Punk: Still Kicking and Screaming in 2017
Though most of the lyrics were written in the late 70s, they all sound like they’re about Donald Trump.
By Sophie Hurlock, Xavier University
When you think of a punk rocker, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
An angry twenty-something with a colorful mohawk, multiple facial piercings, a cigarette in their mouth and a leather-on-leather outfit? Yeah, that’s a far cry from the gluten-free, craft-beer drinking, 100 percent natural, vegan twenty-somethings of today.
But back in its heyday, during the late 70s and mid 80s, and even in the years after, punk was a way for youth to express their discontent and raise a metaphorical (and literal) middle finger to societal norms. The movement was dirty and honest, and as a result, it pointed out a lot of issues that proper circles preferred to ignore.
And though the music of the movement may be nearly 40-years-old, and the philosophy of the ideology may have died long before the Instagram-era, the lyrics of angst-infused social rebellion will never die. Here, in no particular order, are ten punk songs that still ring true today.
Because no punk list is complete without at least one mention of The Clash, it makes sense to start with this upbeat, Bowie-sounding number from 1977. Though its central message, the decrying of hate and war becoming a part of daily life, was written four decades ago, the lyrics resonate more than ever.
Phrases like “hate of a nation a million miles away” sounds a lot like the American ability to blame a group of people for the actions of a few. And unfortunately, it seems like no one has discovered a better way to deal with violence than with more violence, a human tendency echoed in the lyrics, “an’ if I get aggression, I give ‘em two times back.”
From my absolute favorite punk band comes a song about police brutality, a topic millennials have become all too familiar with.
The surf-rock style song paints a picture of what it’s like when police officers let the power of authority go to their heads. This song may be 39-years-old, but it sounds like it could have been written yesterday.
The country is being destroyed and the government is to blame: That’s the central message of this song. Nothing new, am I right?
What makes this song so special though, is how closely the lyrics match what happened in the past election. Accusations like “care of Moscow and DC, votes you never gave” sound awfully similar to the election-rigging rumors currently circulating, whether you believe them or not. Even more prescient? “Our president’s popularity is down” and “you’re all gonna die and you voted for that guy” sound like what a lot of college students think of President Trump.
Minor Threat originally wrote “Cashing In” as a satire, lampooning other bands that were angry that Minor Threat was getting booked for more shows than them. As it points out the commercialism of music and artists’ willingness to sell themselves out to make a buck, “Cashing In” fits cozily in today’s musical economy.
Lyrics like “My mind and body are the only things that I’ve sold,” and “I’m gonna be alright with the money that I’m making off of you tonight, suckers” bring to mind a lot of mainstream musicians cashing in on their artistry.
Perfect for the inner hippie in every student, “Poison Planet” angrily points out that the current generation is always left to clean up the mess that the previous generation created.
With global warming and pollution breathing down our throats, the feeling is all too familiar. If lyrics like “you’re old and rich/you don’t care about this planet/only your filthy profits” don’t make you think of oil and gas companies, then I don’t know what will.
In this slightly depressing song, the main message is that the world is screwed up and there’s really nothing that can fix it.
The Ramones point out multiple problems with society, such as destruction of the environment and politicians manipulating uneducated voters, but they also suggest that maybe being ignorant isn’t all that bad, because at least it allows you to focus on the positives, such as being alive.
Although the song isn’t meant to be taken literally, it’s certainly a thought that most college students have had when surveying the world that’s been left to them.
Although not your typical punk band, the all girl grunge-punk squad L7 emerged in the early 90s with the Riot Grrrl scene. “Just Like Me” points out that female rock stars have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to be taken seriously.
Whether a rock star or not, the reality of “Just Like Me” is one that most millennial women still face. The fast, upbeat jam is perfect to add to your feminist playlist.
In a time of increasing political divisiveness, “Them and Us” may be more poignant than ever.
The song points out that most prejudices are based-off of superficial observations, as well as personal fears and self-frustration, a tendency that holds true even in 2017. Though the song was written in ’96, the ending lyrics sound exactly like our current president.
Although the song is only nine-years-old, “Entertainment” perfectly captures both the country’s obsession with celebrities and its incessant urge to commercialize the entertainment industry.
With reality TV, social media and tabloid magazines, you can’t go a day without hearing something about what’s going on in a celebrity’s life, so much so that digging into the personal lives of others has become an accepted form of entertainment for modern society. Lyrics like “This is more than entertainment/in a world so sick with pain/it’s the only thing that real or true” point out just how far this obsession has gone.
The all-girl Russian punk band is best known for making global headlines after its members were arrested on charges of “hooliganism.” Their crime? The trio staged a show outside of a church to protest the Orthodox clergy for supporting Putin.
Now, Pussy Riot is back at it again, protesting the election of 2016 with the song “Make America Great Again.” By pointing out the obvious, such as “a wall has two sides, and nobody is free,” Pussy Riot pokes fun at Donald Trump, while also giving suggestions on how to actually make America great again.