve never listened to Mush, I would recommend you give it a shot. After listening to it, many other bands might make a bit more sense.

Lifetime-Turnpike Gates

I love Lifetime; I rate all three of their records as peaks in the more melodic side of hardcore. I would call Lifetime melodic hardcore (maybe Endless Scroll has something to say on this?). I would never call this orgcore, whether I approach it from a more sound perspective or a cultural one. Lifetime were hardcore dudes. Their first record was on New Age. They were of that lineage of expanding the genre post-youth crew without directly doing the youth crew revival. Cultural distinction is important because I think of orgcore as a distinctly punk phenomenon. It feels separate from hardcore to me. Of course, those two scenes intermingle, as there is little separating the two. The difference still matters to me, making Lifetime’s inclusion so early in the playlist odd.

Spanish Love Songs-Sequels, Remakes, & Adaptations

Friends first introduced Spanish Love Songs to me as The Menizgers Jr. For that, it belongs in the orgcore cannon. The only time I ever saw them was in 2017 at some random venue during the one time I went to FEST. I have little to say about them as I have not totally connected to them like other people I know.

The Sidekicks-DMT

Sidekick’s placement in punk at the time felt tenuous by the time Awkward Breeds. It felt less indebted to punk and had more in common with rock and power pop. But when you listen to Sidekick’s earlier records, it does feel unmistakably orgcore. The placement on Red Scare makes a ton of sense when you listen to “Team Volcano.” It doesn’t sound too dissimilar from someone like Timeshares. So, I’d say there are parts of Sidekick’s catalog that are orgcore, but DMT is very far removed from that and represents the next stage of The Sidekicks.

Bong Mountain-26 Caroline

Bong Mountain is another example of a more modern version of orgcore. I remember many of my friends in my small scene being really into You’re Doing Great when it came out. When I first saw them, the guitarist made a cheekily snide comment about a punknews review. It was during a time when a lot of music I was listening to was decidedly orgcore-adjacent. Anyway, Bong Mountain is decidedly orgcore.

Smoking Popes-Megan

Smoking Popes always stood out among the Chicago punk bands they would play with. It was decidedly indie rock compared to something like The Lawrence Arms. But association can only take you so far when you talk about genre. I would not call this orgcore; maybe you can get away with calling it adjacent. Destination Failure is still a good record, from what I remember. It has been a while since I’ve revisited it.

Beach Rats-Stay All Night

I do not agree with this selection on the playlist at all. It is squarely older hardcore people making new music. It features Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty) and Ari Katz of Lifetime. It feels far removed from any version of orgcore. If I had to categorize Beach Rats, I would call it melodic hardcore. Any other definition just feels off to my ears. And it’s a lesser version of what the members did in their other bands, just because they were so formative to hardcore in many ways.

Knapsack-Katherine The Grateful

If I were younger, this addition would make me incensed. It could result in me ranting and raving to myself while everyone around me would think what an absolute loser I am to care about something so trivial. Knapsack is quintessential 90s emo. They were included in Vulture’s 100 greatest songs of all time. It makes Knapsack’s inclusion a bit odd. Culturally, they feel squarely in the emo box.

AM Taxi-The Mistake

AM Taxi is far from what I consider orgcore. It was a project that was an offshoot of Lucky Boys Confusion, a Chicagoland band that moved between ska punk and pop-punk. AM Taxi is a bit more pop rock; It feels like a different world than the FEST punk happening concurrently. I’m sure they played with some of the bands on this playlist. I still have never once thought the word orgcore would be a suitable phrase for them. I only heard about them because my college roommate adored Lucky Boys Confusion and its extended universe, so that love was partially passed onto me.

Cold Wrecks-Therapy

When I think of modern bands doing orgcore, Cold Wrecks come to mind. I may be narrow in my definition. Something about Therapy pinpoints precisely what I think of this made-up genre. I can just picture the phrase “When I am 29, I’ll start going to therapy” in a live setting. In Gainesville, I can imagine a ravenous crowd singing along. If I still went to FEST, I may soberly sing along to a few of the songs just to pretend I’m still 21 again.

Less Than Jake-Automatic

I don’t need to say anything more than this is ska. Calling it anything else would be disingenuous. The only half-baked argument I can make is early Less Than Jake was on No Idea Records, which was an incubator for orgcore.

Colossal-Human Jackson

Colossal is emo. I won’t hear any other discussion. Colossal was a part of the Asian Man Records Chicago cohort. Drummer Robert Kellenberg played alongside Brendan Kelly in Slapstick. Still, Colossal belongs to the lineage of emo that the Kinsellas forged. Colossal presaged what was going to happen with the emo revival. In that way, it is far removed from what I think of orgcore. People aren’t going to be swilling PBRs during their set. Maybe they’ll get high and gently try to nod their head to odd-time signatures.

Red City Radio-Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads

Quintissential orgcore to me. I think the only time I’ve seen them is opening for The Lawrence Arms’ annual Christmas shows. I’ve never even listened to Red City Radio purposefully. They always seemed to be adjacent to the Red Scare scene, and I would see them often.

Here’s the playlist below for your listening pleasure:

--

--