Tag: Punk

To Read With No Skill (Be Afraid)

(been a while since a lyric parody post, hasn’t it?)

Considering that tomorrow is my first day of classes after a long-bordering-on-ridiculous summer break of four months, I thought I’d write some lyrics about it, altered from Anti-Flag’s excellent The Ink And The Quill (Be Afraid).

The pages turned black,
The words just getting darker.

So be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

The new Romantics lecturers teach on a Monday afternoon
They welcome in medieval kids but intimidate too soon.

All that we know, all we know.

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

So filled with high expectation that feels like intoxication,
There’s nothing like a reading list to get your cash wasting,
Then you don’t read jack-shit, your past choices you’re then hating.

Cloud-Author to Hitchcock’s films with authority to sneer,
They are the blunt-force fist of all literature,
We’re forced to read, with no skill.

What have we learned? After years,
What have we learned? Besides fear?

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

The books’ touch like fly-trap teeth,
Feel them gripping, your ideas in vain.
Your page runs white, you can’t quite write,
Tomb closing, kiss your first goodbye.

Now you’re done, you’ve been taken on a ride.
We’re in debt, in debt a billion times.
A billion times!

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid,
Of the coming nightmare.

Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be afraid, be afraid
Be very afraid…

(solo remains unchanged. Obviously)

There’s a storm cloud gathering just ahead
Ominous May, raining tests,
When it drops deadlines down on your time,
You better pray like hell you’ve kept yourself in line.
Built on arts and scholars’ scams
Our dear Provost stealing wealth,
Profits so ill-gained sweet,
Malnourished students weep.

As the storm gains strength.
The ageing unions break.
The ancient hall does quake.
And your lungs fill with your spineless pre-paid fees.

My favourite punk lyrics!

(at the moment. This stuff can change by the hour)

This could be a massive post. A whole series of posts, even. I could write a frakking book on this one. But it’s a tired evening, and this is my 600th post on this blog so I thought I’d do something a little special. By which I mean write a list of things I like as a subtle kicking to go listen to some decent bands for once.

With their kids, and plastic bags, in either hand
Polar Bear Club – The Old Fisher Burial Ground

While head-up-their-own-arse types might point out that Polar Bear Club are more of an indie band, I have no time for such nonsense; they’re loud, play guitars, and have something meaningful to say, and so are punks. This lyric is admittedly rather simple (but the implication is wonderful) but fits beautifully into the opening 37 seconds of this song, which manages to create this tragically desolate town square. that still has a few vines of humanity wrapped around its decaying brick. All of this section’s lyrics are like this, abstract yet direct, involving the listener while distancing them from the events, and I think this line is the best of the bunch.

Pick one of the above, it’s better than bowing to no-one
Pennywise – We’ll Never Know

Like the first lyric, this one encapsulates a much bigger idea in a single line, namely the idea behind the entire Reason to Believe album that organised religion is an inherently insincere and manipulative concept. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, the trivialising of theistic belief into a statement plucked from the most mundane of administrative documents – ‘pick one of the above’ – is a chilling contrast. The emphasis on ‘bowing’ is also significant, as the choice of a single word to explain theism.

You tell me that I make no difference / At least I’m fucking trying / What the fuck have you done?
Minor Threat – In My Eyes

And yes, those are the first uncensored ‘fucks’ to be unveiled on this blog. This is a quote I find myself coming back to time and time again as I wonder if all of my projects and schemes are ever worth anything, much less the time I put into them. It’s an idea perhaps too simple to be applied to all aspects of life, but ‘do stuff’ is a wonderful universal solution for a lot of problems revolving around fear, indecision and regret. Also, the contrast in tenses between the active speaker in the present – ‘I’m fucking trying’ – and the passive listener in the past – ‘What the fuck have you done?’ – is empowering, as the future suddenly becomes the realm of the doers, and the apathetic are consigned to the past.

You’ve gotta pray like Hell that you’re armed to the teeth
Anti-Flag – The Ink and The Quill (Be Afraid)

This lyric unites American theocratic blindness – ‘pray’ – with the needless militancy that underpins so much of modern US society – ‘armed to the teeth’ – all while poking fun at the self-important Bible-bashers – ‘pray like Hell’. That’s three strands of the American Right attacked in a single soundbite, which is delivered with screamed vocals barely audible over a marching drum and wailing guitars, creating this desperate cacophony of rebellion that is in a perpetual struggle to be heard.

There’s space for a paper airplane race in the eye of a hurricane
Bad Religion – All There Is

This one is so important to me that I’ve stuck it on my wall! Yes, the first thing teenage James stuck on his wall is a Bad Religion lyric. This is almost the antidote to the Minor Threat one above, that instead of lionising action above all else takes a more measured approach; frenzy and relentlessness can distract from the simple and the beautiful. A lot of my life is spent filling my time to the gills with crap to do, and I often forget that taking stock of my life, and appreciating the things I have and the people around me, can be one of the most worthwhile things I’m capable of doing.

