So I went to the bookstore today because I had off from work and I wanted to see what was new. I go immediately to the music books section and I see a book about San Francisco punk rock. I found it ironic how expensive it was given the subject but I won't comment on that here. Instead, I think it's very important for these books to be published. Ever since American Hardcore and Please Kill Me, there seems to be a lot of books being published about important past regional scenes in music. This is especially important for punk rock for a plethora of reasons. The most important being the need to document these scenes and the bands that made them. Ask anyone who has gone to a show in the last five years and they will tell you, shit just is not the same. The bands that influenced everything we see now are getting lost in the shuffle and the kids coming up just have no idea. That's not to say that there aren't important bands out there making music and trucking along, but they couldn't do it without those who came before. In the documentary for American Hardcore, someone (I forget who I think it was the guy from Gang Green) said, "They're driving on the road we paved". I think that is a somewhat profound statement. These books that document the older bands therefore are extremely important. I still think people should actually hear the bands before reading about them, but if these books find themselves in the hands of some high school kid who in turn decides to check out Black Flag as a result, I can't complain.
That being said, I think what I see in the current punk rock world as a whole is pretty sad. It seems like the whole scene is in revival mode, and while that's not a terrible thing as a whole, there isn't a ton of innovation going on. Not to mention the fact that reviving scenes and movements that aren't even ten years old seems a bit ridiculous to me. For example, the pop punk revival. Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, etc. are riding this wave that does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. None of these new pop punk bands seem to bring anything to the table. I am not going to sit here and say that the sound they are going for wasn't important in its time. Descendents, The Movielife, Lifetime, early Saves the Day, and Jawbreaker were all very important and vital when they were around and continue to be important today. Punk rock is whatever you want it to be, and these bands flew in the face of scene politics and the tough guy trend. However, those bands may have invented pop sensibility in punk rock, but they (for the most part) stayed independent and promoted their music the right way. The new bands are actively trying to be huge and sign to a major. Don't believe me? Watch what happens when suddenly you hear Set Your Goals on the radio. They will tell all the magazines that they have to do it and justify it with whatever bullshit statement their management can think of. However, trying to be Green Day and Blink 182 is NOT a good thing. More on this in future posts.
Not all revivals are a bad thing. Just that one. For example, I think Bridge Nine records deserves a lot of credit for what they as a company have done in the last ten years. They brought back an era of hardcore that valued message over guitar leads and they continue to do so. Just watching video clips of the Gorilla Biscuits reunion shows is all the proof anyone needs to back this up. Seeing kids singing along to songs they were way too young to even know about just shows the impact Bridge Nine has had these last few years. For every band that leaves the label, there seems to be new a new band ready to take up the slack. As long as this continues, old farts (figuratively speaking) like me have nothing to worry about.
Important listening: Integrity, Disembodied, 108