Sunday, November 27, 2005

Weekly Random Ten (27 November 2005)

Not So Random Edition

If you came here looking for science, this post will be a disappointment. Sorry. Instead, I'll be talking about something I know very little about: music. It's kind of appropriate given that this is merely an introduction to a (not so) random collection of 10 songs. My taste in music is so bad, I have been told by multiple roommates to stop playing whatever crap I was listening to.

In the spirit of bad taste, I took another one of those stupid online quizzes, and found out which fucked up genius composer I am.

you are Joe Strummer!
Joe Strummer... you've been through the cleansing
fire of punk, only to pick up a few venereal
diseases along the way. You're more of an
optimist when it comes to fucked-up genius.
But you can write wicked-deadly riffs and lyrics.

I thought, "That's cool -- I really like the Clash and the Mescaleros," and it got me to thinking about a documentary that I caught on IFC a short while back, Punk: Attitude. The film is an excellent introduction to early punk from New York City and London, but it falls a bit short when it comes to some of the more recent bands -- and by recent I mean post 1980.

The movie begins with the major influences of early punk: MC5, the Stooges, the New York Dolls from the US, Bowie and Mott the Hoople in the UK. There are other influences (including bands I can't think of off the top of my head and early rock n' roll like Little Richard), but I'm not going to spend all of my time listing them. The film also treats the early days of punk in New York well, showing footage of the Ramones, Richard Hell, the Dictators, and the other CBGBs regulars and interviewing some of the major players in that scene. Of course, the film also deals with the London 1977 scene, including interviews with Paul Simonon, Mick Jones, Poly Styrene, the Slits, Chrissie Hynde, etc.

In all, it's a fun movie for any interested in the history of rock n' roll (especially if you like punk). The old footage of concerts is great, and the folks telling the stories were the machines behind the revolution. The problem comes as the story shifts from the New York and London scene to the bands that were influenced by that music. The New Wave, No Wave, and Synthpop music that followed are briefly mentioned, as are the hardcore bands (they spend some time talking about Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, Black Flag, etc). But almost nothing is said about the California scene -- after a brief mention of Sonic Youth, Fugazi and some other in between bands, the film suddenly jumps to the early 1990s claiming, "Punk disappeared in the 1980s, only to reemerge in Seattle with Nirvana."

The new so-called punk bands (Blink 182, Sum 41) and other rock bands (for some reason, Limp Bizkit gets a fair bit of time in the film -- quite odd), were greatly influenced bands from the 1980s. The music from Los Angeles (Bad Religion, NOFX, Descendents) and the Bay Area (Operation Ivy and the other Gilman Street bands) are the inspiration behind a lot of the stuff that gets called punk today. It's as if the film-makers were trying to fit the film into a neat little 90 minute package, and cut 1985-90 to make it work. Making a documentary on punk and not including Epitaph or Lookout records may not be grounds for exportation from the punk nation, but it's somewhat odd. Also, they briefly mention the dub and reggae that was spun at the London clubs in between sets, but don't really deal with the ska/punk fusion that happened as a result or the two-tone bands that were probably influenced by it (Specials, Madness, etc).

Here it is, a not so random ten consisting of some of my favorite punk songs:
  1. Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen in Love With)?
  2. The Clash - (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais
  3. MC5 - Teenage Lust
  4. Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation
  5. Bad Religion - You Are (The Government)
  6. Rancid - Lady Liberty
  7. Operation Ivy - Sound System
  8. Social Distortion - Ball and Chain
  9. Descendents - Jean is Dead
  10. NOFX - Liza and Louise


At 11:26 PM, Blogger agnostic said...

Cool quiz, says I'm Captain Beefheart, "one of the first, raw, genuinely strange, creative and gritty." One cool part of SNL going down the tubes in the early '80s was that they'd let someone like that on as the musical guest and not have to worry about ratings. I saw it on rerun, it was great.

I got halfway into punk in middle / high school, and I still dig some of it, but for my money the best is the bluesy proto-punk stuff like _Raw Power_. Listening to each song feels like you're being electrocuted into an intricate dance -- which is the part of punk I like -- and lacks the repetitive / nihilistic tendency I associate w/ much (but not all) of the later stuff. Again, never got heavily immersed in all the bands, so could be mischaracterising somewhat... but don't think I'm too off-base.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger RPM said...

The thesis of the movie was that punk was more of an attitude than a style of music. It was born out of a distaste for the 70s era arena rock and an attempt to get back to the origins of rock n roll. I guess any style of music that challenges the main stream tendencies can be considered punk.


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