FROM THE DESK OF SAIL — School spirit is lackluster at Mira Costa High. After four years there, I’m convinced that you’ll never find a group more jaded and cynical than us. Really, it’s a wonder someone hasn’t tried to burn the place down by now.
But, then again, it might not be. Our school has but one shining pillar of pride, something that faculty may not recognize but every student does. The fact is, our school is the site of formation of some of the most influential California punk rock bands ever, including Black Flag, Redd Kross, Descendents, Circles Jerks, Pennywise, and now up-and-coming pop-punkers Defense Breaks Down.
And why not? When you take a bunch of rich, spoiled white kids and cram them all together in a scenic and sheltered community, some punk rawkin’ is bound to happen. This music all about sticking it to the man in ways that only someone who grew up protected from the realities of the world could be naive enough to dream up.
But don’t get me wrong, I love punk. I love house shows. I love moshing. I love NoFX, The Clash, and old Green Day (fuck 21st Century Breakdown!). But, most of all, I love all the great new things happening in the scene these days.
Alchohol-free and all-ages artspace The Smell in LA is a frequent haunt for many avant-garde punk bands like Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, and No Age. The venue is a non-profit, volunteer-run institution. The entrance fee is usually about five bucks, and that gets you into a show with anywhere between three to seven bands performing. Totally punk rock, right?
When caught up with the kind of stuff that’s happening at The Smell, it’s easy to forget how ridiculously mainstream punk has become. The pop-punk, post-hardcore, and emo bands of today make some of the most popular and played rock and roll songs of this millennium. You can’t walk into a mall these days without seeing a Hot Topic store all decked-out in its black and plaid merchandise. When punk rock goes corporate, you know we’re fucked.
Furthermore, I assert to you, ladies and gentleman, that the following track is more “punk” than every band that has been listed above put together:
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Let’s set the scene. It’s 1990. They Might Be Giants have released a hit album entitled Flood. Critics are hailing TMBG the next big thing in music and what the new decade is going to be all about.
Fast forward two years. In space-aged 1992, popular music has changed dramatically. Grunge is heralded as the definitive sound of 90s rock. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the rest rein over college radio.
But do They Might Be Giants care? Not a bit. In the midst of this ‘rebellious’ new sound, they released Apollo 18, which contained the lyrically bizarre song you just heard, horns, accordion, and all. It also contained an experimental song made up of 21 separate tracks entitled “Fingertips” to make use of the shuffle feature newly available on many music players at the time.
The truth is, I can go on and on about punk and what it means to be punk, but punk is punk and will always be punk. It’s a style of music that was once innovative and rebellious but now is standard and accepted.
In a series of posts, I will be highlighting artists that I believe are encompassing the true spirit of punk rock: innovation, experimentation, and, most of all, a “fuck you” attitude toward the accepted norms of music. It’s all about disrupting people’s opinions and breaking down the walls that bind you. Soon, you’ll see just how much arranging series of frequencies in particular patterns can really fuck shit up.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hot Topic is not punk rock.