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r/LetsTalkMusic
40
Posted by2 months ago

Are some of our narratives of rock music history a bit punk-centric?

As I'm reading about music history, the legacy of punk music seems to loom large. On one hand, what we primarily associate with punk music is a period in the mid-to-late seventies. Bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash are classic examples. But then, there's a lot of musical movements that are seen as predecessors, reactions, subgenres, and offshoots to punk.

And punk has a lot of different meanings and connotations. Whether it be tearing down the foundations of the old, bringing things back to classic rock n' roll but faster, having a DIY spirit, and so on.

  • There's genres like Garage Rock and Protopunk which were considered predecessors in some sense. Somewhat similar/adjacent genres like pub rock. Influences from Glam Rock.

  • The Velvet Underground is sometimes said to be "the first alternative band", setting in place many subsequent genres that would be under the alternative label.

  • After punk, there's Post-Punk, New Wave, Hardcore, Alternative Rock, Grunge, Emo, Indie, and so on. There's just this wide umbrella that's associated with punk when we look back.

Is there an excessive focus on linking genres to punk?

To be clear, my focus isn't a "true punk is this, these artists are/aren't punk". But that genres labels can feel really big, amorphous, and hard to understand as time goes on.

Then again, maybe there's a reason why punk seems to have such influence; creative endeavors in general require us to deal with the past and carve out something new. And this lines up with a number of definitions of punk.

47 comments
88% Upvoted
level 1

The way I've read/heard it out before (can't remember where right now!) is that punk and its associated movements in each wave were a course correction of of rock music to its rebellious, vibrant roots, especially as mainstream rock at certain points developed more pageantry and posturing than the original attitude. I'd imagine this narrative would be attractive to a lot of rock fans...and it seems to have its merits. That would at least explain the fixation on punk.

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· 2 mo. ago
Do it sound good tho?

Well, a lot of people are deeply passionate about punk and have spoken and written a lot about it. It was also a very influential movement in music, so there’s plenty of write about! I’ve lost count of the number of times an artist has said punk was a massive influence on them, even though it isn’t immediately obvious in their music itself.

A lot of those “after punk” movements like emo and grunge and indie were influenced by punk, so much so that they would not have been the same without it, so to me it is absolutely fair to mention that.

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Op · 2 mo. ago

To be clear, I honestly think punk has been pretty inspiring as a a musical movement. The way it's taken many musical turns whether it's being experimental, being stripped down, incorporating new technology, incorporating new musical styles, changing the emotional focus from outside anger to internal reflection.

At the same time, the skeptic in me wonders if we've overstated punk's influence. Are we committing a variation of rockism?

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Punk is the biggest “line” in rock history, with more subgenres coming out of it than anything else. Some caveats:

  1. a lot of those genres are not recognizably punk and are only connected by lineage like nu-metal, post-rock and bedroom pop. I can show you with a playlist how historically the ramones lead to mitski or korn, but direct comparisons are a bit rough

  2. Most of those subgenres come by way of the post-punk -> indie rock connection, but post-punk arguably developed at the same time or even before punk did, which would mean you couldn’t say post-punk came out of punk. This is because Pere Ubu’s first single seems to have come before any of the NY punk bands

The other main direction rock music went is the one that came out of psych rock, which directly leads to prog, hard rock, and the entirety of metal. Then there’s a bunch of mini-lines that never went very far like folk-rock and surf rock

Attitude-wise, punk is definitely responsible for the DIY spirit of rock music, but the anti-pop sentiment might be more of a Led Zeppelin thing. Of course, both the DIY and the anti-mainstream stuff trace directly US folk scenes, and were in full force already back with Woody Guthrie in the 1930s

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Something I find interesting is if you follow say, David Bowie's trajectory, you get a nice slice of music history that intersects with punk, post-punk, new wave, and alternative rock (along with other music genres).

Velvet Underground was a big influence for him. Then, Ziggy Stardust came along which was Glam Rock and Protopunk. Ziggy had a big influence on later punk that emerged in the mid-70s. Johnny Rotten's red hair was even inspired by Ziggy.

But by the time punk actually emerged in the mid-70s, Bowie was already moving on to art rock and the Berlin Trilogy. And his albums would be influences on post-punk and New Wave.

Then later on, his band Tin Machine was the start of his revitalization and could be said to foreshadow later alternative rock and grunge. I think it was the Pearl Jam members who were listening to Tin Machine.

