What defines a person as Punk? The way they color or style their hair? The amount of stickers they put on the back of their car's window? Or what about the patches on their backpack or purse? Is it 'cause they have a guitar or drum set and can play a Nirvana riff? Or better yet can play the riff to that Deep Purple song. Or better yet is it the kind of music they listen to? As I search around the net I see nothing but discrimination toward others because of the bands they like ie. Good Charlotte, Blink 182, Simple Plan, New Found Glory, Yellowcard. I also hear the same kind of thing in my local Guitar Center; I over heard one person telling another person that he's not punk for whatever reason and the song he's trying to play doesn't make him punk. That being the wrong conversation for an employee to a potential buyer, yet at the same time the conversation had nothing to do with a purchase, it's his stance on what's punk. Ok, understandable, but what makes the employee so much more punk than the other person? Physically, between the 3 of us there was nothing different. We all had the same style of clothes on, basically the same hairstyle, used the same slang and similar mannerisms (air guitar lol). So what defines us as punk?
A little about me so you can understand my standpoint. I listen to a lot of bands, granted, I'm new to this whole punk community. A little over a year and a half ago I was probably the biggest hiphop fan there was and I didn't know a thing about punk. I just knew that punk irritated me. I'd rather listen to a synthesizer and a dumb machine than a guitar and a 7-piece drum set. Then hiphop/rap got boring to me. It seemed as if one day I woke up and didn't care for that kind of music anymore. With acts such as Chingy, Cassidy, Lil' Jon coming out and becoming so mainstream I couldn't take the non-talent and repetitiveness of talking about cars and girls. And I never looked back. Sadly the band and song that turned me on to punk was Good Charlotte - Boys And Girls. I know, what you're thinking, he's not punk if he listens to GC. No, I never said I was punk. That is just a catchy song, I doubt there is anyone who listens to that kind of music and hasn't found themselves thinking or humming that chorus from time to time. So, needless to say I picked up that CD and liked it, then I got their first release and liked that as well. Then from GC I progressed into other bands, mainstream bands, like Blink, Simple Plan etc. But now GC is pretty far in my rearview mirror. As I type this I have Fallout Boy playing in the background. And all around my desk are Nirvana albums, Thrice, Finch, MxPx (they are not pop), NoFX, and yes Yellowcard, just to name a few. And on my computers desktop I have a plethora of punk mp3s.
With Fallout Boy playing in the background, it leads me to think Who and what makes a band pop or not really punk? Yellowcard for example, I've seen plenty of people in the forum's rag on others because they like Yellowcard and say that they aren't punk. Let me just say this first, just because a band is on TRL does not make them pop. It says they make good music, have a good record deal and are making some money! Why to people say bands like Yellowcard and Blink 182 are sellouts because they are becoming so mainstream? All they are doing it making some money. They are still punk or whatever they claim to be. They just aren't sheltered and the selected few only know about them. Now Good Charlotte, it's been said and it's true they aren't punk and they are pop as hell! They don't even write their own songs (they co-write) but that doesn't mean they don't make good music. There I said it. MxPx, some people say they are pop. For those that don't know, pop is short for Popular Music. MxPx is a great band with very well written songs and chorus' and are very catchy. But what band doesn't try to do that? System of a Down, now they write some of the worst songs I've ever heard and have the worst singer ever. But I don't think they are punk. I just mentioned them to make a comparison. So why would they be pop? I think people get mainstream and pop confused.
Reading some of the other articles on this website lead me to think punk is probably something I'm too new to understand but then again, some people just talk out of their ass. Here is a quote from an article I really liked: What respect I used to have for punk I've lost it all since old bands sold out and new bands degrade into garbage... I bet the majority of you punks can't name one band who hasn't sold out... Why do I say that? Because they probably had to sell out for you to hear about them. (Why Punk?)
