Sunday, March 9, 2008

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #7

Though it came and went in the blink of an eye, of all the musical movements, punk tends to live on in the imaginations of people. Just look at the number of documentaries, books, academic studies, magazine cover stories, compilation albums, and fashion aesthetics that still draw on punk. Whether it really was as revolutionary as it seemed, punk has definitely become iconic and continues to influence new bands with its sneering nihilism and DIY-learn-three-chords-and-form-a-band approach.

My personal connection to punk is one that actually started relatively later in life than for most. I was about nineteen when I first got into punk. Unlike most angsty teenagers, I wasn't particularly rebellious as a teen and I didn't feel all that angry at the world just yet. Once I left high school, things definitely changed. I became pretty disillusioned with everything - I didn't know where I was headed and all the promises that education made seemed pretty useless. I spent two years taking a communications diploma, knowing that I hated the field because whether I took journalism, public relations or advertising, I would be selling my soul everyday, and learning that I was more than likely bound to become a capitalist prole for the rest of my life. I was frustrated and directionless and...then I found The Clash.

Songs from their debut album, like Clash City Rockers, White Riot, What's My Name and Career Opportunities, were life-changing - they expressed all the frustration I felt through crashing chords and Joe Stummer's nearly incomprehensible vocals. I soon purchased other Clash albums and started reading anything I could about the band. In my pursuit of all things The Clash, I found the rest of the 1976-77 UK punk scene: Sex Pistols, The Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Buzzcocks, The Adverts, and X-Ray Spex. Their songs were provocative, nihilistic, and the farthest thing from romantic - everything I wanted in music at the time.

Not only did the blistering music grip me, but I embraced the punk aesthetic. I wanted to dress like a punk (of course I realize that the whole idea of a "credible" punk fashion actually reveals punk to be one of many poses that was, in many ways, similar to movements before it) and annoy people. When I backpacked through Europe at age twenty, I made sure I visited Camden Town and purchased a London Calling t-shirt and a pair of tartan bondage trousers from a dodgy store where I had to try on clothes on a landing. Eventually, I expanded from the UK punk scene to its American predecessors: The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and New York Dolls. Out of all the punk bands The Clash will always remain my favourite because they stood for something more than nihilism - they made politics cool and managed to ride out the punk wave with dignity and innovative blending of musical genres.

Punk had its variations and interesting blurring of styles - bands like The Stranglers, The Jam and Ian Dury & the Blockheads don't sound punk in the typical sense (the fact Paul Weller is generally regarded as the Modfather points to this overlapping of genres), but they are nonetheless always considered to fall under the banner of the punk scene. Eventually, punk turned into a cartoon along with Sid Vicious, who unfortunately seems to be the most iconic punk of all, and ultimately ended with the same fate as most subcultures: defusion and diffusion. Of course many of those who started out in punk moved on to great things in the post-punk period, and some like Adam Ant and Billy Idol re-fashioned themselves into MTV stars. When I misguidedly attended the Vans Warped Tour four years ago (an event which will apparently haunt me for the rest of my life), I got to witness the defusion and diffusion of punk taken to its logical conclusion - a completely commerical and co-opted affair with bands that yelled at kids to vote because...well, just because. Of course most of the bands were actually pop-punk and/or that debauched term, emo. The message was to rebel by consuming as much as possible in a parking lot with a half-pipe. Needless to say, I felt very lost in my Clash t-shirt.

For a decent history of British punk, read Jon Savage's England's Dreaming, and for something more academic, read Dick Hebdige's seminal work Subculture and Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces. As for punk on film, watch Derek Jarman's Jubilee. I didn't try to be particularly original in making this mix - it's actually fairly typical of punk compilations. But in the end, I think that they're the songs that drew me to punk in the first place and I don't see the point of being pretentious about it and searching out the most obscure tracks. I'm going to call this mix A Riot of My Own, and just like punk itself, it hammers away and runs its course quickly. But it feels brilliant.

Kick Out the Jams - MC5

Personality Crisis - New York Dolls

I Wanna Be Your Dog - Iggy and The Stooges

Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones

Blank Generation - Richard Hell and the Voidoids

Chinese Rocks - Johnny Thunders

God Save the Queen - Sex Pistols

White Riot - The Clash

Orgasm Addict - Buzzcocks

Pogo Dancing - The Vibrators

New Rose - The Damned

One Chord Wonders - The Adverts

Nobody's Scared - Subway Sect

Zerox - Adam and the Ants

Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees

Ready, Steady, Go - Generation X

In the City - The Jam

The Saints Are Coming - The Skids

Peaches - The Stranglers

Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll - Ian Dury & the Blockheads

Suspect Device (Alternative Take) - Stiff Little Fingers

Teenage Kicks - The Undertones

Oh Bondage, Up Your's! - X-Ray Spex

Weekly Mix #7 (Megaupload)