On the Lookout for Something Else.
I remember having a conversation with my friend Amy a few years back about how she doesn’t consider herself a punk anymore, and how her idea of punk was so inherantly linked to what she saw as a regurgitated subcultural museum diorama or a lame performance art pastiche that she couldn’t see it as anything other than a cheezy dude puking in an alleyway clad in a studded leather jacket. Growing up in London the postcard punks totally defined my idea of punk too, the wasted time spent just hanging out on the King’s Road or Picadilly Circus mooching off tourists, fulfilling their idea of London, a pound for a photo with an East German Exploited fan. Punks in full costume, most of whom weren’t actually from England but were there as subcultural tourists themselves, trying to find an outlet for their imaginary idea of the authentic punk™ lifestyle after most trad-dad UK punks abandoned ship. The punk idea muted after being flogged to death on TV advert cartoon like compilation tapes, another ghost of a cultural movement laid to rest. Perhaps because of it’s reliance on the shock of the new which soon became the set-in-stone signifiers of what ‘punk’ is, thus the eternal cliché of the postcard punk. If that makes sense, I mean that the initial idea of punk eventually became another capitalistic formula, another way to sell product rather than produce ideas. Things become static and while some people obviously took the possibilities of punk to heart and made it in their own image etc etc for some people punk will always be a cartoon of Sid Vicious, an empty salute to a mythical past.
I think I have already written about this too much maybe, but it’s something I think about a lot, the notion of punk as a transient idea rather than a fixed reality. It probably has a lot to do with growing older and just being more reflective in general about the main thing that has shaped my life. How when you are young things feel like they are happening everywhere that you aren’t, and then as you age things feel like they have already happened and all that’s left is formaldahyded memories of glory days. It’s so depressing to me that people get stuck on this one moment, the idea of youth as your last chance for freedom, which I think is such a shitty capitalistic construct used to sell jeans and and skincream lifestyles to people who think their moment has passed. Punk is for some a snap shot of their youth, frozen in time, forever to be xeroxed onto all their future endeavours, rather than just the idea of total possibility which can be applied to whatever it is they happen to be doing. I know some people are doomed to be crushed by life, and probably uh that applies to everyone at some point, and maybe going on a renunion tour seems like a good idea, the last time you felt alive or connected to anything was when you were in your teenage hardcore band so why not attempt to reproduce said experience with a collection of dissatisfied beer bellied middle aged men... I mean actually most renunion tours are little more than crass cash ins on nostalgia hungry audiences, I am just attempting to figure out aging ‘punk’ motivations beyond that I guess. The RAMONES/GERMS/ FLIPPER show in particular kind of blew me away, just the fucking concept, especially in the case of the GERMS and FLIPPER who’s appeal to me at least lies in their total disgust for authenticity in music. They both made totally disposable youthful yet terrifying and disparaging music, the sound of mocking laughter and mean pranks and alienated brains, the exact opposite of what they are doing now, pantomiming an idea long lost to their age addled brains. and I am sure it’s been said but the dead members of said bands are surely rolling in their graves. It’s so ridiculous it’s hard to even comment on it seriously. Anyone who went to that show thinking that it was anything other than the ultimate rip off (and thusly maybe punk? Maybe??) is clearly a lunk headed goon.
We have to stop allowing space (ie stop giving them our money) to lame nostalgic old men who once were maybe dangerous and made exciting sounds but now who’s vision is coated in a congealed buttery like substance which is reflected in their creative output. I am not saying that once you reach a certain point you should not be allowed to make music anymore in any way. Just that we need to stop deifying the past and the people who are trapped there. I had to review a Nikki Sudden 7” last month, and that, while not at all replicating anything the SWELL MAPS did sonically, depressed me too. It was straight bar room country music, so boring and trite coming from a man who basically reinvented DIY punk. It felt like another old man trying to find his roots, some kind of authenticity, and I understand why punks like country music, it’s good music from a rebel perspective (well the good stuff, not the shitty radio country-politan elevator music) but it seems like such a well worn cornball path. So the two musical options for growing old and staying punk are being in a poser synthesis of your past musical endeavours or yowling lame truck stop diner myth country truisms? SO BORING.
