I know this is an asshole thing to say, but there are a lot of people out there who need to hear it, so hear goes:
IF YOU DRESS PUNK ROCK YOU ARE NOT PUNK ROCK.
Period. End of fucking story.
Yeah, I know, South Bay LA? And faux burb-mall punk surprises you? You’re right, it shouldn’t surprise me. Look at all the faux punk douche bands that came out of this area in the last ten or so – sugar ray, the offspring, pennywise* and a shit ton of other absolute garbage. So seeing a bunch of people trying to sport a mohawk, handcuffs or spikes shouldn’t surprise me. It doesn’t – it just pisses me off.
Seriously, I know it’s the same in every cyclical era – fashion eventually wins. When ‘grunge’ hit while I was in high school I remember the cheerleaders in class beginning to wear $80 designer flannels around their waste. The commodity spectacle has found a way to consume everything, and why should punk rock be any different?
Because, it hasn’t existed in a looooong time, that’s why.
Now, there are great bands out there that sound like they should be called punk rock – The Bronx, Driven Out, Bullet Treatment, and probably a lot more too. But while their sound may be described as punk rock look at these folks. They are not dressing in enough metal to make Mr. T jealous. They are not dying their hair a million colors, performing anti-gravity spikes or coating themselves in leather (not that there’s anything wrong with leather). They are about the music and the DIY aesthetic and that’s why they rock. When you shop at hot topic, buy your first Dead Kennedy’s T-shirt weeks before you’ve heard more than Holiday in Cambodia or are easily fooled into buying any Sex Pistols album besides Never Mind the Bollocks…** you’re not punk rock – you’re part of everything the punk wave was against. And notice I take careful notice not to call it a ‘movement’. It wasn’t a
movement. It was a reaction – a wave of anger and frustration against those who except
things for the way they are, for no other reason than ‘just because…’. The garbage strike in
the UK, the Queen, The Rolling Stones (but I do love the Stones). The
Carpenters, hippies, the idea you had to take a bunch of lessons in order to be ‘legitimate’ getting up on stage and speaking your mind. Blah, blah, blah, yada yada yada. You get the point. You cannot walk into a mall and buy a copy of Legacy or Brutality and an Exploited shirt and think it means anything more than that YOU ARE A CONSUMER.
Now, what do we do about this problem? I know it’s spread further than SoCal because the term ‘punk rock’ is now like fries – it comees with everything. There’s a book called ‘Punk rock Marketing’, one called Punk Rock Aerobics (ugh!) and an endless stream of people who think it’s pretty hard core to have a mighty mighty boss tones t-shirt from back in the day***.
Hard Core? The mighty mighty boss tones? Please…
If you encounter these poor misguided folks don’t criticize them – that is not my intent here (not until they start acting like douche bags anyway). Remember the young’ens today almost can’t help this kind of misguided confusion of fashion with passion. Chances are they’ve been raised with people who write books like the aforementioned punk rock marketing telling them buying things is a suitable experience worthy of manifesting itself as future credibility – credibility only comes from experience, and not the experience of shopping for your identity.
‘Okay asshole, then what should I do?’
I try to burn CD’s for these people as much as possible – whether misguided or not, if someone wants to find out about good music or what the scene was like I burn them Bollocks, or Big Lizard In My Backyard, or Stop Making Sense. I tell them to go see the Bronx and try not to get hurt. I tell them what’s really counter-cultural is going out and getting smart enough to insinuate yourself into the system – from within we can strike – COBRA!!!!!!!! No seriously, start a band, raid your Dad’s vinyl, whatever. Get out of the malls and go out and do what you want so desperately to hear other people sing about.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a walk and say ‘hello’ to every person I encounter – in this day and age of the brooding angry types that is the first step to DIY, and it makes people as uncomfortable (or moreso probably) as tatooes, mohawks and piercings did twenty years ago. The scene is dead – create your own!!!
* I know a lot of people out here would beat my ass for saying that last one but fuck off – their singer released a book titled ‘Punk Rock Dad’ – link to it here: http://www.amazon.com/Punk-Rock-Dad-Rules-Just/dp/006114875X
Yeah, that’s pretty punk, eh?
** cuz they never made another one.
*** I actually heard someone say that a mmbt tee was hard core the other day. Really.