Punk is not just a genre or an aesthetic. It is a lens for seeing and approaching the world. Ask questions, follow your passion, find out for yourself, respect others, be consistent but don’t be afraid of change. It is a rejection of being spoon-fed the dominant ideology and culture. One day I realised that I hardly listened to any music made by women, so I sought some out and was rewarded.
The sounds and looks of punk were consumed by the mainstream long ago, internalised to protect the status quo and then sold back to us as fashion – reminds me of Foster-Wallace describing, in E Unibus Pluram, how television insulated itself from criticism by hijacking irony. Speaking of fashion and irony, a near fourteen-year-old full circle has me back in plaid shirts. Realising that I was only a tye-dye tee away from my 14-year-old self’s essential wardrobe, I found it appropriate to listen to the music that first ignited my interest in the notion of punk, and indeed plaid. The inkling that Nirvana would be forever culturally maligned has been thrashed into submission by the rediscovery of the now 20-year-old Bleach.
Punk has left a legacy of cringe-inducing faux rebellion and a subtle lingering distrust of popularity that has left subcultures hamstrung by any attempts to move beyond a niche. We seek niches. We use cultural niches to help define ourselves. This is an epoch of separation but we still don’t want to be alone – else the logical climax would be binary crowds at ever more obscure shows. We want to share our passion and appreciation, but we just don’t want everyone to know. In the spirit of things here’s a band you should listen to but tell no-one else about, The xx, they have the power to warm.
For all its cultural critique potential and misuse, music is still the simplest way to mainline punk and all it’s passion. Joe Strummer’s electric leg says it all.