Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Punks Are Alright

The Punks Are Alright . . .

Thinking back about my younger years, I can’t help but think about Punk Rock. I’ve often called a person’s younger years their “Days of Discovery”. Ideas that were once covered, have now become discovered to fuel our imaginations to build our identities.

It used to be every generation had it’s own genre of music that would identify them. If you say 60’s, a person might think of Chuck Berry, Beach Boys. 70’s Led Zeppelin (Rock-n-Roll), Parliament (Funk), Disco. 80’s (Punk, Heavy Metal, New Wave), 90’s (Grunge), then 2000’s ? I’m not sure Hip-Hop? Rap?, but isn't that just a modified version of what was already invented in the 70’s, for example Sugar Hill Gang with "Rapper’s Delight" for example . . . Grand Master Flash anybody? looking at the last generation, I can’t say they developed a musical sound that identifies them.

That’s not to say there is not great music being made today (. . . and there is, you're just going to have to dig for it . . . ) it’s just not distinctive enough to give this generation an identity.

However I don't want to argue what this music genrations identy is. I want to point out a pattern, and make the case that it got hijacked a long time ago.

My days of discovery came during the days of punk rock. What’s a “Punk” anyway? It’s hard to find a clear definition of "Punk". However we can agree that it’s a word that possesses a negative connotation. When people think “Punk Rock” they often have an image of a person with a mohawk, wearing a black leather biker jacket, going around breaking things; or perhaps the word “Anarchy". A word also perverted, but I'm going to argue that now.

So today I find myself in the position to be a iconoclast of sorts for “Punk”, and you just might find out you’re more “Punk” than you thought, and have to redefine what it means to be “Punk”. The 70’s/80’s punk movement was about making people aware of what was going on around them. It was about instigating critical thought. Let’s look at the lyrics of Minor Threat’s, Out of Step or the more popular Straight Edge. It’s a song about how not doing drug gives you the edge . . .The Straight Edge.

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

Hence the phrase was coined "Straight Edge".

Straight Edge was born from Punk Rock, who knew? Who would know with the way Punk Rock is portrayed in the media. How about other Minor threat songs that foster a no excuses attitude like “I don’t want to hear it”, or “In my Eyes”.

Speaking no excuses What about Black Flag’s “Rise Above”?

Society's arms of control
Rise above, we're gonna rise above
Think they're smart, can't think for themselves
Rise above, we're gonna rise above
Laugh at us behind our backs
Rise above, we're gonna rise above
I find satisfaction in what they lack
Rise above, we're gonna rise above
We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us, but it's no use

Henry Rollins went on to form Rollin’s band

One of my favorite songs of his “Shine”.

If I'd listened everything that they said to me, I wouldn't be here!
And if I took the time to bleed from all the tiny little arrows shot my way,
I wouldn't be here!
The ones who don't do anything are always the ones who try to put you down
and you could spend your entire life walking around in the nowhere land of self doubt

'coz when you start to doubt yourself the real world will eat you alive!
it's time, it's time to align your body with your mind, it's hero time
it's time, it's time to align your body with your mind, it's hero time
'coz when you start to doubt yourself the real world will eat you alive!
and you know it's true!
I'm talking to you: hero time starts right now! Yeah, hero time, yeah,
time to shine, hey, hero time!

if ya think you've got 100 years to mess around: you're wrong!
this time it's real, y o u r t i m e i s n o w . . . it's hero time!
Yeah, hero time,hey, time to shine, yeah, hero time, yeah!

hard times are gettin' harder, the liars are acting strong
you better get a grip on yourself or you won't be around too long
it's hero time, hey, time to shine, yeah, hero time, yeah, hero time, yeah!
it's hero time, it's hero time, time to shine, shine, shine, shine, shine!
oh yeah! (3x)

no such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time
no such thing as down time
all you got is life time... go! 'coz it's hero time, 'coz it's time to
'coz it's time to go, go, go! yeah, hou!

when you're gone, you're so gone (2x) you've got it now, it's time to go
hero time starts right now! yeah, aha..! ...change it!

I got grace in times of friction, I got truth in times of fiction
I've got no time for the hype... suicide!? I'm not that type...
I got no time for drug addiction, no time for smoke and booze
too strong for a shortened life span, I've got no time to lose!
It's time to shine, yeah, it's hero time, yeah, it's hero time, yeah,

when you start to doubt yourself the real world will eat you alive! yeah!
you could spend your entire walking around, coward: or you can get up!
get up, get up, get up, get up! it's time to shine! yeah

Sounds like a song that inspires me to go out and do something rather than sit in my parents basement and play video games.

There were/are a lot more bands with songs that posses this attitude and a message. In fact I'll go as far to say these bands make up the majority and are the foundation of "Punk".

Contrast this to the way “Punk” is portrayed. It's that same old tired mechanism in action. Critisize the messenger, not the message.

From example lets look at the Sex Pistols. Instead of focusing on the message of the lyrics, lets focus on the life of Sid Vicious. In fact let’s make a movie called Sid & Nancy that paints the whole punk scene as criminals and drug abusers. . . . Which I just pointed out that this is clearly not the case . . . . This is the stigma that has to be lifted in order for “Punk” to be discovered. What is covered must be discovered.
So what is “Punk” today? What have the corporations packaged for you as “Punk”? . . . actually they took some of Punk and fractured it, then packaged the fractures and sold it to this generation as new. Including such genres as EMO . . . (Ohhhh I’m so emotional) . . . and Goth.
Another thing I don't like is how "Punk" has become fashion. When people go out they may decide to look a little . . . "Punky" . . . For example the other day I walked by a corporate coffee shop on my way to an independent coffee shop two store fronts down. Inside was a kid working on his laptop, and was wearing awearing a Rage Against The Machine (RATM) T-Shirt. RATM sings songs about corporate exploitation. This store is owned by one of the biggest corporations on the planet. Guess he didn't hear thier song, "No Shelter here".

"The main attraction, distraction
got ya number than number than numb
Empty ya pockets son, they got you thinkin that
What ya need is what they sellin
Make you think that buyin is rebellin'
From the theaters to malls on every shore
The thin line between entertainment and war
The frontline is everywhere, there be no shelter here
Spielberg the nightmare works so push it far
Amistad was a whip, the truth feather to tar
Memories erased and burned to scar
Trade in ya history for a VCR

Well if nothing else I hope you understand the distinctions between "Punk", and what the corporate exploited, sensationalized, Punk looks like.

. . . and now Bill Hicks with a message I consider "Punk".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree with everything you say. Another think I always loved about the punk/hardcore movement was that it really inspired us to go out and create our own thing, to do our thing, to express ourselves. I/we did, and that led to some of the best moments of my life. Getting out and seeing the country with my bandmates, creating music, managing our own finances, making tshirts -- to me the message in the music was secondary to the fact that we were doing something all our own and making a contribution rather than simply being passive consumers. (And you saw that attitude from most of those who were dedicated to that scene. Even those not in bands were taking pictures, writing 'zines, booking shows...) The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir said that touring and seeing the country was a "rite of passage" for him and his buddies as young men -- and I think he meant exactly what I'm talking about, and you mean by saying the Days of Discovery. Every generation should have one -- whatever form it takes. -Scott B.