Iggy Pop and Nick Cave were never on my radar growing up. I was metal kid who converted to sounds of Metallica when they had enough steam to top the charts and ran with that theme while friends introduced me to Led Zeppelin and Ozzy. Lately, I’ve become addicted to that searing angst of good old fashioned punk. Not the poppy bull shit of the nineties that force fed us f**king vomit like Green Day, but heyday punk when there were two worlds ripping at the seams.
It occurs to me that my Mother’s generation grew up in defiance of their parents and grandparents. Hated “the Man”, fought political corruption, witnessed massive social change and tried their damnedest to become something other than what came before and boomers deserve a lot of credit. They faced some real challenges, but I have trouble imagining my classical and jazz loving mother would have ever dreamed up that her people opened up a stream of storming hedonism during a time when the social contrasts were turned up seven hundred percent. A smell that’s familiar today.
Punk (the late seventies) and post punk (eighties) appears to be violent and angry on the surface. When I met the friend that would drive me craziest in young life, but I love her for it, she was an old school punk kid that I never believed would get anywhere in life and who likes to remind me that I hated punk back in the day. That was before I knew what good Punk sounded like. But the image of no control was there and at the time I was eating the bullshit of my Republican mother. Don’t worry. All of that has evaporated in a cloud of cynicism.
Now I listen with utter fascination to the lyrics and intense raspy guitars, that have been hanging out in smoky bars too long, like The Birthday Party’s The Friend Catcher. It’s more than good musicianship it’s a record history of a world split in two with a dark, hidden underbelly that was both shunned and feared by people in denial of their own stink. It was a time when society had run off the rails with drug stunned counterculture ripping the thread from the seams as they ran head first into stupidity.
Punk emerged into this world the other side of the same coin. Fully entrenched and embracing in the other’s shit. The previous generation having broken the throttle handle on the train had jumped ship and turned away from the monster they created. Damn kids. I love watching the movies of the seventies were old men yell “Punks!” at criminal degenerate youths. It seems so precious now.
The Birthday Party were by no means first on the scene. In fact they kind of came late to game, young as they were. But they hold up to the likes of Iggy Pop and his Stooges whose Shake Appeal still has a hint of patchouli left over from the sixties on the guitars. Both bands were abandoned by the seventies, but born in the dank, sweaty corners of clubs like CBGB and colored in frustration that most people continue to misunderstand. Including me.
Now that Mr. Pop has his new album out, aptly named “Post Pop Depression”, we can book end his career with a whole slew of self-styled punk artists. Shamefully those influences include (coincidentally named?) Iggy Azalea or Lady Gaga who make claims on outsider status even though they’ve reached millions of mouth frothing fans. Not very fringe sounding to me. Thankfully we can add a number of grittier bands that follow a little more closely in the footsteps of Mr. Pop and Mr. Cave such as Australia’s latest addition East Link – named after the much maligned construction project in Melborne. And lately I’ve been addicted to Useless Eaters hailing out of San Francisco and who are said to have protege’d under Jay Reatard. Although, technically I think they’re garage rock the psycho surfer sound of the Eater’s Retro Hoax never gets tired.
You can look back over the last couple of years and see the recession has been hugged by a grittier, dirtier, angstier style of music that harkens back to the heady days of punk. When the streets ran red with drug stained blood. When people brutalized each other with rape, racism, murder, robbery and class warfare and the only escape for some were the ear bleeding clubs and basements of rock venues. As I listen to these masterful scumbags shred my hearing to pieces I can’t help thinking that the hypocrisy of pop-punk nineties has been redeemed to some extent. Although, I don’t think we come anywhere near to the mix of ungodly hedonism and violence that fed the legacy makers in the early days, it still somehow feels right. Like maybe the storm of psychopathic politics and shitty economy is still holding a knife to our throats. Nothing like a healthy dose of F.U. to keep rolling forward when things seem shitty.
I love punk and so should you if only for the history it can teach us. For the reminders that things really aren’t as bad as they used to be and even if a mad man takes the reins in the upcoming presidential election we can find a way to vent.
Listen like a real scumbag:
- East Link, self titled – best track on the album by far is Spring Street, but over all the album is a worthy addition to the collection
- Useless Eaters, Bleeding Moon – my favorite track right now, although it’s hard to pick one off this album, Proper Conduct
- Worthy of mention: The Julie Ruin, Run Fast – Oh Come On is one that I can’t put to rest
- The Stooges, Funhouse Remastered for the truly musically inclined – T.V. Eye gives you the roots of the punk movement in the U.S.
- Finally, The Birthday Party featuring Nick Cave’s early work; currently I picked up their hits from 1992 with Nick The Stripper in discordant chords that leaves me slapping my arm for another hit
copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson