Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Don't Forget The Chaos
I remember, and this is going to make me sound old, when punk was dangerous. There were talk shows dedicated to this new "trend" that was causing kids to do drugs and hurt themselves and others. (And that talk was always playing on the fear factor of anything new and different.) Now you can hear punk on television shows for kids, in ads, and being promoted at the mall (thanks, Hot Topic). What was once a music of the outcast has now become a just another stale genre.
As is always the case with such things, there are bands that won't be found on some fifteen-year-old's iPod. But there is nothing like Crass or GG Allin to make this music a threat again. There are political bands, and there are outrageous bands, but there are too few and their ability to actually make a statement is hampered by an indifferent public. Everyone is so scared of a black man breaking into their home while listening to The Rza that they have forgotten about stuff like The Exploited's Barmy Army.
I like music that threatens the norm, that puts the status quo on alert (whether the threat is real or not). I like music that lets its listeners know there is an alternative to consumer culture. When it comes to punk, which was infamous for those things, I just don't see it anymore. Punk bands continue to play huge festivals sponsored by major corporations. They give interviews to stale magazines like Rolling Stone. Yes, there are still bands thriving in the underground, but now they can stay there and never affect anyone outside that special little circle.
I guess that isn't such a bad thing, as any art form that gets popular gets co-opted, but I do miss the time when Phil Donahue was concerned with bands like Rash of Stabbings and Three Teens Kill Four. Will I ever see it again? Doubtful, as punk has become as consumer-centric as hip hop. Metal still maintains a slight outsider status, but often seems too much like a joke to matter. Death and black metal cause some terror, but see the previous sentence.
What is left?