Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Story by Allison Borrell / Contributing Writer
To all the old-school punk fans out there: I hate to break it to you, but punk sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, punk has its importance in the realm of culture and music. When it hit the scene in the ‘70s, it hit hard and fast, with its aggressive sound and f***-the-world attitude. Bands like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones came in with their loud and upbeat approach to rock ‘n’ roll, pushing the more mellow sounds of the ‘60s into the background.
In a sense, punk rockers were the blue-collar rock stars of the music world. They showed the ‘70s youth that you didn’t have to be major rock idols to be a musician. Punk was all about the do it yourself (DIY) factor, something that’s still relevant in the modern hardcore punk scenes becoming more prevalent today.
But for most die-hard punks, it wasn’t just about the music. Punk was an attitude, an aesthetic and a social protest. Punks were speaking out against economic and social injustices, conformity, capitalism and the establishment, and they were doing it through making violence and destruction the core of the genre. However, the punk scene, with all its left-wing ideologies, still managed to have its fair share of run-ins with sexism and white supremacy, something that has always left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to old-school punk culture.
Perhaps the biggest part of punk that has stayed relevant through modern times is the fashion. Characterized by dark colors, black skinny jeans, Doc Martens and lots of rips and tears, the punk aesthetic became the precursor for nearly all alternative fashion that came after it. The hardcore scene is probably the most reminiscent of punk fashion, with showgoers almost always commanding the room with denim vests adorned with patches and pins, hair gelled up into attention-grabbing spikes and combat boots with soles made for doling out kicks in a rowdy crowd.
Despite all the influence it had on society, punk music, at its core, just wasn’t all that good. The Sex Pistols, one of the most iconic pioneers of the punk scene, only had one studio album for a reason. Sloppy guitar work incorporating the same three-chord progressions over and over again combined with band members who were focused more on shocking antics than producing quality music made for a band that fizzled out as quickly as it rose to prominence. If anything, The Sex Pistols were an emblematic example of the rise and fall of punk in the ‘70s.
Other bands, like The Clash and The Ramones, fared a bit better than The Sex Pistols, but they’re still just seen as products of their time. Although, The Ramones’ hit single “Blitzkrieg Bop” has stood the test of time as a popular choice for TV commercials. But I don’t think old-school punks would take too kindly to that. The word “sellout” comes to mind.
While I may hate punk’s origins, I am deeply in love with some of the music it has influenced, post-punk being the most impressive in my mind. With bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure taking aspects of punk and darkening them with more artistic sensibilities, the music world saw a greater range of creativity and innovation that wasn’t present during the original punk movement. Beyond that, punk went on to influence nearly every alternative genre in some capacity, from the industrial noise rockers of the ‘90s to the more modern emo and indie genres of today.
Punk may not be very good, but I see why it draws people in. It’s the symbol of rebellion, and its status of being anti-everything appeals to the youth, no matter what decade it is. The punk aesthetic, with all its misguided ideologies and technically inadequate music, is attractive to a number of people. It gives the angry a reason to be angry and the docile a reason to question why they aren’t angrier. It’s ugly, violent, brutal, fun and exciting. But it can also be boring, senseless, annoying and, often times, worthy of an eye roll.
I think, with the current rise of hardcore with bands like Code Orange, Converge and Every Time I Die, punk could have another shot at being a legitimate cultural revolution this time around. If all the anger, violence and anti-establishment sentiments can come together with musical proficiency, punk might actually become a force to be reckoned with. So here’s to giving punk another chance.
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