Tinnitus and Tigersuits: Punk Rock in the Wrong Hands? Just Remove the Hands!

Emo now resides in the same social stigma bracket as an STI in a group of friends, and misspelt tattoos, all of which are awkward, cause painfully annoying yelps and squeals and make people scatter like a cloud of leprosy.

But isn’t emo the whiney great-grandson of punk?

Good old punk. Locked away in some kind of pop-culture purgatory and disallowed from resting in piece(s), instead grave-robbed and forcibly danced around like a meaty man-sized puppet. It’s dragged up as both an amusing, cringing anecdote of times gone by and a much vaunted milestone for that horrible, all encompassing term: “popular music”.

We all know punk died in 1979. Sid Vicious did a Bruce-Willis-in-Armageddon-style finale, taking out the big, bad, DIY musical asteroid with some Hollywood-sized, nuclear super-bomb: an overdose of heroin and a session of Spungen bludgeoning to avert the oncoming punk apocalypse. Ben Affleck returned to earth to marry Liv Tyler and we all got a happy ending.

However, like all good comic-book super-heroes, punk didn’t stay dead for long, doing a Captain America/Jean Grey/Superman/etc. and bounding back for a retcon and a reboot with a shiny new costume: hardcore, pop-punk, new wave, post-punk… and so on.

When the money’s there, there’s always a sequel and, more often than not, it sucks. There are always the exceptions of course, but what the mainstream now know as “emo” is no Aliens, Empire Strikes Back or Die Hard With a Vengeance.

Maybe they managed to reanimate the body, but not the brain? At least what’s survived from the ’70s now sports a devastatingly good hairdo and some skeletally skinny, designer jeans. Swish.

Of course, none of us are melting our eyes to a monitor for a musical history lesson. We want interesting noise!

What can we still call “punk” in 2010? What stands out from all the clones and misshapen spawn of what has become a genre instead of a creative force and refreshed standpoint?

Here are 7 “punk” records for the 21st century in no particular order whatsoever.

Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
Yes, it’s been praised to high heaven a million times already, but how many times have you face-planted and proven gravity works? Go figure. Fucked Up forsake the hardcore trends of now, choosing instead to throw together an album that tears a path through time and space and drags the straight-up punk of yesteryear, kicking and bleeding into the here and now. There are three guitars, a mountain of musical ambition that dwarfs even their bear-proportioned frontman, and a tenacity within each track that will happily claw your sockets clean of eyes.

Rolo Tomassi – Digital History/Beatrotter
If you see Rolo Tomassi before you hear them, your eyes are met with a band of five fresh faced “kids”, one of which is a female on the petite side. When you’re then told they play some of the most intense, exciting hardcore going at the moment, you may err on the side of the skeptics. After your ears have been acquainted with Rolo, however, any sense of doubt or mocking disbelief you may have held will be long gone—blown away to blisters and dust. You won’t belief the banshee screams emanating from frontwoman Eva Spence, or the sheer ability to pull off the ridiculousness that the band constantly display. I have it on very good authority that their very imminent new release for 2010 is going to kick things up several notches. I’ll hopefully be getting my greedy reviewing claws on it soon.

Fear Before the March of Flames – The Always Open Mouth
Think of the scope, development and accomplished execution of ideas present in the much celebrated work of Brand New but applied to the darker shades of the modern post-hardcore fraternity. Fear Before have eschewed any notion of a predetermined or predictable path of progress from their early spazzy hyperactive sound to the dominating torrent of quirky, synth-tinged epic hardcore on The Always Open Mouth. It’s punk, Jim, but not as we know it…

Converge – Jane Doe
Brutal, intense and, at times, worthy of the term “extreme”, from the frantic intent of the guitar that opens the album to the huge, heaving finale, Jane Doe never lets you escape from its snarling clutches. Scratch beneath the veneer of violence and you’ll find an album of passion and fury overloaded with energy and ideas. Converge always require, if not demand, an open-minded commitment from their listeners just as the precursors of punk did of their audience way back when. It’s definitely not for everyone, but then again, not everyone got it the first time round in the mid-’70s, either.

La Quiete – Self-titled EP + various splits from the last ten years
Still with me after that last entry? Your persistence has paid off. With all the intensity of their hardcore predecessors, but with a beautiful sense of melody and structure, La Quiete is what “real” emo actually sounds like. It’s called screamo, emotive hardcore, skramz… the name will probably change again soon due to the constant assimilation of genre labels. There is a faintly hilarious arms race for an ever more obscure, and now ridiculous, name that won’t be copied. But don’t let that detract from the music; it’s just another fan-borne based distraction. La Quiete manage to pull off the powerful and intense with real impact and aplomb whilst keeping their sound very clean, crisp and light which only adds to their immense sense of depth and vivid tracks. The vocals are all in Italian yet not knowing what’s being said doesn’t detract from the music. Everything on offer has so much feeling to it, it doesn’t matter what’s coming out of anyone vocals chords.

65daysofstatic – The Fall of Math
Just because it’s electronic doesn’t stop it from being punk. 65days push their horizons whilst maintaining a beating heart full of energy and intent within their sound. Their fusion of the parallel intensities within hardcore and electronic adds another level to where they can take their tracks and opens up a whole new source of inspiration to fire through the listener’s ears. It may not be strictly, generically punk, but the attitude is there and that’s what makes it onto this list.

The Fall of Troy – Doppelganger
OK, so the follow-up was awful, but that doesn’t stop Doppelganger from being a near faultless sprint through tech-guitar insanity at breakneck speed that retains all the hallmarks of a three-piece, destroying shows with their energy and impact. The Fall of Troy are a punk band who know how to play their instruments to stupid degree. Face melting just doesn’t cut it here.

…there are many more out there and this small selection are in no way highlights of the last ten years or forgettable no-events. They’re all just great records that exude the old spirits and original ethos that we still worship as punk. Enjoy them.

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