Punk, not punk, who gives a shit?

This is a dumb post about a dumb topic. Everyone few months on some blog, or website or Facebook group people start arguing about what is and isn’t punk. The same tired old circles of conversation and bullshit ideologies. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter.

I used to think it was important, that there was some sort of pinnacle to aim for – there were rules and we had to follow them. It wasn’t my fault really, people have been saying it for years, and there’s always some idea ready to school me or somebody else on the matter. I remember when I was young I used to hang out with at Glebe Markets with a bunch of street punks. I was introduced to it by a friend who really fit the punk stereotype – mohawks, recitation of Marxist nonsense and a hatred of authority – he was ‘the real deal’. Anyway, it was never really my scene, these guys were legit, but their elitism and hierarchy was painfully obvious. They weren’t just punks, they were a group – a team with a specific dress-code and structure that needed to be obeyed. The most of them weren’t even interested in talking to me, I was some dumb kid with a shit haircut from the North Shore of Sydney. I guess I was expected to pay my dues, show them I was one of them or something. But it never happened, I wasn’t interested in hanging out and abusing people in suits, yelling abuse and starting fights with jocks or the local Aboriginal kids. These guys stunk of hypocrisy, their grand statements about world peace and social revolution always tainted by their abuse of ‘normal people’ -“Hey suit, nice tie you fucking faggot” – the general sort of harassment they offered to people walking past. They weren’t egalitarianist, nor communist, they were closer to the ‘fascists’ they constantly compared with police.

Photo Credit RH Raw Shot Studios

These days I tend not to get caught up in this sort of thing, whether it’s because the movement itself has dwindled or because of my own avoidance. It doesn’t matter. I am happy with who I am, what I believe in and the bands I listen to. But it’s funny about music, we’re so quick to say what bands are and aren’t punk. The argument is almost self-defeating. I watch the kids playing in hardcore bands – that are heavily influenced by the NY  scene – tell me how shit the Ramones are (not to mention abuse from nationalists who believe that if I’m a fan of the Ramones I have to be a fan of ‘right wing values’ because of Johnny Ramones personal views). Can you be like a genre but hate the people that helped create it? Yep. Can you like a band but not support their individual beliefs? Yes, you can. There is no right answer here – I can scoff at someone’s lack of respect for the classics just like they can disregard them completely – it actually makes no difference. I listen to Black Flag and hear the influence from the Ramones, someone else listens and hears the influence on A Perfect Circle. We each take something of our own from the experience

I’ve had numerous people tell me how utterly shit punk is while ranting about how great King Parrot are – despite being one of the punkest metal bands around (even by their own definition some of their music is punk) – and it doesn’t really matter. You could say Matt Young embodies the spirit of 80s hardcore or you could say he is the next Phil Anselmo and you’d be right on both accounts, it’s not a dichotomy.

These guys really warrant checking out!

But that’s just one example of something that transcends the genre. The genre is so broad that we can’t talk about it in such ambiguous language. It can be a style of fashion, but it doesn’t mean the fashion needs to be associated with the music. You can live the lifestyle (whatever that means) and not be associated with the fashion. You can even be in a punk band and not like the fashion, the life or the music – at least not on anyone else terms. From NoFX to Agnostic Front, from the Germs to Simple Plan, from Sublime to Charles Bronson there is no one band, no one style or ideology more correct than the others. And why in the fuck would we want it any different?


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