Saturday Morning Jukebox: Punk Privilege


Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Punk is usually a reaction. (Not always (#notallpunk) but usually.)Report

    • Yes. It is incredibly reactionary, and I’d say that’s too its credit.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I would say that expressionism was also an entirely reactionary movement, though I fail to see the relevance of pro-activity and first causes here.
      When it comes right down to it, Jimmy Page would probably have been playing a banjo if not for Segovia. Mandolin perhaps.
      But I don’t see a lot of Segovia influence in Page’s playing. Not even the overdubs.Report

  2. Avatar Will H. says:

    a flurry of misunderstanding systemic ________

    I see an assertion of the person in the lyrics cited, which flies in the face of all systemic consideration.
    The appearance of incongruency seems fairly predictable while reading from the perspective of the system.
    Bursting forth from the individual, this is pure self-affirmation.
    And one which appeals to me far more than Descartes, no less.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    In the early 90s, I lived in the Positive Force house outside Washington DC and helped put on a ton of punk benefit shows that all seem to coalesce in my mind as one big Fugazi/Bikini Kill show. I guess I’ve been rethinking that era as well, especially as it seems to have recently passed into documentary history:


    • Avatar zic says:

      @rufus-f I don’t know quite how to express this, but I’m always struck with a sense of wonder and weirdness when music critique is of literary qualities (lyrics). I grow more and more to believe there are two very different ways of hearing/thinking of music — one verbal, and so hung on the words, the other musical, where words are just another instrument in the orchestration.

      I’m trying to find a better way to express that; since I’ve been considering it for some time.

      But in reviewing the punk scene of the ’80’s and ’90’s, I’d much turn to the raw sound, as counterpoint to the highly-produced disco that took over the pop markets, too.

      (And Jonathan, please forgive the digression of this comment; I loved your post, but it did lead me to ponder, once again, the differences between lyrical hearing and musical hearing.)Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I tend to think of it as incredibly misguided, on most occasions, when the lyrics totally dominate all other considerations.
        In fact, “lyrically interesting” is a thing I would say about a band whose music sucks.
        Example: Marilyn Manson is “lyrically interesting,” for the most part. Powerman 5000 (or how ever many thousand it is by now) has a lot better music, and more consistently, though the lyrics aren’t of as high of quality.
        Similarly, Rush has better lyrics than Dream Theater, but then Rush has Geddy Lee singing.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Ya know, I tend to listen more to the music too because I have a huge appetite for anything in the “rock’n’roll” vein, which runs through Son House, the Troggs, the Kinks, the Sonics, and a bunch of other stuff that, to me, is “punk”. I care about the lyrics to the extent that I want to scream them out and not be embarrassed at how dumb they are. But the music has to be there first. I will admit that this music is not hugely diverse musically- you hear the same riffs over and over. So maybe people start focusing on the lyrics for that reason.

        I should also disclose that I sing in a punk band with songs like “Take Some Pills and Drive Around” and “She Wants to Get Laid” so I get the appeal of music over lyrical brilliance!Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I think I get it. Lyrics are an embellishment?
        That’s the way I call it. Granted, some lyrics are really cool.
        But for the most part, I don’t care if it’s just screaming:
        It burns when I piss

        . . . which is actually some pretty cool lyrics, come to think of it.

        I want credit if you use it. And a demo.
        I’ll take care of the beer.Report

      • When I think of songs, I probably indeed put a lot more emphasis on lyrics than music. But I’m sure the music influences me more than I realize.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I always saw Punk has a kind of genre which could be really left-wing or really right-wing.

    Joey Ramone was basically your New York Jewish liberal. I’ve seen footage of him campaigning for Jerry Brown in 1992. This is when Jerry Brown still had a reputation for being a liberal’s liberal and was still being tailed by the Moonbeam nickname.

    Johnny Ramone was very right-wing. Very conservative and would talk about how punk rock was really a conservative genre. He also liked to taunt Joey Ramone with anti-Semitic jokes from what I’ve heard.

    The same seemingly goes for Punk. Some of the biggest punks were also the most conservative people politically in high school. I guess this is because punk appeals to an outsider ethos and there is nothing very outsider about being a social democracy-welfare state-collectivist liberal. And since I grew up in a town that was very Democratic leaning, being a rebel meant being conservative. Maybe in a more conservative area, the punks would be into socialism, communism, anti-Capitalism?

    It is probably a big mistake to associate any art form with liberalism or conservatism. Jack Keourac used to cheer for Joe McCarthy according to Allen Ginsburg and was pals with William Buckley. Gary Snyder was a Beat but advocated for hard work and simple living as much as Ginsburg advocated for freedom and exploration via drug use.

    Or you can just quote Bad Religion who wisely noted “No Bad Religion song can make your life complete.”Report