Friday, March 03, 2006

Too fast to enjoy?

Since college, I've noticed a rather large percentage of repulsion towards fast punk rock by people who are into indie/underground/hipster music. Ever since then, I've wanted to know why.

Back in the late-'70s/early-'80s, punk rock was seen as this life-changing approach to making music. It wasn't necessarily about how fast you played it - what was empowering about it was that almost anyone could play it. For the guitar, if you could hold your hand in a barre chord formation and the traditional open chords (G, D, C) long enough, then you could do it. For the drums, if you could keep a steady, solid beat, you could do it. For the bass, just do what the guitarist does. For the singer, sing however you want to.

Somewhere in the '80s, as punk became rougher and faster under the moniker of hardcore, it seemed like punk stopped being all-encompassing. It stopped being hip as it was often thought of as strictly youthful, narrow-minded and too fast. As somebody who came up in a time when "mall punk" was crystallizing (the mid-'90s), I still think of punk rock as a gateway to open expression, no matter how commercialized it gets. Plus, I still think it's a great style of music.

Of course a lot of modern mainstream punk rock is watered-down, polished and easily digestible for "the kids." While I can't relate to a younger person's belief that a band like New Found Glory or Fall Out Boy is great, I can relate to the ones that dig further into punk's history in order to understand the present. That's how I got into it and I'm sure there will be more that follow this same path.

I've always liked a wide variety of music, but what has always puzzled me is how quick people are to judge something that's played at a high rate of speed. To me, great songs are great because there's a connection with the melodies, the moods and/or the lyrics, not the tempos. So why is punk rock speed such a deterrent from enjoying a song?

I forget which member of Husker Du said this in Our Band Could Be Your Life, but he described the band's songs as folk songs played at a fast speed. I think that's a fantastic way of saying it because this was the case with many of Husker Du's material. If you were on a camping trip and brought along an acoustic guitar, you could easily fool people into thinking a song like "Makes No Sense At All" was a protest song from the '60s. But there's a key difference between acoustic and full-on, electric rock: amplification. With punk rock, it's amplification and speed.

I'll admit it: there is a vast quantity of pop-punk that is perfect for your hyperactive fits. Whether it's NOFX, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Propagandhi, Pennywise or Grey Area, the list goes on and on. But even in calm times, I can still groove to punk rock. Besides, what really attracted me to pop-punk was the strong melodic attachment to the songs. When I would hear a simple guitar lead supported by four notes making for a powerful harmony, I was hooked. A song like Screeching Weasel's "The Girl Next Door" is a perfect example of this.

I don't know if other people I know who dig punk rock have seen this kind of resistance too, so I'm curious as to what they think of this.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Dude. You always mangage to commuicate ideas that I've always wanted to say. I also think that If I commented on every post it would be overkill....