Punk forums by underground
April 2, 2008, 3:25 am
Filed under: Journalism, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Perhaps the best place to gauge how fans feel about a recent album release is the band’s myspace page. The message board posts comprise of either the positive “love your new album” “please come to our city”, “your band inspires me” comments or the negative “that’s not punk”, “you’ve sold out”, “I used to like you guys”, “you’ve gone emo” comments, reflecting fans discontentment of their favourite bands new release.

There are very few things in this life more disappointing than hearing your favourite band release an average album. We’ve all been there. The recent example that comes to mind is Anti-flag’s Bright Lights of America. Highly anticipated after their brilliant (ok, that’s what I think, feel free to disagree!) For Blood and Empire, their recent release Bright Lights of America has left a few fans disappointed.

People compare the Anti-flag album unfavourable with Pennywise’s latest (released through Myspace records?!) Reason to Believe, which fans claim stays true to the band’s sound, whereas Anti-flag has “sold out”. Don’t get my wrong Pennywise’s latest album is possibly their best, it really is awesome, but honestly Pennywise albums all sound the same, and when they try do something different, it just doesn’t sound right. Again feel free to disagree!

I confess I wasn’t too sure about the new A-F cd when I first heard it, it did not capture me the way Blood and Empire did the first time I heard that. It is an album that needed a few more listens and has really grown on me. In fact I love it. It still has what makes A-F great in my opinion, the album is simply different to their backlist. The fact is, like humans, music evolves. Anti-flag simply grew a new limb or something, maybe a tail. Or if I want to seem really cheesy, perhaps they grew wings with Bright Lights of America, and only now can truly fly. Anyway.

There is a term that has arisen online, called the ‘honest goodbye’. It is the phrase used when a band releases a single from a highly anticipated new album that does not reflect the rest of the record it is released on. Bad Religion’s honest goodbye was slower than the rest of The New Maps of Hell, and initially disappointed many fans. The album, as it turned out, was very well received by most fans. I for one think honest goodbye is an awesome track, and liked the variety the album has, no one wants to listen to a dozen identical songs, but there’s no pleasing everyone. Now when bands release an average song first up fans optimistic say “perhaps its like honest goodbye.”

The other thing that interests me is the forum these debates take place in. Punk as a community prides itself on its DIY ethic, its underground existence and its ingenuity. Punk has also shunned the mainstream, whether it be the media or record labels. The internet seems a natural place for punk to thrive, an environment where corporate influence can be side stepped and you can say what you like to who you like, with no threat of censorship (unless you’re in China! By the way, how is the scene up there?) Website’s have popped up for local scenes (see punkas.com for a great New Zealand site) and band sites are a great way for bands to interact with fans. The internet provides users with the ability to communicate news, ideas, information on their own terms. It seems to me that the internet was made for punk!

I now find it interesting in the way that the underground has sort of been sucked up by the mainstream. Popular DIY-style websites have been bought out by large corporations. New Zealand’s trademe online auction website was an example of a young persons entrepreneurial initiative that was sold for an incredible figure ($700 million?) to Fairfax news group. Myspace’s sale to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, is another example of an online underground website becoming massively popular and then being acquired by a large multi-national corporation. Punk communities are active within both of those websites; punk and band merchandise is sold on trademe, and many bands now have myspace pages. But especially in the case of myspace, how punk is it to be on a website that is owned by a media tycoon that does his utmost to suppress media diversity? How can Strike anywhere sing about the fourth estate, about press freedom, and have a myspace page? How can NOFX rock against Bush and have a page on a website owned by the guy who runs the propaganda machine that helped George win/steal two presidential elections? Then again, does it matter?

It did strike me as weird that Pennywise would sign to myspace records. Am I missing something? Did I mis-interpret the Pennywise song off The Fuse intitled Fox TV? Perhaps you can place it in the same category as Anti-flag’s song Corporate Rock recorded whilst signed to Sony’s RCA records.

Record labels are often a source of angst for punk online posters. As soon as a band makes the move from indie to major, the band has sold out. Even if the music is still as hardcore and the lyrics still as anti-authoritarian the band is no longer the same. They’ve sold themselves to the devil, they’re only after the money and they have become mainstream. Bands often reply in interviews that major labels ensure the music is heard by as many people as possible. I think that is a perfectly legitimate reason to make the move. Besides, why not get paid more. As long as the integrity of the music is not forsaken, why not? Why not let more people hear the music that you worked your arse off making?

As for staying so underground that no one ever hears you’re music, what’s the point? Sure the most important thing about making music is enjoy it yourself, before you concern yourself with what others think make sure you like it, but isn’t music about communicating? I enjoy punk not just because of the music, but mainly for the ideas and themes of the lyrics. If music is only punk if it’s underground (and hence five guys have heard it), what is the point of punk?

Some say punk is dead. Perhaps it hasn’t changed. Perhaps it matured. Perhaps it evolved.


2 Comments so far
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Punk will never die!!!

Comment by AuctionBeginner

So I saw that The Sex Pistols have a DVD release soon. There’ll Always Be An England looks really good. I wish I could have gone to one of those shows. Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001FBJUMM?ie=UTF8&tag=rhinocom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001FBJUMM

Comment by dokken1

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