This quote brings me back to the mainstream and making money. What makes a band a sellout if more than a few thousand people know about them? Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money. In all reality these bands make music to make money. Sure, some will say We'd rather play than make money(We don't need fortune and we don't need fame, we don't need bright lights to spell our name- MxPx) but in their heart they want to make money. That goes for any genre of music. Bands such as MxPx probably said that and meant it 10 years ago when they were starting out but look at them now. Starting at an Indy Label Tooth and Nail and now they are at A&M. Now that they are making money, they say that. Funny.
Let me take you back to something most of us can agree on. Nirvana, although not punk, we can agree that they were a great band. I can say that most of my life I listened to urban music but there isn't a Nirvana song that I don't know for some reason. People liked Nirvana for what reason? Their live performances, Kurt's powerful lyrics and music; I think a mixture of all. Grunge music was to the early 90's what punk is today in my opinion. And they were as mainstream as Good Charlotte, Blink 182, or Yellowcard and everyone loved them. I wouldn't define them as sellouts but I would call them hypocritical. Their premise was to write really good music, to write the best music we possibly can. (Cobain - Guitar One) but then when asked about Indy bands going to Major Labels he says Alternative music is no longer alternative music once its mainstream. Every band wants to write good music and be a good band whether its punk, grunge, metal etc. but on the same token they wont run from a major label deal. My point is: just because a band becomes mainstream does not in anyway constitute anyone from defining them as something other than what they are.
On a quest to define punk and who and what makes them punk I'll make some comparisons between commercial, independent. Blink 182, mentioned a lot in this article, they've been around for years, a great band with longevity. If you listen to the early Blink albums you can clearly hear a significant difference in the music they are putting out today. Is that due to major label success over the years? No, its called progression. With songs such as I Miss You and I'm Lost Without You could define them as a wuss band or Emo but listen to the other tracks such as Violence or Stockholm Syndrome. Very powerful tracks, lyrically and musically. And who says Travis isn't a badass drummer. In comparison, which is essentially comparing apples to apples, red and green, Box Car Racer, 2/3 of the band and I've heard so many people say that they are punk, more than Blink 182. Yea, uh, Ok I'll buy that, morons. There is really no need for an explanation on that one. You can figure it out yourself. Fall Out Boy, they are becoming more mainstream. I'm betting in less than a year they are going to be on Video Clash on MTV up against Story Of The Year. A great band but FOB has the same kind of tracks coming out as Blink. Some really poppy and lyrically emo-esq. Personally, I like them. Thrice, breaking out into the commercial side of things. A great band, a comparison between the two is likely, they both have very similar styles. Is either any less punk than the other? Nope. Then we have a band like Yellowcard, bringing something new to the industry with their twist of violin and they made it work. I wouldn't define them any less punk than any of the other bands listed here but they do have a country twang. They have an entirely different style of music and I'd lean more to defining them as emo-punk with songs like One Year, Six Months, and Only One. Flashlight Brown, a good band and I wouldn't be able to compare them to Yellowcard mainly because their style is so different. But punk is punk.
To me punk is more of an attitude, an outlook, an opinion. If you're a self-proclaimed punk then you have your own opinion on to what's punk and who is punk. Can punk be defined? No, not at all. Everyone has their own opinion. I bet if one were to ask Tom from Blink to define punk he'd give a definition totally different than christian rocker Mike from MxPx. Or to ask Ryan from Yellowcard. Then to hear my opinion as opposed to the guy that's been a band that won your local Battle of the Bands. Or if we could ask Kurt Cobain how he felt about the punk scene today and to define it. Punk in a way, to others, can be a rebellion against the man then again what kind of rock related music isn't? That goes all the way back to Hendrix, Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and up to Nirvana, NoFx and even AFI. The article Punk Life made some good points, and I encourage anyone who hasn't read it to read it because it's straight to the point on his view of punk. And honestly, there is no definition of punk and there is always someone who is going to call another person a poser.