Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Don't Know Shit About Punk Rock

I am going to go on an old man rant, so please forgive me in advance.

I admit, I don’t call myself a punk. Sure, I listen punk music and I subscribe to many of the attitudes lumped in with punk rock, but walking down the street, no one would peg me as a punk.

To me, punk rock was never about fashion but about attitude. It was about questioning authority and pursuing your own truth. Plus, it was a great outlet for teen angst and frustration.

And I guess that is what bugs me the most about the punks I see wandering around the streets today. It is generally a fashion statement. I know, it always has been (Malcom McClaren, anyone?) and there are always those who think punk rock can change the world, but I see kids trying too hard. It’s like they are playing dress-up. They wouldn’t be any more ridiculous if they wore a spacesuit or a cowboy outfit or scrubs.

They have no sense of history.

After observing today’s "punk rockers," here are a few things I know:

1. Punk rock is not a rigid style of music but a broad pallet united by attitude. Sex Pistols, The Damned, X, The Clash, Husker Du, Germs, Minutemen, TSOL, Black Flag, Generation X, Exploited, Killing Joke, The Cramps, Bad Brains, Agent Orange, Misfits, Crass, Minor Threat, Subhumans, and the Descendents don’t have much in common other than attitude.

2. Punk rock evolved. After the Sex Pistols, John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd and created some of the most challenging music of his career. The Damned created the Black Album, TSOL created Beneath the Shadows, X created Under the Big Black Sun, the Minutemen created Double Nickels on the Dime, The Replacements created Let It Be, Husker Du created Zen Arcade, and so on.

3. "Old school" bands that are really popular now such as the Adicts, Angry Samoans, Vice Squad, and G.B.H. were never really that good and still aren’t. They were kind of second-string punk bands with a few good songs. They just happened to outlive their contemporaries. But so did the Rolling Stones and they haven’t done anything good in thirty years.

4. Some great bands only did one really great album. And that is okay. Buy the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, the Adolescents debut, Agent Orange’s Living In Darkness, the Germs’ G.I., Descendents’ Milo Goes to College, Fear’s The Record, and Black Flag’s Damaged.

5. "Selling Out" is a myth. Signing to a major label is not selling out (Sex Pistols, anyone?). Success is not selling out. Writing catchy hooks is not selling out.

6. If you are repeating the past instead of building upon it, then you are just cookie-cutter poseurs.

7. Punk rock is alive and well. Listen to Bright Eyes, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Green Day (yes, Green Day), Be Your Own Pet, Hank Williams III, Riverboat Gamblers, White Stripes, and more.

8. Anything I say might be wrong.

And, in the spirit of this blog, I have been listening to my "punk rock" playlist, so here is the last 10 songs played this morning:

1. "Sub-Mission" by the Sex Pistols
2. "I Shook Hands" by the Minutemen
3. "Buzzbomb" by Dead Kennedys
4. "Against the Grain" by Bad Religion
5. "Turn It Around" by Hüsker Dü
6. "Hybrid Moments" by the Misfits
7. "Wasted" by Black Flag
8. "Curtain Call" by the Damned
9. "Kick Out The Jams" by Bad Brains featuring Henry Rollins
10. "Dog and Pony Show" by the Descendents


Blogger Mustard Relics said...

Mike over at Strange Reaction sent me over here to read your article. Nice. "Underground" is a word I would add. A dark club (not the outdoor festival). The selling out thing I have mixed feeling about. Nothing wrong with trying to support yourself with your art and passion, but it's a big leap to be showing up at the Grammy's and being a part of the music industry which is as much a part of the machine as Exxon, Monsanto and Halburton. A tough call, because in a way being a part of the machine is difficult to avoid unless you live in an abandoned building and pan handle for beer and food money (or to get into the show). It stopped being special or punk to me when it became popular. I know that was McClaren's plan but...I guess there aren't any rules. For the most part the stuff you here today, that some call punk, I call alternative, is so watered down. When I was drinking I liked my tequila straight, these guys now are more like margaritas. As far as Green Day, hummm...had the (mis)fortune of playing with them at a pizza parlor in about 1990 and they were as dorky then as they are now...but what do I know. Thanx so much for the writing, always a good topic.

6:48 PM  

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