Friday, 19 August 2011

The Holy (Jeans) Trinity

So after a triumphant manifesto for how I would never give up the fight of excavating and sharing new music, I promptly found myself kinda burnt out on writing long pieces on how punk music is the best shit ever, and now with my triumphant return, I choose not to focus on some new brave one-chord wonders, but write some brief bollocks about possibly the three most famous punk bands in the history of ever. Great work, Joe!

I remember some years back, on a forum I was on, someone asked for advice on how to write a presentation for school on 'the history of punk rock' and this was followed by a flurry of music nerds (myself included) all scrambling to show off how much they knew about lineage of this bastard little musical form. New York Doll mentions were trumped by MC5s which were trumped by Stooges which were trumped by Velvet Undergrounds. People mentioned the stripped down rock and roll of Who tracks like My Generation. Early heavy metal was namedropped. Some people obviously swinging for the fences drew a think between the philosophy of punk rock and that of free jazz. It was chaos, until one clear thinker, one wise prophet whose name remains lost in the mists of time and my less than perfect memory, came into the thread and posted the words that I will never forget. "Fuck this noise," they said, "All you need are The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash."

And they were completely right.

So yes, yet again I am going to dance around that eternal question of "What is punk rock?" as if you weren't already bored of a thousand discussions of it, alright sick of me myself repeatedly saying "Yeah, it's kind of a stupid question and there's no real answer to it because what punk rock means to you is as personal as the pimples on your arse but I'm gonna try and answer it anyway."

Punk rock, in all its forms, can always trace something back to these three bands. That punk band you like, yes that one, think about it. Does it have right-on left wing lyrics? Does it play fast and loud? Does every member of the band seem constantly pissed-off at the world? If so, then it owes something to these three groups. Simply speaking: The Ramones defined the style of the music. They codified the fast, short, simple, aggressive rock songs. The Sex Pistols' essential attitude is the template for the fuck-you swagger of a lot of punk rockers, swearing on TV, generally looking like a tabloid writer's wet-dream of moral decay. The Clash politicised punk, gave it a purpose beyond the cheap shock tactics of swastikas and spit, channeled that energy into a progressive mold. Look at any punk band and you'll find at least one of the three, sound, soul and speeches. You're gonna get at least one, probably two, possibly three. (This is basically my FUCK YOU! GET PUMPED! idea traced all the way back)

Now this isn't all they did. The Clash also were one of the first bands (along with the Damned and The Jam) to move away from that rigid musical template and bring in other influences while retaining that essential punk energy, The Ramones also expanded their sound although to a lesser degree but are mainly unfairly recalled as stylistically monotonous and uncompromising. The Sex Pistols enshrined self-destruction in the punk toolset for good or ill, but right at the generally recognised year zero, the pissiness, politics and pure adrenaline noise are the most important foundation for all that follows.

So when people say "Where did punk come from?" and that scramble starts again, to equate it with the amphetamine thrill of the beats, the anti-authoritarian simplicity of Woody Guthrie, it's cool if you just wanna say "Fuck this noise. All you need to know is The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash." and from there you can go wherever you want.

Like I said, the the sound, soul and speeches, three different types of posturing, three different types of progress, all twisting round each other, interacting with kisses, bites, gunshots and frottage, linking in perfect and smooth and tearing apart with great fleshy rips. Kids angry, packed with snot, music fast, noisy grot and fuck you if you think if this is our lot.

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