“The rumors of the death of Punk have been greatly exaggerated.”
“ARE YOU READY TO ROLL, ARE YOU READY TO RATTLE!”
The words are meant to shake a once-vibrant, music-listening world out of the gloomy doldrums we now find ourselves in. It is heartbreaking to see how cookie -utter, processed, auto-tuned so-called artist have lulled us to sleep. It is now a world that looks to American Idol to give them a clue as to what we should be listening to and who should be celebrated. It is a world that seems to believe that Punk Rock music is dead … well, hold the phone. Punk Rock on line 2 and it wants a word with us.
“ARE YOU READY TO ROLL, ARE YOU READY TO RATTLE!”
These are the lyrics sung like a battle cry by Captain of The Street Dogs, Mike McColgan. You don’t know of The Street Dogs? Well, you will. The Boston-based five piece is proof that Punk rock is not dead. It never died; it has been here for a long time and as long as we have air in our lungs and something to say, PUNK WILL NEVER DIE!
What most have lost sight of is what punk means. Tattoos, Mohawk fins, piercing, jackboots, spikes and leather jackets do not and never have defined what it is to be punk. Punk is not a look that you can buy at your mall’s Hot Topic store. A preppie kid can be as punk as the kid who fashions himself after Rancid’s Tim Armstrong. Punk is a belief in yourself, your friends and what drives you in life. It’s not exclusive to power chords and screaming. Punk is not dead. It, like all great music and movements, has simply evolved into something new and diverse.
I got into a conversation with a kid at a show recently. He was dressed as if he googled images of Punk and then went out and bought the clothes he saw in the pictures. His jacket was complete with Misfits, Sex Pistols and Clash patches. He told me that Green Day sucked and that bands like Simple Plan, Good Charlotte and New Found Glory had ruined Punk Rock music. He said Joe Strummer would roll over in his grave to know Green Day had made American Idiot into a Broadway musical.
I told him, as directly as I could, that if that’s what he believed then he doesn’t know anything about the late, great “Punk Rock Warlord” Joe Strummer. Strummer, in my opinion, would be quite pleased with what has happen to the sound he help bring to life. To Joe, Punk had only one rule: There are no rules. Being a Punk means you do what want to do and damn anyone that tries to stop you or tell you that you can’t. Hopefully, the young kid will learn that as he continues to go to shows and grow in the Punk scene.
Today, there are so many great Punk bands doing their best to keep expanding on what The Clash, Pistols and Ramones gave us. I mentioned the Street Dogs earlier, and their place in the fight to bring Punk back to the forefront cannot be under estimated. Mike McColgan put his life force behind every note he sings. Their latest, self-titled album is one I can’t recommend enough. The one time lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys with Toby Bean, Marcus Holler, Johnny Rioux and Paul Rucker may not be household names when you think of Punk rock. You may not think of them before Johnny Rotten, Mick Jones or Joey Ramone, but give them time. Their music deals with social and political issues for the most part. It’s what they are passionate about and so they play it hard, they play it loud and fight the good fight. That’s what Punk is. As a music fan, even if you aren’t a fan of Punk, you have to tip your cap to the Street Dogs.
The more I think about the young punker’s feelings about Green Day, the more it bothers me. I like Green Day. They are as Punk as they come. Yes, they are now selling out arenas. Yes, they have Grammy awards. Yes, American Idiot is a Broadway musical. Yes, they are millionaires. Does that mean they have to turn their Punk badges in and
call themselves something else? In short, NO! Their music has reached millions. They continue to challenge themselves and build on their original sound.
And to you so-called old school Punks, that’s exactly what The Clash did and why they put themselves on the map and could play Shea Stadium. If you are just a class warrior, then you aren’t punk rock. You’re a jealous clown that will sit and judge rather than getting up off your ass and make your voice heard. Better to start a band and write a song challenging Green Day and their stardom then hate them for the bleachers. I think Billie Joe, Mike and Tre’ would at least respect that. That’s punk.
This summer, I played 25 dates on the Vans Warped Tour. A summer festival that for all tense and purposes was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Kevin Lyman, his hard working staff, Punk and Ska bands. This past tour those types of bands were in short supply. The Warped Tour has been overloaded with “Scream-o” bands like White Chapel and Pierce The Vail. Hey, I’m not a fan. In fact, I really dislike their music. It’s not my thing. These bands scream and growl but massive crowds of gothic looking, back-pack toting, seemingly unhappy kids mobbed the stages to see them. I won’t tell them not to, but I will tell them to check out other bands like The Bouncing Soul for instance.
I spoke with one of the friends I met on the tour. He plays in a great Punk band called Far From Finished. Again, if you haven’t heard of them it’s not because punk is dead it’s because you simply haven’t heard of them yet. Anyway, we were talking about the need for Punk now more than ever. The world is drowning in problems big and small.
We have so much to say and so much fight inside us. What better way to get it out then through good ol’ punk rock and roll? It’s my feeling that the world will wake up soon enough and say, “Where have you gone Punk rock music? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
And punk will show up once again.
It won’t look like it did in 1977, but it will be just as powerful. While MTV was playing anything but music videos, while Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson were telling us who could sing and who was, “just dreadful” or “pitchy, dawg.” Punk Rock was sharpening its edge, doing roadwork and getting ready to climb back into the ring.
The time is here and I ask as Mike McColgan does, “ARE YOU READY TO ROLL, ARE YOU READY TO RATTLE!”
BANDS TO CHECK OUT: Far From Finished, The River Boat Gamblers, The Bouncing Souls, Flatfoot 56, The Street Dogs, The Exposed, The Frantic, The Flatliners, Teenage Bottler Rocket, The Jukebox Romantics, Swinging Utters.