In 1977 a movement was unleashed on the world and it was called punk. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, and a slew of other like minded rebel rockers came out swinging at the cultural norm. capturing the hearts and minds of a generation of misfits, vagrants, and street kids. Taking their ambitious new sound, that was at once a beautifully stripped sound and a destructive ideology of anarchy and chaos, to the masses the youth of the the late 70's found themselves with a new anthem and the anthem was Anarchy. Songs like "Anarchy in the UK" by Sex Pistols, "Rise Above" by Black Flag, and "Blank Generation" By Richard Hell spoke to absence of identity that was that of punk rock. Like that of Beatniks and the Hippies before, punk came at a time when movement was needed, when art needed to say something, the stale air of humanity needs a good wind to come through and kick up the dust every now and then and punk did just that, in a big way. Reassessing what fashion, philosophy, religion, and even music were. Bands like the Ramones took to it by playing simple accessible bubblegum pop but singing about anything but bubblegum, Communism, death, drugs, anthing went. The Clash, brought to the table their reggae infused brand highly political protest, and artists like Ian Durry sounded almost more like the offspring of Frank Zappa than they did Iggy Pop or the MC5. But it was all punk, it was all new and fresh, and none of them cared about your opinion of them. But like most good things, the system, that is the modern organization and assembly line has its own way of dealing with the rise of individualism. Whether its turning the beat generation's disgust with conformity and love of freedom of speech into a fad bongo drums and black turtle necks or just dumming down society, it ruins everything it touches, and thus the legacy of punk would eventually do the same.
After the initial release of punk on the world, punk would go back under ground, in the 80's punk got harder and harder, starting with bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and the Dead Kennedys. The Harder it got the further it seemed to stray from the original mainstream boom that had happened in the late 70's. Things got serious. Issues were being talked about, Politics, race, religion, these things were happening and punk didn't take any of it lightly. Punk was getting real.
And out of this realism punk's started listening to other real music, things like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, even Jazz, they started reading books, they started to care about what it was they werer singing about and out of this new education punk began to see a change, bands like social distortion started to sound more folky, X started play country songs sped up by a billion, Henry Rollins and Black Flag started doing spoken word and punk began to get artsy again. All of a sudden punk was back to a loose definition, was punk a sound, a look, or was punk simply an evolution of free thought, the child of Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsburg, and Lou Reed.
Coming into the 90's with out a strict definition of punk, save for the fact that punk was a rebellion. bands like nirvana, who were labeled grunge but came out of the same punk clubs as the Melvins, and Mudhoney led the way for a second and bigger coming punk in the mainstream. Greenday, the Offspring, and Bad Religion, all bands that had once been the pride and joy of their own local, dirty, punk clubs began to explode with a sound that, similar to that of the ramones and the buzzcocks, was at once catchy and incredibly hard to resist. the sound was infectious. the care free attitude, the dingy clothes and hair, and the complete recklessness was the perfect example of how punk could work in the mainstream.
but with the success of these bands, came an onslaught of copy cat, fakes with no identity in the punk rock heritage. knowing only what MTV told them was punk, Hot Topic and other like minded stores and media fixations would give way to the rise to the sub cultures of Emo and Pop Punk. wearing pre ripped jeans and make up to appear deathly and street tough, these "Fakes" or "Posers" would eventually lead to what some have called the finally death of punk, a sad, slow and disgusting fade into oblivian.
Or has it been... in 1998 swedish hard core group The Refused released their final album, the prophetic "Shape of Punk to Come" the albums sound was a new blast of energy and its title brought to mind the idea that punk was a constantly changing form, much like jazz that's only roots were that of individualism and honesty. following the release of the album he band would break up but the album has gone on to be called "One of the best examples of rebirth." by one rock critic. Bands that had at one time been more of the sound of "Emo" or "Pop Punk" like My Chemical Romance have recently shown a dynamic change as well, shifting away from the weak and angsty sound of their past towards more stripped and bare, dare I say Iggy Pop sound and other bands who it seemed found too much of their own identity in terms like "Anarchy" and "Chaos" like against me have found away to traverse the ledge between traditional rock n roll and modern punk and then their are the artists, the unique and new blend of world punk, Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly leading the charge. the sound of modern punk is new, just as The Ramones sounded vastly different from their proto punk for fathers, and the hard core punk of the 80's fled the poppy undertones that had been heard before, the modern punk must find his own way. And perhaps that way will come with a change in names, much like punk becoming grunge or hard core. The Idea and feel of punk can and will never die, cause if you think you've seen the death of it, it wasn't really punk to begin with. so is there still a Blank Generation as Richard Hell described it, who's to say. Blank is blank, unobservable and with out shape, impossible to define and endlessly moving in and out of genres and contexts. Blank.... is blank.... is....
Anti-Club Country Music Night! - On Friday nights, I DJ at Mulberry Street Ristorante (aka The Anti-Club). This week's theme was country music. Here's my playlist, with album art. Click on...
5 weeks ago