The Punk Puzzle

July 9, 2008

I’ve been reading My So-Called Punk by Matt Diehl, and it challenges a lot of what I think about punk. Diehl grew up a punk fan in 80’s Chicago, so to a certain extent he can say he was “there”. It’s interesting to see things from his perspective, especially for someone who had no idea what punk was until a few years ago. The thing is, though, no matter how clearly he analyses punk, no matter how carefully he divides it into eras and subgenres, he never actually says what punk is.

As many people have pointed out, no one can define punk. It’s so simple that anyone can play the music, which means anyone can create their own interpretation. That’s what baffles me about the punk debate. People are always trying to decide whether or not a band is punk. Somewhere along the line they knew that punk was what you made it, but then it became subject to rules. It’s as if the more people become involved in punk, the more they forget the everyman spirit. Suddenly punk is only “real” if it’s underground, or played at lightning speed, or howled by an uncontrollable frontman. That attitude turns punk into a high school popularity contest, pitting hardcore against pop-punk and politically-minded bands against glue-sniffing ones. It’s too bad, because if there’s one thing the world doesn’t need it’s more cliques. Love and hate bands as you see fit, but don’t turn that judgment on punk as a whole. Doing that will only encourage the community to divide further, and then Hot Topic will really have won. Just let punk be punk. That’s what combat boots are for, anyway; to punt bad imitators out of the way.



  1. Also check out, unless you already have, the DVD called “American Hardcore.” A great historical account of the Hardcore Punk Scenes from around the country in the 80’s. Even touches on the birth of the “Straight Edge” movement. Two Punk Rock Dad thumbs up.

  2. Thanks, I’ll definitely check that out. It sounds great.

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