Steampunk. Ahh, an interesting ‘genre’, no? I have some issues with Steampunk, as most folks see it, but absolutely LOVE the texture and atmosphere of it as a whole. Nothing like the rainy, foggy streets of London, women in corsets, men in jackets with tails and a little bit of violent technological extrapolation, eh?
My issues stem from what people consider Steampunk: essentially anything that is set in Victorian times or a Victoria-esque setting. To me that might get you the steam, but it does not necessarily get you the ‘punk’.
So what is it then?
China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station and The Scar are, thus far, just about the only thing I’ve read, novel wise, that I consider to have Steampunk tendencies. Station‘s cut-throat, techno gadgetry and twisty, Victorian-Primitive cityscapes and The Scar‘s cast of Remade, machine-integrated characters are perfect examples of what comes to my mind when you combine the words ‘Steam’ and ‘Punk’. William Gibson & Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels are considered classics of the genre, however I’d disagree. Classics yes, but Steampunk? Again, stories told in a Victorian setting get halfway there, but there’s the extra, modern-primitive elements that are missing. For the best possible illustrations of attention to detail in this regard one need only open Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels to see firm demonstrations of the hights Steampunk can rise to.
Or, become sonically embroiled by what is, to my knowledge, the world’s first Steampunk band, The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.
Once again I owe Klintron over at technoccult* props for turning me on to something new and cool after he ran a link to this article a few days ago:
The Men Who… perfectly combine the essence of both parts of the word Steampunk in their sound, which they brilliantly describe as “Crusty punk meets cockney sing-songs meets grindcore in the 1880s.” Notice the emphasis on the, um, aggressive music? The sharp, aggressively catchy element that so many lose sight of when they don the pantaloons and goggles.
The look and sound of the group is perfect, as are the topics. What would a grind band in Victorian England sing about? Well, anarchy of course, but that goes without saying. Any country still utilizing fealty almost four hundred years after the feudal system is going to have a recurring theme of overthrow, that’s just how it is going to go. But what about Etiquette? Everyone was concerned with manners back then. Or an ode to the saucy look of women in goggles? Again, The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have got you covered!
And then there’s the name of the band. How apropo a truncated sentence found scrawled above a bloody apron in Whitechapel just after Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes was discovered should have been chosen for a group of this nature.
The band’s debut album, Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Vol. 1 is out now and available for download all over the net, from iTunes to CDBaby, so if you dig, toss some cotter to these hardworking, otherworldly gentlemen!!!
Here’s a preview:
* In my humble opinion still the best home page ever. Get your daily strangeness here: http://technoccult.net/