It’s difficult because any punk music made now is inherantly nostalgic, it’s always going to refer to the past in a way that maybe it didn’t have to in the beginning stages of its inception. It’s become a reverent movement, where knowledge of obscure forefathers of Scandi-beat or whatever is requisite. I think one of the distinguishing factors that separates the music I like (ha!) from generic replicant music is that good music references the past perhaps, but ultimately makes something different and new out of it. One of my favorite records right now is the CRIMINAL DAMAGE LP, or as I like to say, crim dam, which is pretty clearly a BLITZ tribute, but there’s something else about it that doesn’t exist in the other 60 zillion shitty cardboard oi!-lite bands in existance now, a feeling in the music, yet it still sounds so classic and time capsule like. Also LEBENDEN TOTEN, how the influences are so clear and yet listening to it is totally brutal in the best way. It’s not generic, there’s some weird quality to it that makes it transcend the confines of the influences or the imprint of the past.
As information relating to olden days music has become less obscure and less guarded by the salivating record nerds, also because of all of the reissues and the sheer availability of information on the internet more good bands should come into existance. I like seeing bands that are clearly influenced by obscure japanese noise flexis and HUGGY BEAR and REALLY RED. Not that I have, but you know it would be rad. I think that’s why I love MIKA MIKO so much, because they have the possibility explosion of old KLEENEX 7”s with the guitar sounds and snot nosed vengeace of the FIRST FOUR YEARS. It’s such an inspiring combination of ideas, and seeing them play at house shows and basements and all ages spaces just reaffirms the true excitement of possibilities of DIY punk. The audience and the band members totally losing it, sweaty and ridiculous and all for under 5 dollars! So far away from some tame SLITS renunion show, nothing they do now as THE SLITS will ever recapture the total insanity and genius and collapsibility of their first PEEL session or their demo. Nothing. They are totally cashing in on something that was dangerous and fierce and making it a lame world beat old lady jam band compost heap. I think of punk as ridiculous and embarrassing, fun and brave and dumb, good times and total hell all at once. As soon as you lose the idea of punk as being anything other than kicks and freedom and community it just becomes another museum piece. I mean it in both the way people in the scene use their influences now and in the way people of the past exploit their musical histories. I have this old fanzine, Germ of Youth, in which the editor keeps writing “Punk Rock is an endless adventure’ somewhat ironically I am sure, but I feel like that should be the case. It isn’t a prison cell or a rule book or a fancy dress costume. It’s a mess and it’s yours. It’s disposable and it’s permanent and contradictory but it’s ours and we have to make it good or else it’ll just be a bunch of old men rotting in a bar talking about watching Black Flag in 82.
Top ten for the winter months:
1-mika miko at the pine st house!! craziest show i have been to? Well this year maybe? we all got crucial, wasted, and some random person paintbombed the room so we also got covered in paint. they are so fucking good! and they make so much sense at a house show. made me happy to be a punk/live in the bay area/have such rad friends... west oakland is seriously like life after the apocalypse though. the house was way out by the docks surrounded by these crumbling ghost town style buildings, there were random pit bulls running around, totally felt like that movie suburbia. it was weird bc the day felt so static and frozen then the evening was just totally insane and liberating and total kicks affirmative duvet ta etc etc. 2-ultimo resorte 12” rad lady fronted spanish punk, she kind of sounds like Mai of gorilla angreb. Totally awesome. Also Martin’s story about how she punched out Nancy Spungeon. So punk. 3-Golnar’s ‘worst records at MRR’ set for the 1000th radio show. 4-riding my bike after dark 5-ladies and gentlemen the fabulous stains, the song watse of time is the best song ever. Seriously. If anyone has this on a soundtrack pls tape it for me. 6-going vegan 7-black and white photobooths 8-Dis-carriage, latest Portland hype band for sure. I heard they were Champagne punks! 9-Swell Maps Peel sessions 10- The Clean discography.