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Punk rock’s politics

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Aside from an earlier post on punk, I haven’t really talked about it much. Something that’s always bothered me about the “scene,” though, is its hypocrisy. It’s illustrated in this piece in Reason Magazine (which takes its cue from New York). In it, punks pretend to be really bad ass by saying “fuck” a lot and talk about fucking capitalism by urinating on the sides of Dunkin’ Donuts’ buildings. Man, that is just so punk. Please, teach me to be like you.

The problem with punk’s politics is how simultaneously shallow and puritanical it is. A band like Anti-Flag (who is so retarded I can’t even bring myself to call it punk) can write the most asinine songs and they’re hailed as brilliant by the punk scene. A girl once told me the proudest moment of her life was being curb stomped outside of an Anti-Flag show. While I… doubt this, I think it sort of defines the problem with punk. The songs Anti-Flag write are basically some sort of watered down mix of Che-style communism (and we don’t even need to get into his human rights atrocities) and bumperstickers.

I find myself frequently irritated by musicians — usually punk musicians — who try to evangelize their immature and malformed political opinions on me. They rebel against evangelism through their songs, don’t they? Then why do they turn around and do the same thing? Despite how much distaste I have for Black Flag allowing people to be brutally beaten at their shows, they did it because they didn’t feel like being policemen. Greg Ginn didn’t approve of it at all, but he thought it would be hypocritical to write songs about rebellion and then tell people how to behave. I think that’s letting anarchy roam a little too far, but seriously, how dumb do you have to be to think you’re showing capitalism what’s what by pissing on the side of a, to sound punk, fucking donut shop?

I want to like punk, I want to say good things about punk — but it is so hard when all I see are the hideous hypocrisies of it.

On the one hand, they preach anti-capitalism, anti-materialism, anti-consumerism, on the other hand, they sell, “studded belts, scuffed leather jackets, fingerless gloves, and Sex Pistols action figures.” They are obsessed with appearances, obsessed with being different. It should be more like, “Dudes, I don’t make an effort to be different, I just am.” You just see all this stuff about punk, and honestly, it comes across as a cult. The side of punk that is the creative, artistically and culturally rebellious side is frequently ignored because it isn’t as loud and outspoken as the elitist, shallow side of punk.

I am not saying there cannot be well thought out punk that contains lyrics that provide social or political commentary. Bands like Ted Leo + The Pharmacists (which may be disputed as a punk band, but the number of intelligent punk bands dwindles without them), Fugazi, and Lungfish really hit the nail on the head when it comes to intelligent song writing. There are others, but it is a sparse field.

Unfortunately, this more intellectual side of punk doesn’t appeal to the youth, because it’s much cooler to wear bondage pants, have a mohawk, and piss on buildings. It’s a shame.

Lungfish – Ann the Word/Pray for the Living


Written by M

July 8, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Commentary

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