Punk Rock is dying, and it’s our job to save it.
Within the past few decades, Punk Rock has taken a back seat to other forms of anger and aggression through music. As unfortunate as it is that punk rock has become dormant, it is equally important to note the rise of hip-hop as a supplement to punk rock aesthetic and sentiment. Although not directly similar in sound and content, punk attitude has manifested itself in the attitudes of hip-hop artists.
This discourse of anger and threat can be seen through the music of rhythm and poetry. Punk came from the anger of minimalized youth. The aggression rose as a response to the political oppression of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
For some reason – one too complex for a short comment -, punk began to die down in the mid- to late ‘90s. Interestingly enough, this was around the same time that hip-hop began to manifest itself in the mainstream.
Artists such as Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. (to name the most popular) brought aggression-based music that highlighted the feelings of disgruntled, African-American youth to the forefront of youth culture. Both musical genres contain themes of political oppression and a general feeling of unease and angst towards a society that holds people back. Although each genre is generally different and contains completely different artists, the formations of both genres are very similar.
The most prominent era of hip-hop history, and probably the most aggressive and rebellious, was the mid- to late ‘90s where we saw the decline and selling-out of many punk artists.
In the same year that Biggie Smalls released his debut album, and proclaimed to all that he was “ready to die”, Green Day released Dookie, a pop-punk opus that, although enjoyed by many, helped propel punk into the mainstream, a distinction heralded by many as a step that led to the commercialization of punk. Many believe that albums such as Dookie dumbed down the punk aesthetic, and aggression.
New York Times reviewer Neil Strauss commented that this album “barely resembled punk music.” From 1994 forward, Punk became less of a music sung and consumed by an angry mass of youth, and transformed instead into a musical genre rooted in more pleasant and easily accessible soundscapes.
So, what’s the point?
I want to mention that this is not a scathing review or a hatred of punk. I love punk music and if it weren’t for punk, I would have a lot less to say about music and a lot more emotion to release.
However, the fact that punk rock is almost non-existent in the many different levels of the music industry is concerning. This may sound like I am contradicting myself. On one hand, I say punk rock lost a lot of creditability through the popularization of its music. On the other, I say that we need more popular punk. Let me explain.
Punk Rock is becoming a local music. Local punk is not the problem here. Local punk scenes are abundant and are not dead in any sense. However, local punk rock will not go down in history. The selling out of punk rock, through the popularization of its music, is problematic in that it becomes its own type of history. Punk is slowly dying due to the fact that there are very few popular punk artists within the genre.
Mainstream punk or well-known punk is non-existent now. Maybe the most disappointing and scary point of my argument is that punk rock may be dead due to the lack of known artists. However, this is not an untrue statement – it is just a statement that falls rough on the ears of punk rock fans.
Music lives on through history. If a new movement of punk fails to emerge and punk continues to be only the music of local music scenes, then punk will eventually die. And the timeline of punk will be shortened by history. It will not go from 1965 to 2015, but from 1975 to 1995.
Punk rock’s timeline may be shortening by way of the same punk rock attitudes that helped the music grow. “We don’t have to be famous” is the statement. Yet maybe, without fame, you cannot leave your mark on history.
Bite the bullet that is made out of money and power and everything you hate.