What’s wrong with kids these days… (Get off my lawn!)

I had an exchange with my friend in response to reading my previous post:

Amanda Jane Kloos: punk is dead?
Steven Reed Kelly: you hadn’t heard?
Amanda Jane Kloos: nah.  i already knew.
Amanda Jane Kloos: you are one person i know who still fearlessly trying to cling to it though.

Perhaps she’s right.  Maybe I’m the sentimental punk rock version of the high school quarterback who won’t give it a rest.  Constantly reminiscing about the glory days when he won a state championship and fucked the head cheerleader.  No one aspires to be that guy, but I will say this:  When you’re a part of something that means so much to you at a formative age like that, it sticks with you forever.  It has a bearing on who you are.

Me?  I’m a punk.  It’s been part of my identity since I was fifteen.  I think it’s the same for a lot of people.

Joe Strummer is rolling over in his grave.

No music scene is static.  I understand that.  Punk in the 1970s fused into this really tough brand of hardcore in the 80s.  The hardcore punk of the 1980s split into the punk rock and hardcore genres in the mid-1990s.  Pop-punk really took off in the later part of the decade.  Then for a few years, everyone wanted to classify their band as “emo” (and all aging hipsters down in DC were like “This isn’t the same emo we grew up with!”).  Three years later, in 2006, “emo” became a disparaging term.  Now kids have silly haircuts and matching neon vomit t-shirts.

I can’t claim to be a part of the punk scenes of the 70s or 80s.  I’m 25 now, so I would’ve been 4 years old when the Dead Kennedy’s dropped Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death.  I’m pretty sure my mom was spinning Boy Meets Girl’s “Waiting for a Star to Fall” in the car on the way to daycare.  What I have seen was the transition from punk rock to emo.  And I watched as everyone fled that genre in favor of “indie” in the past few years.  I gotta say, a few things have been lost in the transformation.

Here’s what I miss about punk rock:

1. Heart

Once upon a time Gabe Saporta had a heart.  Midtown released three punk rock staples in their time.  Save the World, Lose the Girl and Living Well is the Best Revenge are two of the finest examples of pop punk.  Those albums rock.  They had brass.  Each song is a fist-pumping singalong.  Midtown released their final album, a Brand-Newsian departure from the previous two; Forget What You Know.  For all intents and purposes, this might be one of the most incendiary, essential albums released by a pop punk band.  It was ground-shattering.  The music was smart and dark and heartfelt.  It didn’t grab people as immediately though, and it didn’t meet sales expectations.  Then Gabe snorted a bunch of cocaine – and that’s an expensive habit – so he decided to cash in on the dance-punk craze.  Cobra Starship is what happens when good bands go bad (and follow a silly trend to make a few bucks).  When I listen to any of the band’s three albums, I can’t tell if the songs are sarcastic or sincere.  One thing I can infer though is that they’re all devoid of any real substance.  No fucking heart.

2. A Fierce Fan Following

Alright… I’m not saying punks are more rabid than Justin Bieber fans (or any teenage girl for that matter), but I will make some observations.

When is the last time you saw someone walking around wearing an Animal Collective t-shirt?  You know why you can’t think of one?  Because indie bands are the most disposable kind.  That shirt would be out of style by the time you washed it.  Indie albums have a life cycle of about 2 weeks.  The first week you’re getting acclimated to it.  The second week, you give it 9.0 rating on Pitchfork.com and it’s on to the next big thing.  Back in the day, an album would last you months.  I put Name Taken’s Hold On in my car in 2003.  It’s still there.  Every time I take a drive longer than an hour, that album still gets a turn in the cd player (note: CD players were these devices that spun optical discs with recorded music on them.  You’ll hear about them in history class someday).  When New Found Glory dropped their self-titled album, we listened to that at parties for a whole year!  You just don’t get that same kind of shelf-life out of music these days.  Maybe it’s the overabundance of content or maybe it’s the mindset of the apathetic modern-day music fan.

3. Less Faux Hawk, More Rock

Fashion has always been a part of music.  I’m not saying the music I loved was somehow above that.  For a time in my life,  I wanted to be just like Tom Delonge so I went out, pieced my lip and bought Hurley t-shirts and Dickies.  I’m just saying that these days, it’s getting out of hand.

Every piece of hair on the lead singer from We the King’s big red mane looks like it was placed with purpose.  The guys from Every Avenue and Forever the Sickest Kids look like they owe more influence to Kanye West than they do to the Clash or the Ramones.  Those plastic sunglasses are stupid.  And for christ’s sake, why are they wearing girl’s jeans?  I just don’t understand how that can possibly be comfortable.  The good news is – if you’ve ever seen the boxers vs. briefs episode of Seinfeld – they’re diminishing their chances of successfully mating.  I think we can all appreciate that.

Look, I see people shudder at the mention of “emo” and “pop-punk” often…  And I understand the backlash.  But I would be remiss if I thought that I was the last dinosaur in a scene that had passed me by.  I refused to believe that punk rock is dead, but maybe it needs to lie dormant for a while – to let all these derivatives die off so it can get a fresh start in the hands of some new talent.

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One Response to “What’s wrong with kids these days… (Get off my lawn!)”

  1. You know what I miss about the punk rawk scene? The opportunity it provided for normal 38 year old guys such as myself to grope and (if you were really shifty and the pit was really dark) suckle anonymous crowd surfers. These days, those strangers are there with their parents, and those killjoys are watching like hawks. Trust me.

    Memories….in the corner of my mind…..

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