Opinion: God save the punk

Illustration

Illustration

By Eric Naing

There seems to be a deluge of pop bands lately that have claimed the punk moniker. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I feel that in order for a band to consider itself true punks, it first has to live up to that name both in attitude and in the quality of its music.

So what do I consider to be “true” punk? As a freshman in high school, I would have responded that punk is the greatest genre of music ever created. To me, punk was a musical punch in the gut; it was hard and unrelenting. Back then, I worshiped bands such as MC5, the Ramones, the Clash and even the grotesquely overrated Sex Pistols.

Later on, I would come to realize punk was so much more. Punk was a movement away from the bland and blatantly corporate music and fashion scenes of the 1970s. Punk was an attitude. Punk was about shock value, nonconformity and radical politics. It was about telling your parents to f*** off while wearing a safety pin as an earring.

Then, along came new punk. In the 1990s, pop bands like Green Day picked up the bloody flag of punk and waved it all the way to the their local Hot Topic. While these bands started a new commercial and cultural phenomenon, they also decisively killed the music I loved.

Pop-punk bands, such as Offspring and Blink 182, are causing punk to lose its bite and any true cultural significance. Instead of singing about superpower politics and class structure, new punks opt to whine about their ex-girlfriends and um … their ex-girlfriends. It isn’t just a change in message though; the quality of punk also is going down the toilet. The commanding and angry voice of the Ramone’s Joey Ramone is being replaced by the high-pitched squeal of Blink 182’s Tom Delonge.

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    The problem (clich‚ alert) is punk has been co-opted by corporate America. To reach a more lucrative audience, punk was given a more sorority-friendly face. Just look around campus; I can guarantee you some frat guy or sorority girl somewhere is listening to a pop-punk band like Yellowcard and claiming to be a punk aficionado. To these people, punk is nothing more than finding the right studded-leather bracelet to go with that new shirt they bought from Hollister.

    Well, it’s time to make a change. I’m not advocating some grand musical revival; the punk movement of the 1970s is dead and never can be revived. What I am asking is for everyone out there who never has listened to real punk bands like the New York Dolls or the Velvet Underground to give them a shot.

    There is nothing wrong with new punk. Even I have been known to hide in my closet and secretly listen to Blink 182, but I never forget my roots. Many of the pop-punk fans out there need to work their way backwards musically. You don’t have to take the plunge immediately – start slow. Wean yourself off of MXPX. Listen to Green Day’s first album. Then pick up a Devo or Talking Heads CD. When you feel ready, give the Clash or the Ramones a try. Only then will you see what you have been missing.

    Pop-punk bands today are missing the edge of their forefathers. There is a rich world of punk outside of Good Charlotte, and by ignoring the punk movement of the 1970s, you cut yourself off from some of the best music around.

    As they say, you can’t know where you should go until you know where you came from. A better appreciation of true punk will show you there’s more to music than ex-girlfriend sob stories. Hopefully, this will cause all you pop-punk fans out there to demand more from today’s bands.

    Eric Naing is a junior in LAS. His column runs Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected].