This next statement may see me hung, drawn and quartered, but please bear with me. Over the past 25 years some of the best punk albums have come from bands that are not necessarily looked on as ‘punk’. Now I’m not getting into the whole ‘how do you define punk’ argument, that’s been done to death already, but what I am saying is that there are bands that are in no way seen as ‘punk’ who have released albums that have more of the punk mentality than most of the actual punk bands.
So let me start by kicking the ball completely out of the field. Radiohead (I can hear the angry mob gathering already), many would say just a bunch of upper class, pretentious, private school posh boys (although remember Joe Strummer went to a private boarding School). Radiohead, love them or hate them have throughout their career turned on what is expected of them at every opportunity. Sometimes alienating their fans, but all the time sticking to what ‘they’ want to do and regularly shunning the ‘main stream’ music industry. In 2007 Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was released via the internet as a Pay What You Want download stating that it was the bands way of avoiding the "regulated playlists" and "straitened formats" of radio and TV. This strategy that has now become the norm for D.I.Y bands around the world to release their music without the need for record label intervention. But not a Mohawk or leather jacket in sight.
By the mid 90’s most of the original famous punk names had moved on to pastures new, and the new class had taken over, trying to capture the original passion by duplicating the styles and musical content of their predecessors. Margaret Thatcher had been out of power for nearly half a decade; however she would still be the catalyst for many punk songs over the next 20 years. In 1995 the debut album ‘I Should Coco’ by Oxford based guitar band Supergrass hit the U.K market. Now most people will instantly think of ‘that song’ when you mention the name Supergrass to them but if you can get past that and give the album a chance, you will find a great album full of fuzzy overdriven guitar, 4 chord poppy punk and a very British sounding teenage angst. If songs like Caught By The Fuzz and I’d like to know were released in the late 70’s they would fit in perfectly next to bands such as The Buzzcocks and The Jam (both who have been cited as influences by the band), yet you are unlikely to ever see anyone in a Supergrass t-shirt at Rebellion festival.
A few years later Nirvana became a household name. The band blew up almost overnight, sold millions of copies of their albums, headlined major festivals and as with everything that becomes popular, it also became popular for people to hate due to its popularity. Now Nirvana and other bands such as Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Melvins etc. got branded with a new moniker ‘Grunge’, but no matter which way you look at it, or how you choose to market it, it’s Punk, played by punk fans and with a very punk attitude. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
Bringing this forward to today. If you flick through the music papers you can find some great new bands, most which will have been marketed to be attractive to a certain audience. Bands such as Fidlar, Drenge & Metz. Call it what you will, but I will ask you one question ‘If this band where around in 1977 who would they be playing gigs with?’
Now in this piece I have used punk as an example. This is not an attack on punks, I myself have grown up in the punk scene since discovering The Damned as a teenager, people who know me will confirm that to this day I am an active supporter of the punk scene and attend punk gigs on a regular basis. This above piece could have been written about almost any genre and music scene you can think of. My point in this piece is that the music industry and music buyer love to categorise music and put up boundaries around what they should class as one thing and what should be classed as another (I too have been guilty of this). If we take the blinkers off and have a look at music for what it actually is and not what it has been marketed as, there are some gems to be found that we may not have ever thought we would like.