I found God in the sound of your factories burning down
Rise Against – The Eco-Terrorist In Me

In a song full of lovely  anti-industry lines, this is perhaps the best. A combination of divine purpose and the destruction of the status quo is a middle finger to the American Right that twist old teachings into scenarios and explanations for actions they were never intended to be applied to. There’s also the little contrast of ‘I’ in the nominative, and ‘your’ in the genitive, just reinforcing the material-driven nature of US society and its relentless accumulation of things for things’ sake.

How we survive is what makes us who we are
Rise Against – Survive

This is my unquestioned favourite lyric; I’ve got this on a t-shirt for god’s sake! The question posed in this line is not whether we’ll survive, if we’ll triumph over personal and political injustices in the world, but who we’ll be at the end of it; evil will fall, and it’s up to us to ensure we remain good in the process. So often, the righteous become monsters in the pursuit of monsters – look at the American response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden – and this reminds me that whatever I do, and however I do it, I need to carry myself with values important to me. Of course, this is supplemented by the rest of Rise Against’s discography that preaches humility, rebellion and a desire to fix, not flee from, problems, but that’s the marvellous thing about all these lyrics: they’re open to interpretation, and are motivators for people to be themselves, rather than a set of rules for people to sacrifice their individuality in following.

Perhaps that’s why I like punk so much, as it’s a movement about being the best version of yourself, and helping others be the best version of themselves, instead of insisting on a single dogmatic set of values, that can only lead to disagreement and resentment in the future. When I’m feeling bad, these quotes lift me, and when I’m on top of the world they remind me of why I’m there. I hope you find something like that to keep you getting up in the mornings.

I’m Not Gonna Get Angry

(at least not today, anyway)

The communicative revolution that’s swept through the human race over the last half century is, for the most part, a wonderful thing, opening up new and diverse cultures presented to us on their own terms, and allowing the gift of communication to people once rendered perpetual strangers by random geographic placement. But one impact has been decidedly less clear-cut: we’re now more aware of the problems of the world. While an optimist would point out that this allows more minds to engage with these problems, and find solutions, a realist would say that this has opened people’s eyes to worlds of suffering that they would have previously lived in blissful ignorance of; for what it’s worth, the fact that ‘rape crisis’ is a top Google autofill result has less to do with there being more violence against women in the modern day than greater awareness of the violence against women.

And, when it comes to issues as prickly as gender identity and our idiotic marginalisation for people for daring to decide on a particular identity upon that important but largely trivial spectrum, there’s a fine line between being engaged with problems very worth solving, and becoming bogged down in an endless Twitter feed of despair and misery, that can motivate and demoralise in equal measure.

However, I’m stepping away from both of these responses today, and I’m not gonna get angry, either as the springboard for constructive action, or for the base delight in raging at someone with idiotic things to say. Specifically, this piece of news annoyed me, that some people feel the need for cultural products targeted directly at men when the majority of culture is so aggressively indirectly targeted at men that ‘men’ has become too established of a demographic to really function as a niche for an artist to shoot for. By all means, fire up your keyboards in outrage at this latest example of Poor Men Oppressed By The Victorious, Misandrist Feminists, I just won’t be joining you this time.

Problems aren’t there to be ignored, and certainly not to be run away from, but constantly committing oneself to single-handedly righting one’s perceived wrongs of society can be draining. People aren’t machines to wage war against organisations and institutions they find harmful, but complex collections of personal desires and societal goals, with the equal potential for massive outputs of energy for a certain agenda, and long periods of deep, Netflix-binging rests. Often in my life I’ve neglected the latter, and ended up as the bitter, anti-social punk fan sitting moodily at the end of the table spouting feminist rhetoric while expressing disgust at the lack of a vegan / vegetarian / James-centred menu at the pub we’re at.

For every Anti-Flag moshpit I’m in, I have a file on Mario Sunshine to waste a few hours with; for every chapter of my novel I write, there’s a local park that needs someone to wander through the trees of; and for each shitty piece of lad culture to rear its head from the cesspool of the Internet, I’ve got a dim light, a silenced phone, and a copy of Jim Lindberg’s Punk Rock Dad to relax to.

Financial Stability Is Burning

(it was surprisingly hard to make that title work with the singular ‘is’)

At this point, the only response to George Osborne’s debt-raising, student-frakking, ball-kicking budget is to apply these twisted policies to Bad Religion’s superlative Los Angeles Is Burning. The original lyrics can be found here.

Somewhere deep in the City in a tie painted blue,
Thatcher’s chums are grinning
But up here in the flat-shares of Camden,
The hope of uni students is withering.
And you can’t deny that living is easy
If your Daddy makes a hundred grand yearly,
It’s eviction time for young lives
And students are dreaming of pay.

When financial stability is burning
Tories tug purse-strings in the murder wind.
So many lives are on the breeze,
Even Corbyn is ill at ease
And our finances are burning.

