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How do you define 'Punk Rock'?

Discussion in 'Music, punk scene & subcultures' started by SmokeyJoe, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. SmokeyJoe

    SmokeyJoeExperienced Member Experienced member


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    Jan 17, 2016
     
    Musically speaking?

    Genres have alway been a little hard for me to wrap my head around. For the most part they feel like arbitrary labels cooked up by some marketing department, rather than an accurate categorization of musical styles. Lately I've been looking up a lot of old bands, trying to give myself the 'punk rock education' I thought I'd missed the first time around. But one thing I've noticed is that a lot of these bands sound very different from each other. Hell, a lot of this music I actually did hear on the radio growing up, and never realized it was supposed to be punk.

    So I'm curious to hear people's opinions on what makes a song "Punk Rock" rather than just rock, or some other genre like rap or metal. Is it just the attitude and lyrics? I've heard artists like Joan Jett and Social Distortion refered to as punk, but they just sound like typical 80's-90's rock to me. Not saying it's bad, I grew up on that stuff, but I don't get the distinction. Black Flag strikes me as a slightly more rock-oriented version of the Beastie Boys, and Agent Orange is a straight-up Dick Dale style surf rock band until they start singing--ditto with a lot of Dead Kennedys stuff like 'Police Truck' and 'Holiday in Cambodia'.

    Is Ice-T's 'Freedom of Speech' punk? It's certainly got the attitude and the politics down. Plus it has fricking Jello Biafra doing back up vocals and only leans slightly more towards rap than Black Flag's 'TV Party'.

    I'd even consider KMFDM a punk band in spirit if not in sound. Just look at tracks like 'DIY', 'Free Your Hate', and 'New American Century'--not to mention 'WWIII' and 'Anarchy.'

    I guess what I'm asking here is: Where do you draw the line?
     

  2. Vulture

    VultureExperienced Member Experienced member


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    Nov 12, 2015
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    You have a good point with the ambiguity of Punk. However, it's important not to use it as an umbrella term. Let's go at it from the individualist view. What does it sound like to you? what are the dominant traits?

    Take Crass Hmmm... this band is talking about anarchy and has a punk sound, it's also very old school punk... Let's call it Old School Anarcho-punk!

    Sometimes, when perhaps Punk isn't the best way to describe something, or another word would work better, despite huge punk overtones, I don't even use "punk" in the genre name. For example, I put Autonomads under "Anrachist-Dub".

    That's my system, at least. And why would we confrom to the RULES of genre categorization? If I did that, I'd have Chumbawamba and Conflict in the same Genre!
     
  3. SmokeyJoe

    SmokeyJoeExperienced Member Experienced member


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    Jan 17, 2016
     
    Haha, yeah. Well that's definitely the way I approach music--there's stuff I like and stuff I don't and songs that I think go well together in a playlist and that's about as organized as it gets. But since I don't use categories like that personally, it makes me curious what people mean when they talk about bands having a "punk sound" or whatever. I'm not asking "what is punk?" That's not a question other people can answer for you. What I'm trying to ask is "What musical elements do you consider punk?"

    I'm interested, partly because this site has a music library that's divided into "Anarcho-Punk" and "Non-Punk Anarcho Music" sections, and I might be adding some tracks of my own to that library in the future. I don't really care what other people might label my music as. Personally I think it's punk as fuck whether I'm playing rock or singing old 1920's-style swing. But if I do end up uploading something, I'd like to be considerate enough to put it in a section where people would expect to find that kind of music--whatever kind that particular track happens to be. ;)
     
  4. Vulture

    VultureExperienced Member Experienced member


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    Nov 12, 2015
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    If you look at it, the downloads are divided by (English) anarcho-punk and international anarcho-punk. So ask yourself if your music relates to anarchy or social commentary. If it doesn't you should find a more general community to share it with. If it does, just put it under the anarcho-punk downloads! Fuck trying to figure out what punk sounds like! Jello said " if the music's gotten boring, it's because of the people who want everyone to sound the same". No one ever became punk by trying to conform to pre-existing definitions, thus the wide spectrum.
     
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