Monday, September 24, 2007

Welcome to Punkville

From Angela Jaeger: Can punk become an ideal to live by in a post-modern global community?


Go, Angela! Tell it like it is! That's why I'm writing this column now. The ideals you mention are clear to punk bands all over the world, united by their urge to change things like the ongoing rape of the planet or the unfair system they're living in (and they're all more or less unfair, except maybe Scandinavia and the Netherlands.)


It's like Punk is a huge encampment, call it Punkville, sheltering various bods who'd maybe never meet if they didn't all dig hanging out there. Some move in permanently, others drop in for a weekend, but they all have Punk stamped somewhere on their personal, intimate profiles. Rabidly anti-materialistic crusties living off the grid, fashion designers nostalgic for their wild youth, (or still wild,) vegan bakers, Professors yet, and of course musicians, including artists who aren't obviously punk, like Michael Franti and Manu Chao. Punk bands identify with the outsider, the oppressed -- that's why Bob Marley's more punk than, say, the lovely lads of The Police, who are more likely to be filed under Punk. Punk-ish bands exhibit varying degrees of commitment to the real ideals of punk -- but if the thin boy singer has artful holes in his clothes and wears black eyeliner, it's a fair bet he's punk-identified. How punk are they really? More on the punk-o-meter in the next question from Eric....



More Punk 





From Eric Siegel: Do you think there's a band that doesn't deserve to be called punk and a band that does?


A great and challenging question, Eric. Thanks. If punk is in the heart, as I believe, then I stick to identifying bands as "punk" primarily where they offer not only energy and attack, but also some sense of social engagement and a desire for change. That narrows the field and I would love readers to write in and let us know which bands are inspiring them right now. MIA's music is cosmopolitan and danceable but also angry and thoughtful. She's very punk. Good Charlotte rock the punk tattoos, smeared eyeliner and jagged Mohawks, but their music is power-pop. They mock the rich on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," but I wonder if singer Joel Madden feels the contradiction now he's a full-on tabloid celeb? Ah, how to still be angry while you're sipping champagne in your Jacuzzi! Always a problem! On "World Is Black," G.C. bemoans the state of the planet; still, their approach is more in tune with emo's all-about-me meanderings. So they give solace to many, but Good Charlotte ain't as punk as they look. 



Punk via Sri-Lanka 


Is this really punk?  Or does it just dress like it? 



Angela and Eric, thanks for your questions. Keep ‘em comin'!


Lastly, a big Punky Birthday 2 U to for their tenth anniversary. Founder and videast Joly is a true punk legend, uncompromising and quite a visionary. A New Yorker for some 22+ years, Joly's imprint, Better Badges, were first to use the humble badge as a guerilla medium in London in the first wave punk time. I always remember his Patti Smith badge, the first time that she and her band, including Lenny Kaye and the dear departed Richard "DNV" Sohl, hit the UK. The Patti Smith people were some of the few original US punks to identify with reggae and dub, so Joly put her distinctive profile on a red, green and gold badge that went everywhere and said it all. It's amazing how Joly is still always down with the key underground action; he got some of the last footage of Joe Strummer when he visited NY with the Mescaleros, and the first of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's.


The Yeah Yeah Yeahs image courtesy of Joly


Being a bit of a mathematical and technical whiz, Joly was hot on the internet while it was still obscure boffin stuff, and typically, got the potential of the new medium. He's been recognized in the Village Voice as an indispensable New Yorker, and recently both Wired and Rolling Stone rated punkcast among the hottest video podcasts. When I teach Punk at NYU's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, I always ask Joly to come in, bring some of his fanzine collection and tell us how it really was and is. Big up Joly in Punkville!