This is not a test
Of our prepped-up outraged hashtags
Where the economic right and Thatcherites
Conspire to win again.
And I cannot believe the media ignores
How a few mates can’t afford university,
Read it online, Cheryl’s waistline
Owen Jones must be going insane.

When financial stability is burning
Tories tug purse-strings in the murder wind.
So many lives are on the breeze,
Even Corbyn is ill at ease
And our finances are burning.

The red box reads
“The end of days”
Old Labour folks are turning in their graves.

More a question than a curse,
How could Hell be any worse?

The cuts are coming,
The Tories laughing,
So take warning!

[solo remains unchanged]

When financial stability is burning
Tories tug purse-strings in the murder wind.
So many lives are on the breeze,
Even Corbyn is ill at ease
And our finances are burning.

Green Day Versus Dubstep

(I walk a lonely road, with another two people in my music video…)

I emerged from my room like a caterpillar not quite ready to be a butterfly yet: yawning, wretched, and covered in what may or may not be three day’s worth of filth, to the sound of dubstep. Remember that?! Well apparently it’s still a thing, and one of my flatmates was blasting it, which is quite cool really. As a fan of aggressive music, and being a bit of a prat, I have no worries with people being loud around me; I can listen to my own songs to drown it out, or go to a library or a park if I need quiet for whatever reason.

But then, from the other end of the corridor, came a surprisingly loud acoustic guitar, and an undersung set of lyrics straight out of 2004; it was Green Day’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, one of those songs people of my age will claim to have some personal nostalgic relationship with, whereas we were like eight when it was released and we were into the YuGiOh GX theme song!

And these two tracks were played loudly, and simultaneously, and as one stopped the other did the same, suggesting they were engaged in some titanic struggle for control of the airwaves of our corridor. I might not have heard all of this battle, and can’t put a title or artists to the dubstep piece, but I’m sure it made my brief walk from one side of the flat to the other more enjoyable.

My Favourite Debut Albums

(ranked, you’ll notice, not in a numerical list. Because screw you, mainstream music industry with your arbitrary ranking of art!)

This blog is really a thinly-veiled daily indulgence in my own ego, so today I thought I’d do away with the veil altogether, and tell you about things that I like.

Anavae – Into The aether

I love these guys because they defy genre, and their music has progressed as much in about three years as other bands take a decade to do. Their first album is perhaps their most aggressive, synth-free record, and introduces us to the characteristics that make them unique: delayed, or even non-existent, choruses in favour of more atmospheric intros and melodic verses; and a reluctance to use drums to just keep time.

Anti-Flag – Die for the Government

I’m not going to suggest that all it takes to be a great punk band is a striking name and an explicit, aggressive couple of songs, but Die for the Government basically makes those two traits alone into an art form in and of itself. There’s no just an anger in the lyrics, but a general rejection of things like melody and time, that’s edgy enough to be powerful, yet not overdone to the point of rendering the record totally devoid of musical skill.

DL Incognito – A Sample And A Drum Machine

The Canadian noughties hip-hop scene in general gives me hope for a genre plagued by discrimination, excessive sexualisation, eye-rolling attempts to be ‘shocking’ and catfighting, but DL’s first album is perhaps the most polished of the scene. It’s musically dark and lyrically mature, and even includes crazy things like a French verse and a female rapper. One criticism is that the tracks aren’t very diverse, and can melt into one, but that just means there’s more of a good thing.

Icon For Hire – Scripted

Another more recent band (who’ve I’ve seen live and was uncharacteristically starstruck by when I met them afterwards) who are progressing from a punk-with-synths sound to a synths-with-guitar-riffs one. Their lyrics hit the Rise Againstean window of being personal enough to have meaning, yet broad enough to be relevant to anyone listening who’s been pissed off at something. Also I kinda want their singer’s hair. Such pink. Very edge.

Kvelertak – Kvelertak

I’d like to comment on the lyrics from this Norwegian black metal band, but honestly I can’t because they’re in Norwegian and are screeched to the point of being incomprehensible to actual Norwegians (not kidding). Still, the energy and sense of melodic chaos they manage to get across on MP3s is stunning, like a pile of Picasso paintings hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere and exploding on your shitty Apple earphones, incinerating everything in a fifty-mile radius with fire, brimstone, and some rather poignantly abstract imagery.

Wolfmother – Wolfmother

An Australian trio who managed to release two albums in ten years, then two within like half an hour of each other, Wolfmother’s self-titled debut is basically a lesson in how to write kick-ass riffs, and build an entire album from there. Seriously, this site ranked the riff to Joker & The Thief as better than efforts from Pink Floyd, Rage Against The Machine, and Led Zeppelin. The vocals are an appropriately clashing wail, and the whole thing is heavy enough to be interesting, yet without breaking the amps with Kvelertak-style insanity to the point that you can’t get through the whole album without needing a break involving some tea and several blankets.