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Sucker-Punch: A Punk Rock Romance

2010/08/08

From the initial reactionary explosion, when Punk-Rock first kicked in the teeth of Rock-and-Roll, to the sagging, limp-wrist-ed slap of the present, the, (ever-expanding,) genre has ivy’ed up the walls of society; not so much dominating, and rarely threatening really, but constant. Like a stain, that refuses to yield, Punk-rock’s symbiotic tether to the dregs of man remains, firm and unyielding, a cow’s tail swat at flies. Like a mushroom cloud harvesting inmates, Punk has enveloped a myriad of previously regurgitated sub-genres, adopting humanity’s sonic bastards and eventually broken down the walls toward success. We have airplay, and album sales! (middle-finger thrust, 360 degree rotation).

Although my interest is slight, outside of my daughter’s pique, I have picked up both Singstar for the PS3 and Lips for the Xbox360, and low-and-behold, (and minor inclusion, [obviously],) we have Punk! Videogames, people. Google-it, Wikipedia, whatever your flavor, (and see MeatHorse, should you need sugar.); we are a fungus. Punk rock will seep into your walls. Granted, the lines of acceptable appearance, demeanor and taste have blurred tremendously through the ages. And although I grudgingly accept the adoption of some of the lesser-than-punk elements which have invaded our bubble, I cannot complain about the inherent expansion of access which these elements have afforded.

Punk tends to straddle the fence between Vanilla and Chocolate. One side, a beacon of information; presenting facts, (but rarely solutions). The other takes itself less seriously, widely diverging between the socially conscious and the absurd. I could easily stand up and represent the sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres, but that’s silly. Were only interested in the umbrella of Hardcore, and what ever falls below it. Anywho,  both have their cherries on top, so let’s excite the argument between this bifurcation.

With the abundance of historical stupidity available to pull from, and the obedient blindness of the general public, this first school of Punk Rock began a period of Enlightenment. It was the news, uncensored, yet full of opinions. The music may not be able to change the world in scope, but it’s splash damage will always take out a few undesirables. We are aware. Unfortunately, the more you know, the more miserable you become. To this end, much of today’s punk offerings have circumvented the confrontational ideal of exposure. In that same light however, some of the current popularity which still embraces the journalistic endeavors, like Rise Against, or veteran’s Bad Religion or, in recent years,  NOFX for instance have the support, but not enough reception. Sad really. To belch off a few faves from this pool, I must include: Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., the Instigators, Killing Joke, Napalm Death, Pailhead, Propaghandi, Sick of it All, the Subhumans, Sham 69 and necessarily Cryptic Slaughter.

Leaning the other way, another drop down menu of styles becomes available. From legendary Horrorcore the Misfits, to straight edge favorites Minor Threat and 7 Seconds, everything not explicitly anti-establishment becomes clear. This is were popularity really started to congeal. Bands like the Offspring, who are rarely given the credit they deserve, are very socially aware, and transpose this into their own vernacular. Less famous to some, infamous to others, groups like Gang Green and Murphy’s Law throw most things serious out the window, and concentrate on the fun of it all.  Representing in this corner of my collection, beacons include: the Anti Nowhere League, Beyond Possession, Black Flag, the Briggs, the Damned,  Devoid of Faith, Discharge,  Gauze, Husker Du, Lost Cause, Mary Tyler Morphine, The Meatmen,  Plasmatics, Poison Idea, PiL, Wehrmacht,  Stiff Little Fingers, Suicidal Tendencies, and pioneers, The Ramones.

That we have infiltrated the masses is a tarnish in its own right. What was once the righteous, clenched fist of those who refused to conform to the society of cattle we live in is now a halfway house for anything remotely left of the norm. Experimentation in music is generally applauded, but that doesn’t mean that it should be published, (even self-published,) and thrust into the hands of tweeners. Go ahead and throw an MP3 on your blog, but don’t force me to listen to your looping stream. Punk may have stopped taking itself so seriously, and therefore lost some self respect. I suppose that is to be expected. When that umbrella covers a genre with soo many splinters, you’re going to get a sliver or 2.

Alas, these warts cannot fully engulf the body. We maintain an excellent collection of bands both underground, and sub-cultural, and the majority of the scene still gets it. I would love to let my dump truck loose, and spill out an avalanche of representation, but I know that I will undoubtedly miss so very many crucial elements. I will of course mention several gems, and throw in an album cover or 2, just to keep you reading.

Growing up in Chicago made my initiation rather simple. The 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s proffered some of the best the genre as a whole could muster. I could wax lyrical for hours, but don’t wish to bore. Here are my local faves through the years: Articles of Faith, Bhopal Stiffs, the Copyrights, Decrepit Uth, the Effigies, Generation Waste, Impulse Manslaughter, the Lawrence Arms, Life Sentence, Lost Cause, Out of Order the Methadones, Naked Raygun, The Riverdales, Screeching Weasel, Sharon Tate’s Baby, Sludgeworth and Tricky Dick, although I likely missed many many others, like some of my own bands. But that’s OK. So many nights to remember, at The Iron Rail, Medusa’s, Oak  Theatre, Circuits, Club 950 , Batteries Not Included, Empty Bottle, Dreamers, the Whale, EXIT, Fireside Bowl, Fotch’s, Congress Theatre, Space Place, etc. etc. etc.

Current addictions vacillate between the revolving-door, brutish amalgam that is Bullet Treatment, the brutal brilliance of the Bronx, whom epitomize current Punk Rock, and maintain the greatest throat in the biz. Their latest effort was more of a crossover really, (not including Mariachi El Bronx), successfully, and intelligently lapping up copious amounts of Lemmy Metal, (Hey, I can throw up the horns as well,) but we’ll say the split was 60-40 in favor of the primary flavor. I’m also rarely without the subtly silky psycho-billy sounds of Nick 13 and Tiger Army. Although they  haven’t released anything new for quite some time, there’s something about the inherent stoccatto of a stand-up bass, heavy, limping rhythm, and a seriously Morrisey influenced set of pipes, which keeps them in my Zune permanently. Like the politics of old here though, my tastes change frequently. Tomorrow, I’ll hit up some classics. I’ll rip through The Misfits, and Minor Threat, get down and dirty with the Damned, and drone along with Naked Raygun.

I cannot conclude this critique with a score per se. There is good. There is bad. And there is terrible, not worth mentioning. This uniquely evolving style of music has resonated with me like no other. There are subsequent genres which I appreciate, like Classical, but nothing which can sonically, and emotionally envelop me. It is both an inspiration, a passion and a reflection of who I am. It is a movement, a culture and a response to the stupidity of mankind. It’s anger, frustration, grief, and disappointment; a napalm shower of energy and information. It’s me. However, it’s also subjective. You could easily gather momentum and attempt to sway me with some argument to the pros of Rap or Country. Of course, I’d tell you where to stick it, and move on. You can have your opinion, and I can call you a liar. I just did. :p

If you stayed with me, sorry for the long read. I had to cram over 30 years onto this page. I know, no excuses!

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