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Why Punk Is Failing Us
by Samuel Barker
April 21, 2001

Does anybody see the irony with the kids today at punk shows? Most of them come to the show in a nice late model car their parents bought for them because they live in a nice suburban area, then tell some poor musicians who are trying to make a living in music, who are driving a 197o's model van around the country, that they're sell outs for trying to get a few dollars from their art. The punk scene has totally bought into the "crab syndrome." Everytime someone is about to climb out of the gutter they get pulled back in by the greedy people who don't want to let go of some ridiculous ideal.

I watched a VH1 documentary on Punk Rock this week and for the most part was sickened by how people are so pompous about the scene. Some of the old punk bands who tried their hardest to get on major labels, or who WERE on major labels had the nerve to comment on Green Day not being a punk band. Green Day has never changed. You can pick up "Kerplunk" or "2001 Light Years Away" and hear the same music. Their are even accoustic songs on those albums. Everyone wants to make the pre-Dookie albums seem like something special, when they're really all the same music by the same band.

This brings us to our first question, is it more important to stay true to your art or to what the crowd wants?

Punk rock kids spend a lot of time griping and whining about how they hate bands who have changed sounds or have evolved with their music. Like when kids say "Ian MacKaye should have kept doing music like he did in Minor Threat!" How can a "scene" that prides itself of being "different" become so deadset on staying the same. Kids still wear mohawks, spikes, torn clothes, and leather jackets just like they did 20 years ago. The bands sound a lot alike because they're afraid to break the mold forth by their parents' scene.

In the end, the bands who are brave enough to evolve on their own terms and to tell all the little nay-sayers and punk extremeists to go fuck themselves are the bands that deserve my respect. It's not a crime to make a living off your music, it's a crime to let other people tell you what to do and when to do it.

Question #2: Is anyone else as sick of Maximum Rock N' Roll as I am?

Yes, I severely dislike the punk "bible." And really it's for the same reason I'm not too fond of the "real" bible. It's made by a lot of "holier than thous" who are out to make people think what they want them to think. The writers of Maximum Rock N' Roll don't care about punk or the people who like punk, they want to keep their ability to make people hate any band they say they should hate.

They've fallen into the same rut most of the punk world has: "Live by our rules or beware the "scene's" wrath. Does success make you an evil person? Does having you album bought by 1 million fans make your music have any less integrity? Does following the same mold album after album make you a real artist? Answer these questions to yourself realistically and see how backwards the punk idealisms are.

I feel it my obligation to say this, I have many friends who benefitted greatly due to Maximum Rock N' Roll's support, but in the end they're a group of haters who want nothing more than to add another band to the list of destroyed punk bands.

Question #3: Does music have to be 3 chords and screaming to be punk?

Not just no, but fuck no! Punk music isn't a style of music per se, it's the act of playing something new and challenging. Most punk bands today are playing the same music the Ramones or Sex Pistols played, just watered down. People forget that the Talking Heads and Devo were punk pioneers. People forget that these bands began as small outcast bands setting up at CBGBs, people forget that talent can exist in punk music.

If you want to hear some music by some of the punkest people in the world, go pick up any Woodie Guthrie album, The Monks, or Black Flag. Woodie Guthrie may have been known for his folk-ish sound, but you have no idea of the power his music possessed and the ideals the man had. If you love music that challenges you and gives you something to think about, go listen to some Woodie Guthrie. The Monks were one of the punk forefathers who aren't given a great deal of acknowledgement. They wrote some great harder songs about the problems with the Vietnam era. They were way before the "true" punk movement, but they were punk nontheless. As for Black Flag, I know most of you are aware of their contributions to punk rock, but few people have really listened to Greg Ginn's solo work and how he was a talented man who explored many avenues of sound and stayed true to the "punk scene."

Question #4: Is Punk Dead?

Once again, the answer is no. As long as their are kids in their garages playing songs and people willing to challenge the status quo of the music world, punk will exist. It's an endearing thing to know that it will always be their for you, but it hurts to think so many kids who can't relate are trying to push the bright people out to make room for intolerance. That's why punk is failing us, it's allowing a few people to destroy everything. Be tolerant to change and allow people to evolve and make a living. It's something that must happen to make life worth living.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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