Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of early to mid 80’s punk, post punk, and hardcore. I know that there are some of you that can’t get into that music for the dissonance involved. To me it is just so pure. It’s like industrial folk music. It’s like a primary color. You can’t dilute the stuff. It is also music that is full of ideas. So much of what passes as punk nowadays is bland. It’s like pop music with loud guitars. This stuff was primal. I was born in ’78 and didn’t even start getting into records till the very late 80’s, so it’s not like I’m viewing this stuff with rose tinted glasses.
There were certain punk bands like Minor Threat and the Misfits that made it into my world as an adolescent, but a lot of the great bands from that era didn’t. It seems like music was more regional then. A lot of the East Coast bands seemed to be in my friends’ older brothers’ record collections, but ones from the west coast didn’t have as much of an impact on us in our youth. (I grew up in Pennsylvania.)
A lot of this stuff is also really interesting musically. It used punk as a jumping off point, but wasn’t punk in the way that it is often thought about now. This stuff was artistic, even if the working class kids that made of lot of these records weren’t thinking in necessarily an art school kind of way. Maybe a better word would be creative. It was creative music made by creative people.
I mean what do you make of the Bad Brains? They sound like space aliens at warp speed. I don’t even know if they played songs most of the time. It’s more like four guys got together and created the sound of a mechanical whale breaching. I don’t think their early recordings could be recreated. They are almost like someone captured a one time natural event.
Listen to the guitar playing in the band Embrace, Ian MacKaye’s project between Minor Threat and Fugazi. It’s so melodic, but it’s almost liquid in form. As soon as you try to pin it down it changes shape.
Or take a listen to Black Flag’s My War. At times it veers closer to Black Sabbath than true punk music, but that’s the thing, the really great bands from this era didn’t have rules. It could be extremely political or it could be garish fun like The Misfits. All this music is the sound of individuals expressing themselves.
I am an obsessive music fan that will spend hours some nights just combing the internet looking to stumble upon a new sound or a great new band. I really really want there to be great new bands. So many nights though, I end up hearing style over personality. There are many bands that can create cathedrals of sound, only for those cathedrals to be hollow at the center. I am not looking for any specific thing, other then that thing that once you hear it, you know what it is. It’s the sound of someone expressing themselves as best they can.
We are dropping bombs on other nations. There are people dating naked on our television screens. People are having trouble finding meaningful work. Doesn’t anyone have anything to say about what’s going on?!!!