Who killed punk?
by Rev. Walter Beck
One of the saddest things I saw in my time in the Indianapolis underground was the string of so called “punk” bands that filled the stage in the dingy, dirty clubs. These guys weren’t punks; they were posing rock stars, completely the phony posturing and snobby attitude. I mean, a punk ain’t supposed to have that attitude, the Sex Pistols said it best when they refused to be inducted to the rock n roll hall of fame, calling the museum “a piss stain”.
But it ain’t that way anymore, now punk is this pop-soaked sound where you’re supposed act all hardcore, but everyone knows you just really want the girl in the back row and if you don’t get her, your next song is a sad broken heart romance. The last true punk band I saw was the horror punk outfit from Indy, The Cadavers (sadly, they split up in 2004); those guys played three-chord hardcore rock n roll complete with gory, gothic lyrics and Misfits-styled makeup (see if you can track down a copy of their second album Suicide Fantasy, it’s a modern punk classic).
So what happened? How did we go from three-chord teenage rock n roll barking about how much it sucks to grow up, bad horror films and corruption in the grown-up world to this slicked up sound where you pine and whine for the girl that never comes?
I think two things happened between 1993 and 1994 that changed punk forever (and not for the better).
The first thing happened in 1993 when GG Allin died of a heroin overdose after a wild and rowdy show at the Gas Station in New York City. Allin was the epitome of punk; his music was hard and primitive and he had no regard for any societal norms. His shows were an exercise in human depravity with him routinely performing naked, taking a crap on stage, getting into fist fights and receiving head in the middle of a show. Now I can’t say I agree with the extent that Allin took his brand of punk, but you have to give it up for the guy, there will never be anyone who took the anti-societal attitude of punk as far as GG did.
The second thing happened in 1994 when Green Day’s Dookie sold ten million copies. Now personally, I have nothing against this record or Green Day (well until they did the over-bloated American Idiot), it’s a good, catchy pop record and there’s nothing wrong with making good pop records. But it isn’t a punk record (you could make an argument for their earlier work) and unfortunately, it spawned thousands of imitators (some of whom would get their own multi-platinum records) who thought that sound was punk.
Unfortunately my time in the Indy underground occurred when this explosion was still happening and all the “punk” bands, instead of listening to the Misfits, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys or Minor Threat, were playing bad rip-offs of Good Charlotte, Sum 41, New Found Glory and other assorted “mall punk”. Oh they had it all, the synthetic “bad boy” image, the catchy, poppy riffs and the lyrics about the chick at lunch who thought they were “losers”. They might as well have been boy bands (at least then, they would be honest).
Another group that further bastardized punk’s trashy revolutionary legacy were these emo kids who took the “poor me” whining and the bad poppy riffs to their ultimate conclusion. Personally, I could never figure out why their lives sucked so bad, they lived in the nice houses, mommy & daddy gave them everything, what the hell were they so “depressed” about? Did the chick at the Hot Topic turn them down? Oh I’m so sad (cue the violin music).
So punk has died and who laments over its defiant corpse? Well I certainly do, but I hope it is not the end. I hope as I write this, in some garage in the United States there’s a trio of kids, plugging in their battered guitars, pissed off at the government, pissed off at their school, pissed off at the state of the country and world, and letting it all out in a shaky burst of honest, no-frills teenage rock n roll.
“We’re not the first, I hope we’re not the last/‘cause I know we’re all headed for that adult crash/the time is so little, the time belongs to us” –Minor Threat