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· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

Admittedly, I'm a big punk guy, but I truly believe that punk rock was the defining rock-based musical movement of the past 50 years. You can pretty easily draw a line between before and after punk rock as a sort of market-correcting force in the direction that rock music was headed. Its influence, both sonically and attitude/ approach is seen in every major rock movement since.

The idea that punk is "simple 3 chord, fast, guitar rock," Is wildly off-base and reductive. Sure, those bands exist, just like Leon Bridges wants to be Sam Cooke there are too many bands trying to sound like '77 punk rock, but most people who truly love punk rock consider it to be more of a scene than a defined sound, encompassing a wide swath of sub-genres that grew out of or are indirectly influenced by the original punk rock movement: everything from grunge, to indie, to thrash metal, to noise rock, to rap rock, to emo, to new wave, to rockabilly, to mainstream rock like The Foo Fighters.

A great example is The Mars Volta who takes every opportunity to cite Drive Like Jehu as their main inspiration.

The influence of punk runs long and deep. The biggest problem with punk is that it's overrun with gatekeepers, which fucking sucks and completely flies in the face of what the movement is supposed to stand for.

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level 1
· 2 mo. ago
Just Say No to Brogaze

Yes. It's a holdover from when the Rock hipsterdom won out as Alternative became the mainstream and the same ideals applied when the internet made it easier to seek out music. But yeah, this outlook does tend to treat actually popular rock from its history, even as it often intersected with the hipper acts. So bands like AC/DC and Kiss are loathed (I'm guilty of this too, to varying degrees), despite also influencing hipper bands like Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, etc.

Punk being a bigger deal in the UK first has also sort of bled into America's take on the genre, which was comparatively niche, so the two get conflated. Both are certainly important... but your average Rock fan in America was listening to Boston, who were also influential.

Steve Hyden had a series on this

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· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

I'm looking at some of these Spotify playlists of "Alternative music" and it casts this wide net ranging from punk, post-punk, art rock, new wave, progressive rock, indie rock, alternative rock and so on.

There's this strange feeling of..."hmm, maybe this makes sense", and then another part of me is thinking "This is totally arbitrary."

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Maybe it's also because after the 90s these kind of big narratives of aesthetic collective movements and ruptures with the past started to make less sense. In rock music this was kinda clear: everything became more and more corporate, the more experimental underground stuff didn't penetrate the mainstream anymore so rock music became more atomized and niche.. while the bands that made it at the top were mostly copycats of the ones that had made it before them - just pick a style, do it well enough and have "star power".
Nirvana were probably the last band that came from an underground background - which valued originality and weirdness and which had its roots on (post) punk too and a hint of its DIY ethic and militancy and sense of community (not only talking about the grunge scene but also bands like Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, etc.) - to make it big and actually change the mainstream landscape.
After that there were some fads: nu metal, emo, folsky cunty rock, a slightly interesting second wave of brit pop in the 00s, but nothing of substance that felt really vital. Now it's all retro shit.
So punk (and post-punk) was really the last big moment in rock music and it deserves all the praise it gets, imo.

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To be fair- some of those other bands, like Sonic Youth and Hüsker Dü already were "big" in the underground well before Nirvana took off, and in fact, gained popularity in the aftermath of "Nevermind" because of the grunge bands' endorsements of them. I'd argue the Seattle scene would not have been what it was if not for the groundwork laid by the hardcore scenes in DC and LA, et. al., in the decade prior.

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Rock music favours history over other genres, there are far more books and other media bout rock music and punk was one of the few 'year zeros' of rock music when everything was before was considered bad. So there's a lot to talk about in that respect and punk was one of the last times rock made such an impact on the mainstream media not just the music scene. Now we live is post modern world where retro culture is everywhere and people keep discovering the past and rewriting it. punk led to much academic writing about what it meant and its sociological impact., only the Beatles or Dylan had the same amount of critical discourse, other genres and artists in rock are taken less seriously or studied. punk also appeals to rock fans and musicians because it's anti authoritarian and dumb fun.

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Rock music certainly seems to intersect with a lot of different narratives and ideas: the album era, this sacred period between The Beatles to Nirvana, the last time when "the greatest art was the most commercial"(a view held by certain rock musicians).

I try to stay aware of the biases, but it is an interesting reflection of what people prioritize.

