Is the essence of punk alive? Is that a moronic question in 2016? Everyone
has their own mile markers for where on the sonic highway punk died. Some
people think everything after The Dictators or Germs is straight necrophilia
(noun-sexual intercourse with or attraction toward corpses), with punk’s
corpse as the love interest. If you want to bookend the early days, by all
means. Black metal does the same with “waves”. But truth is, many people had
great “punk” experiences long after the Sex Pistols and well into the present
presence of Of Mice & Men (eek).
Ostensibly punk is about rebellion. Not wanting to pay taxes to a corrupt
system or supporting wars you don’t believe in. No, Donald Trump is neither an outsider or a rebel.
Punk is having cool fashion sense sometimes, sure…a way of
being on your own wavelength and ahead of the curve like The Slits. Or Royal
Trux …so punk in ‘attitude’ and collage approach that they alienated
“traditional” punks, grungers, indie and classic rockers all while
amalgamating them and doing a better job and still being so cool you couldn’t
begrudge it if you tried. So now of course they are deservedly “classic” in
their own right (and no one complained much when Jennifer Herrema was a CK model, even though Trux were def outsiders).
But I digress, I’m essentially writing this for three reasons today. One, I
can’t stop crying about my mom’s dementia today and need something to
distract me. My heart feels…it’s not easy, man. Seriously, tell people you
love them while they can hear it.
Two, people are talking about Henry Rollins doing Calvin Klein ads.
Look, this A.V. Club article kind of nails it that Henry has long said artists should have outlets to be
paid these days, as it is harder and harder. You can AND SHOULD still feel
free to support any act you dig directly on Bandcamp (which is helping more
and more to create a means for new acts to survive even without labels) or of
course purchase anything from Dischord or Sacred Bones and know your cash is
supporting labels celebrating diversity and with lots of integrity (Jenny Hval, for the record…makes very punk, freaky sounds from an experimental mindset).
I can recall Rollins talking in some book or another how he gives zero shits
about fashion, so does the Calvin Klein thing make him a sellout? Minor
Threat having shirts at Urban Outfitters is less problematic for a band or
artist getting licensing than the fact Urban Outfitters sucks and steals art
from fringe artists for designs. Calvin Klein was the hero of Back To The
Future, in a sense. That’s not so bad, haha.
Rollins in a CK ad is still better than this ACTUAL album, haha:
My point is that if you can stand the associations of the corporation than
more power to you, because these days what we need to show more of in society
is diversity. I think the hatred in America right now makes our boutique
little old school definitions kind of beyond quaint. Sure, I don’t want every
kid slurping down whatever color options Mountain Dew comes in these days
sporting the same color hair and blah blah blah, but we need ideas to be
exchanged almost by “any means necessary”.
I’m not saying sell the family farm to Monsanto without a fight, but rather,
metaphorically, that without gateways people just aren’t going to give a shit
anymore. There are too many options. Too many ways to be divided by
technology that should bring us closer.
So if someone sees Rollins on a Calvin Klein ad on the side of a bus and says
,”There’s that cool old dude who was in Wrong Turn 2, I wonder if he ever
helped pave the way for the modern American touring circuit I totally take
for granted with my ticket buying App these days?”…um, great?
Not sure where I’m headed with this. 1991 was supposed to be The Year Punk
Broke but now people just think it is broken, huh?
Should we focus on Tolerance? Rebellion? Mp3 sales? Just do drugs again so
crazy shit happens until people die? That’s kind of just watering the garden
of boredom/circle pit of life.
There’ve been a few generation gap beefs between bands lately. Bring Me The
Horizon and Brian from Minor Threat/Bad Religion were just arguing about back
stage rock star entitlement (Brian pretty much skewered them). Senses Fail
and Atilla beefed about the word “Faggot” and it led to some good debates on
censorship and inclusiveness. G.L.O.S.S. and Against Me! have made trans rights and feelings
forefront hot button topics, which is very, very cool.
One thing I disliked, though I’m not a Fronz hater…was how Atilla and BMTH
used age or album sales to discount the words of their critics, as if
selling more albums or being younger meant they had the high ground.
seriously…who argues with someone that was in Minor Threat anyway? But I
Brian Baker seems to have a point that there needs to be some level of
humility retained no matter where you are, and that is the connectivity which
could also VERY arguably be said to be a vital missing ingredient in the
social fabric of our violent times. Which is not to say that, say, black
people getting shot need to be humble by any means but rather as a society we
need to value objectivity and have the desire for loving outcomes to surpass our hate and
enable us to have discourse. Discourse is as important as Dischord these
days, and sorely fucking lacking too often (punk legend Mike Watt was on
twitter thanking Snoop and The Game and the L.A. Mayor for promoting discourse and that, to me,
was “punk” as fuck of all of them).
Punk needs to be a means of being good to one another while still having
social issues be engaged. The compassionate Dharma Punks get that. Dustin
from Thrice gets that. Other people are still very entitled and selfish but
that will always be the case in the music world.
Third reason now for writing this. Vice published The Time Patti Smith Broke
My Heart the other day, by Legs McNeil (author of the newer classic book
Please Kill Me, on some crucial formative years of “real” punk). In it he
tells some stories, some friendly and warm and others not so much. He kind of
blasts on Patti Smith passive aggressively for becoming a mom and seems to
consider that selling out punk ideals, whereas in reality being a mom is one
of the harder, punkest things you can do and probably more valuable than
pissing on a graffiti coated wall or sporting a leather jacket (except there
is over population, so not being a mom is punk and valuable also).
But if you are gonna be one, Patti Smith is a pretty fuckin’ cool mom to be,
right?! And it should be noted it is ironic the article was used as click bait promotion for the PLEASE KILL ME Anniversary event.
Is that punk and not opportunistic? I dunno.
Legs is pretty funny and I admittedly laughed when he says something to the effect that ladies bought
Just Kids because they were fed up with their art careers having floundered
and had nostalgia while lamenting being stuck with loser husbands, but I
think his writing was also pretty darn dismissive of how vulnerable,
beautiful and empowering Just Kids is. THAT is why it was on so many best
seller lists, not just because it was a place holder for lost aspirations.
And maybe THAT kind of connectivity in this disgusting day and age, or seeing
Patti cameo on The Killing and thinking ,”Hey, I like that show. I have
something in common with Patti Smith, cool”…maybe THAT is what punk needs
to be about now. So let Green Day be an arena band, but let’s all try and
stay humble at the same time.
The most important thing is experiencing things TOGETHER now. While also finding yourself.
By all means, find a way to be a pioneer. Just don’t be an asshole. It’s not so punk anymore.
Cuz really, people are dying out there and the hubris is beyond unattractive
and many people of different races, genders, blah blah blah have been guilty
of it. If anything, one of the “punkest” things you can do right now is watch
The 100 and start thinking how we are gonna survive if shit really goes belly
up. Or better yet, how to not let it go there and remember we depend on one
another as a living ecosystem, to paraphrase my friend Jay Gambit from noise
project Crowhust (in a recent private conversation).
Anyway, #mycalvins sort of is what it is…but at least it isn’t being sneaky about it.
Cut Hank and Patti et all some damn slack, anyway. They did their time and yours too. What are people going to do NOW in this quagmire to make art relevant again and hit people through a haze of apathy is the REAL question? Yes, that includes moms and black people and whoever.
The only end game is surviving, and as a species we can’t do it at one another’s expense anymore.
I’ll leave you with a socially relevant “punk” post from Obliterations. Deal with it: