“That’s not punk because…”

In the music community, especially online, you will hear, “that’s not punk because…” People tend to take things like this, in my opinion, too seriously. Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to categorize DJ Mustard, or other similar artists as punk. But typically these arguments aren’t things based off of the important things, like music or message, they are things like, “you’re not punk because you’re not wearing the right clothes.” Things like that don’t really affect the music in anyway, so it’s best just to disregard them.

But then there is an argument, still along the lines of, “that’s not punk because…”, but this argument is actually related to the music. Punk is such a broad description that it’s hard to really describe it. You could say it’s fast, but then there’s some slower punk. You could say that it’s more about the mindset, which would be correct, but there are bands that have a punk mindset, but not a punk sound. Also, bands evolve so much that their first album may sound completely different from their last.

A band that really fits this is the Melvins. They sound like sludge metal, but fans of punk are fans of them. They kind of have the same sound on some songs, but overall, their work varies. They have referred to themselves as punk before, and they have a punk mentality.

The punk mentality is wanting to do it on your own. It’s being willing to scrape by on very little money and food to be able to do what you love. The punk mentality is living out of a van and hoping you can make enough for gas money. It’s not being caring about being looked down upon for your choices. It’s getting pissed at the system, religion, and the government. It’s wanting things to change. You don’t have to sound exactly like any other punk band to have the punk mentality, and the fact the I couldn’t name just one band that defines the sound of punk, almost proves that. A lot of punk bands sound very different, but they all essentially want, and write about, the same things.

Punk has been around since the 70s, and over the years things have changed. Like any type of music, or anything in general reallu, punk has evolved overtime. Ramones, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, and Black Flag. They all are punk, and they all have their own, very distinct, sounds. As time goes by, punk will continue to evolve and expand. There are numerous sub-genres of punk, verifying that many things can be punk.

Even things that aren’t overall considered punk, can be punk inspired, and that’s where people really get into these types of unnecessary arguments. Even big artists can inspire young artists in the genre. Dave Grohl listened to a lot of punk when he was younger, he was in a hardcore punk band for some time; his current band is not punk, but the influences show through on a few songs, but mainly in interviews. He gives advice to younger bands, to just start playing live, and take risks. He talks about being a teenager and recording his own songs. He may not be considered punk, but has punk aspects, and it’s so easy to get into a grey area where the classifications don’t do much, other than drive people away from something they would have otherwise enjoyed.

If you are going to worry about labelling music, it should be not exclusive, but rather inclusive. So many things, are being influenced by so many other things. Excluding something because it doesn’t sound exactly like something else doesn’t make much sense. When some people get into to punk by finding one punk band, they may want other punk bands, and not listen to something because it’s not punk. If you list off everything that a band is inspired by, it could be a bit tedious. But if all relevant genres are included, people can find more music that they like. And maybe I only feel this way about labels because I like a lot of music.

My opinion doesn’t change the fact that people will spend ages attempting to “properly” identify a band, but does it really matter? I’d say it doesn’t. Why should it matter if something’s punk? I like things outside of the genre, I’d say some of them are close to punk, but still, music is hard to classify, and classifying music is only good up to a point. Classifications of music are helpful to find more things you like, but when elitists emerge, they lose their value. I think if you enjoy music, it doesn’t matter. Also liking metal, or folk, or whatever, doesn’t make you any less punk, it just makes your interest more diverse. So I’d say it is just about music, not just punk. Listen to what you enjoy, not what you feel forced to.

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Jacob Lau

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