You don’t have to look far on social networking or in the pub to find an old punk bemoaning the fact that the kids “have nothing to say these days.” He’s well aware that it’s not the summer of 1976 anymore, but what disturbs him more is that his kids are embarrassed by his somewhat pacified antisocial aggression.
The punks are now parents and the hippies often grandparents. And that’s ignoring the majority who were listening to ABBA or The Carpenters as opposed to the somewhat more media-stoked Jimi Hendrix or The Sex Pistols at their respective times. With a dynamic online petition to stop Kanye West playing Glastonbury as the most recent of many, it’s HIS fans who are in fact upping the social ante, unbearable as he is.
Thus, white punk rebellion, somewhat away from its Trotskyite/anarcho roots has filled out, sat down, and had to accept that only about 10 percent of the movement’s output was listenable in the first place. The rest of it was simply the sound of fury, replaced less by The Arctic Monkeys or Fat White Family and more by Skrillex or Eminem. Punk spirit wears Gucci and Puma, and headbutts you in a Wetherspoons for spilling its pint or looking at its bird.
Johnny Rotten’s main target in 1977 was the older generation, when the music industry was powerful enough to take aim at other demographics or other artists, and thus to become its own media outrage industry. Blur and Oasis’s feud in the mid nineties was the dying ember of this music press flames fanning technique. Now, with digital having decimated the traditional recording industry and deadened neighbours having music venues closed up and down the country, the enemy of music has changed. The enemy is now the lack of imagination of the consumer.
The enemy now is also the corporations who insist on their logos swamping festivals; record company focus groups who insist on legacy artist reissues; a generation of musicians who see it as a career, and think the apex of artistic success is Noel Gallagher; and a public who are so dumbed-down in their listening tastes that a new Muse album is greeted with wild enthusiasm.
The parents and grandparents are more outrageous and rebellious than their progeny, and their ‘cultural revolutions’ didn’t so much fail, as were co-opted into parody. Clever. It’s a relief that Thatcher’s years are gone, sure, we’re just left with the smiling fallout – and that this century’s version of anti-war sentiment is met with Daily Mail choruses of ‘traitor’ for somehow demoralising troops in the middle-east. There is an enemy all right, but it’s not mum and dad – they’re despairing for the passivity, apathy, ignorance and politeness of youth. As long as they’re not chavs. The enemy of music and spirit is big business collaborating with the government, validated by mainstream consumers. Ever get the feeling you’ve been pacified?
Sean Bw Parker