Walk into any record or book store, the first thing that catches your eye is how the books/CDs are arranged into neat little stacks with labels on top. House, Gothic, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Reggae and Blues, Crunk, Bildungsroman and Progressive are few of the many sub-sub genres found in books, movies and of course music. This genre-isation has made us lean towards certain genres and reject others in an outright fashion. A kind of ghetto-fication, if you will. Just because you walk around, wearing chains and black nail polish doesn’t mean you don’t listen to Puff Daddy.
Some genres have the good fortune of not being restricted to just one type of literature, movies, music or art. For instance, Ayn Rand’s Foutainhead and Atlas Shrugged – both works of fiction later resulted in the development of a philosophy known as Objectivisim. This diffusion of a genre can be found all around. You just have to look hard enough.
Punk as a genre developed first in the field of music. An offshoot of the Garage Rock (1960s), Punk Rock developed during the 70s. Noted for the fast-paced, edgy tones and a do-it-yourself ethic (many bands produced their own records and distributed them, sans record labels), Punk Rock was all about raw energy commenting on the social and political issues of the time. Technical knowledge about any instrument and even your ability to sing did not matter with Punk Rock. It was responsible for the rise of bands such as The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Sonic Youth and yes, Green Day.
With their anti-establishment and nihilism-charged lyrics, it wasn’t much of a surprise when punk ideologies started cropping up. All of a sudden, to be ‘punk’ meant being anti-capitalist, apolitical, left-wing and not ‘selling out’. Some of the philosophical and religious elements within the punk subculture include veganism, hari-krishnas, atheism and Rastafari movements. Some punk rockers even claimed to be ‘straight-edged’ meaning they would stay away from alcohol, tobacco, casual sex and even caffeine. Seems like the exact opposite of what we think of punk rock to be!
Almost as popular as the music, the Punk Movement also led to progression (or regression) in the field of fashion. Clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, tattoos, jewelry – punk changed it all. Denims were torn and then held together by safety pins and tape, leather jackets with band logos, converse sneakers, swastikas, Mohawks, spiked and dyed hair were the flavors of the era. Pogo dancing, stage diving and crowd surfing were recognized ‘dance forms’ in the punk scene.
Punk lit (punk literature) incorporating the punk ideologies, were further subdivided into punk journalism or ‘ punk-zines’. The punk-zine is perhaps the greatest inspiration to underground press and comics. Punk poetry was another offshoot, with most punk poets not following the traditional conventions of poetry. Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of ‘Juno’ and ‘Jennifer’s Body’ , described her writing as ‘punk fiction’.
Punk art, started off as artwork for album covers and later illustrations for flyers, posters and punk-zines. Almost anti-artish in nature, the earlier artwork was almost exclusively in black and white and when color started to be used, it was primarily high-key and marked by a lot of fluorescent colors. From crudely scribbled letters to collages made of cut-outs from magazines and newspapers, Punk art was meant to shock or repulse the viewer while poking fun or making a sarcastic political or social statement.
Punk films are also another feature of this expansive genre. Punk music and skate videos were very common. In most punk movies, the bands themselves were offered cameos such as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School featured The Ramones. Punk biopics were also very popular. One of the most famous one is Sid and Nancy, a film about the ill-fated love affair between Sid Vicious (Starring Gary Oldman), bassist for the Sex Pistols and Nancy Spungen (portrayed by Chloe Webb). Punk Film-making is responsible for the creation of movements such as Remordenist and No Wave Cinema (emphasis on mood and texture before anything else). The Basketball Diaries, Persopolis, Repo Man and The Runaways are all examples of Punk films in the last decade alone.
One’s attempt to club the entire punk genre into one umbrella is almost criminal. Punk music alone is further subdivided into Anarcho punk, Celtic punk, cow punk, glam punk, gypsy punk, Nazi Punk, Psychobilly and much more!
The influence of punk can still be seen in day-to-day living. Although it has been mutilated, watered-down and seems almost invisible.
Punk’s not dead.