Michael’s Music Blog Volume II: Punk Rock

Michaels Music Blog Volume II: Punk Rock

It’s a debate still hotly contested over 40 years later. Who came first: Ramones in America, with their leather jackets and pop sensibilities? Or was it The Sex Pistols in England, who made headlines with their devil may care attitudes? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Both of these bands emerged around the same time and changed the world of music forever.

Ramones came onto the scene in 1976 with the release of their debut, self-titled album. Featuring the now legendary song “Blitzkrieg Bop”, the album is a tour de force, with hardly a weak song on it. Although The Ramones never matched the genius of their debut record, their subsequent output was just as influential.

On the other side of the Atlantic, The Sex Pistols formed in 1975 and quickly developed a reputation for their total disregard for common decency. After being propelled to international attention for cursing on live TV on the Bill Grundy Show, the Sex Pistols released one studio album, “Never mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”, before breaking up in 1978. Despite their short lifespan, The Sex Pistols are one of the most legendary and influential punk bands of all time.

In the 40 years since these bands careened into the spotlight, punk rock music has ebbed and flowed like a river. The 1980s saw punk become heavier, giving way to bands like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and The Misfits. These bands are among the most well known of the punk rock genre. Dead Kennedys in particular were well known for their political statements. Songs like “California Uber Alles” lampooned political figures of the day with savage humor and electrifying guitar riffs.

The 1980s are, in my opinion, the Golden Age of Punk Rock. Dead Kennedys, The Clash, The Misfits, Bad Brains and Black Flag are just a few of the essential punk bands that were active during this decade. Subgenres such as political punk and horror punk were created during this time, which widened the audience of punk.

The 1990s saw a dramatic shift in punk music. The explosion of Nirvana onto the music scene heralded the beginning of grunge rock, a subgenre that was heavily influenced by punk. From about 1991 to about 1996, grunge became the most popular genre in music, with bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and the aforementioned Nirvana selling out stadiums and becoming staples of MTV.

With MTV frontman Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, the grunge fad slowly dissipated, and in the late 90’s, pop-punk was born. Green Day and Blink-182 became the new MTV mainstays, and with the advent of the internet, sold millions of albums on platforms such as iTunes. Pop-punk remains the dominant punk subgenre to this day, and I must admit I have mixed feelings about today’s bands. Most of pop-punk today is repetitive and bland, using the same three-chords with no innovation.

“Classic” punk music still exists, but its bands are underground and not well known. I think it’s time for a punk revival of sorts, the same type that Nirvana initiated when they came onto the scene. Only time will tell if that occurs.