Punk: What The Hell Is It

author: satanic_cigar date: 09/07/2005 category: genres' battles
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I am relatively new to these here forums and article databases, so I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself. First and foremost, I seem to notice as I skim through messages and responses that there's an awful lot of bitching going on. If you must, please e-mail me directly so that I can save some poor passer-by's time with your opinions of me. Secondly, let's get this straight: I'm not here to preach, just to inform. Sorry if I come off like that at one point or another. A lot of you have a misconception as to what punk really means. I'm here to clarify. Let's go over this shall we? I know that most of you have seen the topics such as punk is dead or what is punk? or whatever. Mainly, punk isn't dead, as no genre can really die until no one at all listens anymore. That's not the case. Punk can stand for two things: the aforementioned musical genre or an attitude based on your beliefs. Punk used to mean being different and individual, which as you can see does not refer to modern times. A huge population of tweens and teenagers look at the modern punk scene believing that it was always this simple to go out and have blue hair or get their genitals pierced. Not the case. Back in the heyday of punk, if you walked out of your scene where this was accepted, you got your ass kicked. I can liken it to segregation in the 1940's & 50's. It levels with that kind of hate. Why? People will always be afraid of what they don't understand, and generally few are willing to accept something that's different. Getting away from the attitude aspect, let's look at the musical scene. What we accept as traditional punk was known at the time as hardcore music. Bands like Television, the Ramones, Agnostic Front, Talking Heads (yes, they were a punk band), among others, were starting to influx the New York scene, mostly at the famed venue CBGB's. Jersey had a few; most notably, the Misfits. Another bundle of bands grew from the Orange County scene. Los Angeles and San Francisco were the stomping grounds for acts like Black Flag, Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, Flipper, Bad Religion, Wasted Youth, and Dead Kennedys. Washington DC also had a nice little scene with the groups Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Iron Cross, Black Market Baby, and TSOL. Other scenes were up and running in Chicago (Effigies), Minneapolis (Husker Du), and many parts of Canada. Other bands started one places and ended up a lot bigger in another. Bands like Bad Brains (DC) and Fear (LA) started in out elsewhere, but later moved to New York. This big scene as a whole would contribute to many things you see nowdays. The best example I can give is that Minor Threat were pretty much the pioneers of the idea of being "straight edge" It meant no drinking, no drugs, no one night stands. In some cases, the kids were completely celibate. The idea is still around today, minus the whole celibacy thing. This movement started around 1977 and ended in the early 80's. Many of the more influential punk bands had fazed themselves out or broke up. Most other punk bands that didn't break up changed their style (or "sold out") and became New Wave bands. By 1988, Minor Threat, the Misfits, Husker Du, and Black Flag, along with countless other bands, had broken up. (Ironically enough, the very next year a band that would later help start the punk resurgence released their first album. They formed under the name of Manic Subsidal, but you probably know them as the Offspring.) Many had spawned other bands. Ian McKaye (Minor Threat) formed Fugazi, Glenn Danzig (Misfits) would start Samhain before having a semi-hit with the band named Danzig, Henry Rolling (Black Flag) would form the Rollins Band, and Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) would start a spoken word career. It appeared as if the scene was pretty much killed off. Around 1991 or so, the grunge scene would start a huge trend. With bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam popularizing the new genre, it effectively made hair metal uncool and MTV VJ's now denounced the much happier cock rock for something that many more angst-ridden teenagers could identify with; Simple brooding music that had a dark lyrical front. Some punk bands originally started because they couldn't identify with metal groups (like Judas Priest) or the pop at the time (like the Bee Gees). They really couldn't identify with anything that resembled hair metal, because they sang about having all the girls, partying every night, and anything with a large amount of decadence. Most punks generally didn't party on the L.A. strip every night, didn't have the prettiest girl, or couldn't spell the word decadence. It was a totally different world. When they couldn't identify with music, they made their own. In that respect, I'll say grunge had a very punk element. But beyond that and the simplistic music, there's not much of a comparison. So here we go. The 90's arrive and grunge is in, and then it's out. Alternative rock is now in for a short time, spawning off from grungier stuff. The rock becomes a little more contemporary. And wham! It's around 1998 and the scene consists of a new form of music, which people are calling punk. The bands that moved in from here were those that enjoyed a brief period of television and radio overkill (some still do today). These bands, of course, include Blink 182, the Offspring, and others previously unknown to the masses at the time, Unwritten Law, Living End, and Pennywise. Later on, bands like Bowling For Soup, Lit, and Good Charlotte would be referred to similarly. Not as popular as the pop counterparts of the time like Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, as well as the influx of boy bands and girl solo artists, these bands made a dent that would start a much bigger movement in the new millennium. This is where you'll have to bare with me here, folks. I'm not that fluent with this newer breed of punk (although I do listen). So a lot of this is what I've come to understand so feel free to correct me. Around 2001 or so, a newer breed of bands showed up with a slight edge to the music. It was a bit heavier than the pop-punk artists and the lyrics were more meaningful and deep. Branded emo for its emotional lyrics and fanbase, emo was supposedly originally started by bands like Rites Of Spring, 7 Seconds, and Embrace. It was after the hardcore scene was pretty much over and the music was a bit slower and often sung either in a whiny voice or screaming. You can see where that comes out in today's emo scene. Modern hardcore and scre-emo bands are obviously much different than the old hardcore scene, but the dark and sometimes politically motivated lyrics are all still there from time to time. So as you can see, it's pretty damn impossible to clarify what punk really is based on music alone. The genre has changed and branched off into other forms of punk. Almost like sub-genres in metal, punk cannot be defined only in music alone. Punk is simply a way of being. The idea that you shouldn't be controlled by society in the way you look or act or feel. Be yourself and if somebody doesn't like it, screw them. That's where today's punk is kind of lacking. But being at the shows, seeing the younger kids in the old school shirts, and seeing Social D playing to a packed audience 26 years after the band started, there's definitely a sense that a little bit of the scene is still alive. That's all you really need. And if you don't like this article, screw you.
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