Monday, February 06, 2006

Punk’s Not Dead… You Just Need To Poke It With A Stick (A Caffeine-Fuelled Manifesto)

Welcome to my blog.

I often hear people bemoaning the death of punk, or at least that it’s shit nowadays. They lament that what was once a progressive, innovative genre is now a gentrified, sugar-coated abomination. That what was once an exciting and urgent sub-culture is now a shadow of its former self. That the genre that was once a legitimate outlet for the bored, disgruntled youth and political dissenters has now become a catalogue for brands targeting affluent, insolent trust fund mall shits.

I say two things to these naysayers;

1) Yeah, but you listen to bloated prog-rock, pretentious jazz punk and homo-eccentric electro clash. I find these respective genres just as grating as mall punk.

2) Look harder.

When people speak of the glory days of punk, they invoke the NYC-CBGBs boom of the mid 70s, the emergence of British power pop-punk in the late 70s, the SST & Alternative Tentacles hardcore punk explosion of the early 80s, the evolution into Discord and Touch and Go records post-punk, the East Bay-Lookout Records-pop punk glory days of the mid 90s and then they trail off about the eventual descent into oblivion.

There are still records being made in this vein today. Good records too.

In the last ten years Dillinger Four have released three LPs of the most distinctive and witty punk rock ever to be committed to wax. Rip Off Records has built a stable of artists who play some of the most fun, trashy and god damn infectious garage punk you’re ever going to come across. Where Rip Off excel above other labels is they have crystallized a scene and all but acquired a monopoly of the genre. Down in Florida, No Idea records have done the same thing. Over the last decade there’s been a scene slowly materializing. Where current trends have been eschewed for influences like Crimpshrine, the Young Pioneers, Husker Du, Jawbreaker, the Replacements and Pegboy. Y’know? You remember when punk rock used to be honest? Not honest as in a business sense, honest as in you knew the band sang with conviction, openess and sincerity. I know that sort of thing is intangible and subjective, but that’s the impression I get when I listen to Fifteen, Black Flag, Jawbox, Leatherface, Descendents, Screeching Weasel and FYP. With no regard for style, distinctive, full of emotion, wit, and most importantly, humour. And there are bands still making music like this. The Soviettes last year released one of the best punk rock records ever. Rip Off records just signed the Kidnappers who play some of the fucking catchiest rock n roll that’s ever going to pass between your ears. The Modern Machines continue to release distinctive, original and hooky punk rock and are being largely ignored for it. Dirt Bike Annie recently capitulated, but up until a year ago were putting out punk rock that was impossible to categorize, yet bounced around inside your head for weeks after your heard it. The Weakerthans are still kicking around and producing some of the most beautiful and criminally-underrated Indie rock/Alt-country. Before a critical mass of the band was killed in a car accident, the Exploding Hearts released a power pop LP that deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as the Undertones, Buzzcocks, Barracudas and Pointed Sticks. And that isn’t me being romantic. I fucking mean it.It’s the kind of music I get giddy talking about. My eyes widen, voice rises an octave and my leg shakes as I enthuse over it. But then again, i'm weird.

Over the course of this rant, you’ve probably acquired a grasp of the staples of my musical diet and the shit I’m going to be talking about. I should make one thing clear here. I am by no measure an authority on punk rock. I’m not that conceited. Fuck, I’m sure there are thousands of bands I am oblivious to. And that energizes me. I am not doing this for the scene either. I’m not sure what that really means, or whether the genres I’m going to be focusing on are coherently intertwined. Besides, I’m too far removed from the production of this music to have a vested interest in its success. What I have noticed is that there are very few resources out there in internet land devoted to pop-punk, Midwestern punk, folk-punk and garage-punk.

My name is Steve, I live in Australia, I'm 23, I’m an aspiring music journalist, I have a coffee addiction and I own every Screeching Weasel record ever released. That’s my angle.

This blog is merely an avenue for honing my writing skills, building a portfolio and a way of rationalising spending hours on end listening to music.

In a few weeks I'm going to be drafting my dear friend Lucky Ben Seventeen into the fold here on Wreck Kids. He's in much the same position of me. Budding journalist who spends unhealthy amount of time and money on music. And i love him like Ben Weasel loves money. Not only does Ben have an incredible knack for writing, an unbridled enthusiasm for music, an encyclopaedic knowledge of punk rock, but he is also the best exponent of the word 'faggot' i've ever encountered.

So stay tuned, jerks.

Thumbs up,


Anonymous Corey said...


3:24 PM  
Anonymous Corey said...

i call shenanigans on you owning every screeching weasel record too.
perhaps you own their albums on cd?
did you overhear gnareth and I talking about the danny vapid allstars last night? get excited.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

oh shit rory, nah i didn't.

i'll volunteer to do vocals.

i'll even go all out. i do a great Ben Weasel. i'll shave my head and tell everyone to go fuck themselves.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Duke is a malignant narcissist.

He invents and then projects a false, fictitious, self for the world to fear, or to admire. He maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with and the trappings of power further exacerbate this. Real life authority and David Duke’s predilection to surround him with obsequious sycophants support David Duke’s grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience.

David Duke's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as "victims of persecution".

Duke fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, and mythology. The leader is this religion's ascetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures (or so he claims) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling.
Duke is a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people - or humanity at large - should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Duke became a distorted version of Nietzsche's "superman". But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral.

In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernist and moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things "natural" - or by strongly repressing these feelings. But what they refer to, as "nature" is not natural at all.

Duke invariably proffers an aesthetic of decadence and evil carefully orchestrated and artificial - though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers. Narcissistic leadership is about reproduced copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols - not about veritable atavism or true conservatism.

In short: narcissistic leadership is about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), the leader demands the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis is tantamount, in this narcissistic dramaturgy, to self-annulment.

Narcissism is nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives are nihilistic. Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism - and the cult's leader serves as a role model, annihilating the Man, only to re-appear as a pre-ordained and irresistible force of nature.

Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the "old ways" - against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the corrupt order. Narcissistic movements are puerile, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon David Duke like (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state, or group, or upon the leader.

Minorities or "others" - often arbitrarily selected - constitute a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that is "wrong". They are accused of being old, they are eerily disembodied, they are cosmopolitan, they are part of the establishment, they are "decadent", they are hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin ... They are different, they are narcissistic (feel and act as morally superior), they are everywhere, they are defenseless, they are credulous, they are adaptable (and thus can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They are the perfect hate figure. Narcissists thrive on hatred and pathological envy.

This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler, diagnosed by Erich Fromm - together with Stalin - as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.

Duke prefers the sparkle and glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. His reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substances, consisting of mere appearances and mass delusions. In the aftermath of his regime - Duke having died, been deposed, or voted out of office - it all unravels. The tireless and constant prestidigitation ceases and the entire edifice crumbles. What looked like an economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely held empires disintegrate. Laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. "Earth shattering" and "revolutionary" scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem.

It is important to understand that the use of violence must be ego-syntonic. It must accord with the self-image of David Duke. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform David Duke like narrative. Thus, David Duke who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite - is highly unlikely to use violence at first. The pacific mask crumbles when David Duke has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, and the prime sources of his narcissistic supply - have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, David Duke strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. "The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)", "they don't really know what they are doing", "following a rude awakening, they will revert to form", etc. When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail, David Duke becomes injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized - is now discarded with contempt and hatred. This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting". To David Duke, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. Duke is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc. The "small people", the "rank and file", and the "loyal soldiers" of David Duke - his flock, his nation, and his employees - they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated - is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of David Duke. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

5:12 PM  

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