Some say it emerged from New York City on the back of a bowery rat; to others it's defined by the nihilistic British fashionistas popularly associated with the term. Either way, punk rock in the mid-1970s was the most shocking expression... [more]
Some say it emerged from New York City on the back of a bowery rat; to others it's defined by the nihilistic British fashionistas popularly associated with the term. Either way, punk rock in the mid-1970s was the most shocking expression of youthful alienation and revolt that had yet appeared in the West -- no small feat in a century of successively shocking decades. A bleak socio-economic outlook and boredom with mainstream culture meant that movements on both sides of the Atlantic were ripe to discover aggression-fueled musical forms.
The faster, louder, dirtier, ruder sound united many disparate artists and anti-artists at first, although later arguments arose as to who belonged in the genre. The music worked both as a means of expression for The Ramones' teenage lust for oblivion and as a protest tool for would-be working class heroes The Clash, who termed punk "white man's rebel music." They compared punk to reggae, which was just beginning to hugely influence other UK punk rockers from The Pop Group to The Stiff Little Fingers.
Although punk was quick to distance itself from the more lightweight new wave, in truth they shared many of the same players. Often, original punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees ended up as trendsetters for the more chart-worthy new wave. New Yorkers Blondie and the Talking Heads also started off in the punk scene at the beginning, but made the switch from street cred to store credit.
If the Rolling Stones disaster at Altamont was the final coffin nail for the 1960s, the suicide-driven transformation of the proto-punk group Joy Division into the aptly named New Order is an allegory for the end of the 1970s. When the gloom anthem "Love will Tear Us Apart" was released in the wake of Ian Curtis' self-offing, the result was that the human remains of his band Joy Division chased the blues away by penning brilliant, peppy, electronic dance music that stuck to the ears like superglue and sold like free beer. At around the same time, a faction of punk grew that was more abrasive, more political, and more idealogical - an informed anarchy to replace the bratty thumb-nosings of The Sex Pistols. Punk and new wave officially parted ways at this time, although many people still listened to both.
Strangely, at the end of the 1990s an odd juxtaposition occurred when bands in the lineage of punk went gold and platinum for major labels. Acts such as Green Day and Offspring were producing catchy, crunchy tunes that relied more on pop whimsy than serious political rebellion. But at the same time that punk purists were crying "sell-out," another underground scene was making itself felt around the world -- without the aid of the established music industry. Like punk in the '70s, this scene also centered around limited-release vinyl, outlandish clothing, and outlaw performances that announced themselves by word-of-mouth and homemade flyers. A closer look may reveal this queer-friendly, absurdist, theatrical rave scene to be, in fact, an extended dance re-mix of the early new wave club scene. Further twists and turns: an extreme strain of the new electronica, which features harsh distortion and superfast tempos, is named hardcore after a punk rock offshoot begun in the 1980s, the decade arguably ruled by new wave. [show less]