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IMHO true punk is saying "no" to the change from music as an art form to music as product - i.e. specifically designing music for selling units rather than an expression of artistic endeavour.

I'm not saying if you sell a lot of records your music isn't art, but intentionally making music with the end goal of profit overpowering creative expression is business rather than art.

Yo La Tengo and Miles Davis are way more "punk" than Green Day.

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LoL Miles Davis? He was all about selling records. That’s why he signed with Columbia. That’s why he decided to go electric in the 70s. Not a good example. Maybe the recently deceased Pharaoh Sanders would be a better example.

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Punk begins with the DIY attitude. It has to have that to be punk, just as certain social norms have to be true for hip-hop to be a complete scene.

From byob--and byo equipment--to your 15 minute allotment, to going back to your crash pad to jam and learn music on your own, it's a statement of being unapoligetically not polished--not accepting current norms, not experiencing a life of comfort, not worried that major labels want to make money, not music.

The problem with this is that the grass roots in Indiana and Florida are different than the grass roots in California, New York, and Seattle. They're different within two parts of any given state. I wouldn't expect the Miami and Jacksonville sounds to be the same, just like I know the sounds vary between SoCal, the East Bay, Portland, and Seattle--or Salem and Olympia, if we want to get technical.

Every sound is different, because it comes from a different place.

But it's all punk.

The problem that occurs when people try to gatekeep by comparing some distant sound to the one they're most familiar is those people are denying others the same experiences they had when they were making their own sounds.

So, being one of the comfortable suburban youth who has the parents drop them off for music lessons for years on end, then finding their voice in pop or session music, does not make a punk artist, just as it doesn't make one a blues artist. These genres take exclusionary, experiential practice, unless the whole band are savants.

So often I've heard guitar wannabes tell me that the blues are easy, then they'll play the right chords with the right timing, and all I can say is, "You'll get there. Just keep practicing." And they seem to think they just nailed it, and I'm not being serious. There are quantifiable aspects to both punk and the blues, and pop is not one of them. But like pop--and emo---they were both borne of folk. I won't even bother with indie, because it's a lot of folk and pop, not much more.

I don't subscribe to any music services which tell me what specific genres certain songs supposedly fall in. I was so unimpressed by the sound quality of Napster downloads, I pretty much ignore that branch of music collection. So it was a shock to me to come to a place where people were using micro-amalgous--like screamo--or wildly oxymoronic--like pop-punk--labels for sub-genres where no sub-genre existed, when the music was being produced.

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The golden age of rock criticism (Bangs, Christgau, Kaye, Meltzer, Tosches) was from this era and probably why it looms so large; see also the Rolling Stone, Creem canonites.

Seeds of their culture come from late in the big band era. Benny Goodman and some contemporaries started to write solos specific to certain musicians -- not just generic sax players. And there are music reviews from this age that noticed groups of young men who would show up at what were essentially dances just to watch these particular instrumentalists play. Then they'd leave. This was the beginning of critics who began to cover and have strong opinions on dance music but -- wouldn't you know -- didn't dance.

Women danced, however. The narrative of American popular music is decidedly male and therefore ignores bands/artists that were popular among half of the listening audience. Paul Whiteman, Paul Anka, Pat Boone, early Sinatra: all derided and discarded, mainly because they made music that didn't yield to specific critical demands.

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Because music development is messy. There are no clear lines. Everything has a predecessor. Everything is influenced by and influences something else in a massive interwoven ecosystem.

Then music historians, critics and record companies come in later and try to sort everything out and give things timelines and labels and categories.

The word “punk” as a genre is as un-punk in terms of its aesthetic attitude and goal as can possibly be. The originators weren’t thinking about genre. They were anti-establishment, anti-rules, anti-labels, against any form of organized system.

Now everything they’ve done has co-opted and commercialized, and you’ve got college professors writing essays about it all and trying to put things into neat little boxes that fit a narrative they’re trying to create.

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Genre is a meaningless concept anyway, despite the fact that it makes up 99% of all posts on this subreddit. Genre is just a way for us to very roughly and broadly divide music based on how it sounds, which is totally subjective. More succinctly, punk music is whatever you say it is.

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I'll go into a Punk Club and tell somebody that Cher is Punk cause genre is meaningless

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For me i love almost all kinds of rock music but have never really listened to any kind of punk/metal. (Unless 80s king crimson counts)

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