British PPPUNK: Why it is important today
Punk and Britain has always had an on-off-relationship. With hip-hop dominating the political-music scene, many could think that lauding punk as the best method of dismantling the ideological opposition to be foolish. However, despite it not being the most on-trend form of rebellion, the message and the spirit are still extremely important for our national musical identity. The core effects (British) punk had, which show its importance today, is four-fold. Firstly, it influenced how bands perform. Most artists who play guitar-music idolise the way in which punk-rock did it, intimate, a bit rabid with a touch of aggression. Secondly, the affect it had on the musical sound and content. Thirdly, the diversity of emotion it can convey. This element is made especially potent with the combination of accessibility. Fourthly, the voice it gives to the youth, the under-privileged and those without power. These four factors run extremely deep in the blood of British music.
While rock ‘n’ roll and mods upped the ante in terms of live performance, punk really kicked it into overdrive. Whether it be Mark E. Smith performing from the dressing room, or Lydon hurling a ball of spit at a member of the crowd, or even Joy Division accidentally causing a riot. The element punk brought into the fray was one of pure energy. Most artists aspire to this level of performance, the aggression, passion and energy can be seen at almost every gig involving a guitar. Anything from Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age to The Libertines all have hallmarks of punk rock performance.
The crooners of the mid-century caused reverberations that can still be heard today, but the impact of punk was seismic. A sort of influencing ping-pong across the Atlantic most certainly played a role (The Velvet Underground, Dead Kennedys, Patti Smith), but British punk was the battering ram. With members of The Smiths, Joy Division and The Fall reportedly in attendance at the Sex Pistols Lesser Free Trade Hall gig in 1976 the affect is noticeably quite profound. The Smiths is one of the leading favourites by current indie-bands, Joy Division’s mix of synth and growling bass being particularly on trend and The Fall’s tenderness and aggression playing a part in many left-field acts. Fat White Family, Cabbage, Shame, IDLES, Goat Girl, up-and-comers Drahla, Savages, Sleaford Mods all hold the creations of the above bands in a high regard, whether overtly or more subtly.
Thirdly, it is the pure feeling and accessibility. The concept of it, is about feeling, emotion and candidness. A lot of musical genres touch on feeling, chart pop tends to hit emotional hot-topics lyrically but overall it is about what sounds nice. Punk tries to flick the switch on that thinking, it is unfiltered feeling. It can be angry, humorous and sad simultaneously. Punk’s DIY approach means it is an incredibly easy way for people to get into music, all you need is an instrument, a couple of hours of practice and you can be the next Ramones. Combining the spirit of Punk and its accessibility, it inspires new generations to pick up an instrument (or microphone) and do what the artist does.
It is the voice of society, the youth, the disadvantaged, the discriminated. All of the usual suspects have injected a powerlessness into the current generation of young people, this powerlessness is exactly what punk set-out to break-down. 'London Calling' by The Clash is an excellent example. The Clash looked at the panicked headlines, the insecurity of the nation and produced something everyone could relate to: militaristic-marching guitars to lyrics like ‘The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in. Meltdown expected, the wheat is growin' thin. Engines stop running’. Despite being written nearly forty years ago, the poignancy of the lyricism is relatable. Climate change, nuclear war and warnings of food shortages and government stockpiling, 1979 or 2018?