Punk Is Occasionally Irritating

(I’m referring to the music genre by the way; couldn’t you tell already by the lack of an article, but the singular verb form?)

Unlike some of my more specific musically-reactionary posts, you don’t really need an in-depth knowledge of the fantastically broad genre of punk to read and engage with this one; today, I’m going to talk about the most annoying thing about the entire genre: the ‘need’ for aggression and heaviness in punk.

Basically, many punk bands have, over time, changed from producing hardcore punk songs to melodic punk songs, seen very clearly in the difference between Polar Bear Club’s Killin’ It and WLWYCD, where the former song is much more aggressive and the latter, later, song is less so, particularly regarding the vocals. And reading the comments for the WLWYCD video, especially when it was first released, showed an almost total feeling of ‘betrayal’ and ‘disappointment’ in the band for not continuing their heavy style from the past; even those that liked the new album conceded that this was a problem.

While some fans tried to justify the excuse as the singer ‘protecting his voice’ (because no way can you make an entire career of screamed vocals, right Erlend Hjelvik?), I don’t feel this is entirely true: if they are artists, is it not logical to assume that they want to go in a slightly different direction with this art?

This latter reason is, I feel, often misunderstood as ‘selling out’ or ‘going mainstream’; Rise Against’s early albums regularly featured heavier songs that are noticeably absent on their most recent album, Endgame, but this is probably an attempt to swing towards the more ‘melodic’ side of their ‘melodic hardcore’ genre. Their singer, Tim McIlrath, once ironically called the group an ‘obnoxious punk band’, but I think that in their more recent songs, they stick to the irony of the statement, and engage directly with events and issues such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill and Homophobia; it just so happens that they do so with less screaming.

And many ‘fans’ have overreacted to this loss of aggression; for a while, the group were listed as a ‘rock’ band on Wikipedia instead of ‘punk’, presumably by an angry follower, who harkened for the glory days of Great Awakening, and many YouTube commenters have deemed them a ‘rock band with punk influences’, a clearly incorrect fact when you consider their energetic and bridge-extending live performances and general shouty-ness.

This whole idea of ‘genre’ though is what annoys me the most about punk fans; while we’re trying to divide groups into ‘hardcore’ and ‘melodic’ and whatever, are we not undermining the very opposition to society’s labels and general feeling of ‘do whatever the Hell you want’ that characterised the first punk bands? Perhaps those that encourage bands to get ‘back to their roots’ are the real sell-outs here, as they’re not prepared to accept that these bands are doing whatever the Hell they want, and are instead forcing them to remain in the early 00s timewarp of poor production and 90-second songs.

Essentially, I’m using the Layman’s argument to punk music: I don’t know art, but I know what I like; I don’t care if iTunes lists them as a punk band, or a rock band (Lordi are called ‘pop’ on the site for God’s sake), I know that 3/4 Tango has a great verse, and Behind Closed Doors is a cool enough song to have its lyrics on my alternating computer background, and that’s all I care about.

Oh my God, so many Links:

Polar Bear Club – Killin’ It

Polar Bear Club – WLWYCD

Polar Bear Club – 3/4 Tango

Rise Against – Bricks

Rise Against – Help Is On The Way

Rise Against – Great Awakening

Rise Against – Ready To Fall

Rise Against – Behind Closed Doors

Kvelertak – Kvelertak


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