So I have been thinking a lot lately about Punk. Even if you don’t like Punk read on; you’ll come to see that I define it very generally and reach some interesting conclusions.
Punk is like Rice. Rice is one of those canonical foods that goes well in any culture across a huge variety of foods and tastes. Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Greek, You-Name-It! Rice can be bland or spicy.
Punk is the same way. Just as that rice is consumed, but rarely a food unto itself, punk is listened to in a similar manner. It is chameleon like in its genre. You can add Punk to nigh any style of music and barring one actually getting a better product, you at least get a more poignant one.
To clarify Punk here extends far beyond what is known as Punk Rock. Punk is that quality of anti-establishmentallity that forces one to take a more extreme and critical stance on the state of affairs. This Punk attitude manifests in music as a declaration of free speech and nay-saying of the standard bearers of the formulaic industry. My claim is that this happens across musical genre lines, just as rice transcends the taste boundaries of culture and location.
That being said, Punk Rock certainly exists (Punk being an operator acting on the variable Rock). Punk Rock, like the Ramones, actually suffers from the fact that Rock is so out there and self-critical and campy and fully admits all of these things that there is less room for Punk Rock to comment on Rock that Rock does not already comment on. Rock already hates itself; Punk is needed. That being said, the Ramones and other Punk Rock bands make neither great Punk nor great Rock, or are at least limited to good Rock sans the social comentary.
Not far from the Rock Regime, but with significantly less self policing is the field of Surf Rock (Surf Guitar). A perfect example of Punk Surf Rock are the Dead Milkmen. Their songs are structurally Surf Guitar songs and they would be well suited if they could play their instruments to a Surf Guitar standard.
The most interesting variety I have found is certainly the Punk Folk or Punk Country. This is most fully (and possibly only) engendered by Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra on their album “Prairie Home Invasion”. In some sense this is merely updated Folk music. Traditionally Folk is all about the laments of the people in the time that they lived. These songs, transfered, lost their connotations but retained their charm. Reappropriating their charms to the modern day we get the same sort of music commenting on the laments of our time. While I don’t claim that traditional folk music (in this country at least) is or was Punk, I do say that the pathos of folk is that of punk.
As much as he might hate me to say it, Frank Zappa and the Mothers wer very punk in some of the work, especially in their earlier stuff. but retaining this later on as well. The vocal songs on Freak Out may be seen as a sort of Punk Doo Wop while other songs of his may be considered Punk Jazz or dare-I-say Punk Classical.
As a final note, I would also classify bands like Green Day as Punk Grunge and Bad Religion might be more of a Punk version of Metalica which would make them Punk Metal rather than simply being rock.
The punk message is strong and tasty.