Open Letter from an angry ‘Old Punk’

Despite massive pressure from my peers, I’ve decided enough’s enough and never again will I be convinced to go along to a ”˜highly anticipated’ reformation where I watch two burly original members of a band I once proudly scribbled the name of on my maths book puff through slightly slower versions of creations previously considered dangerous, surely this can’t be all there is for me now?”¦

Sure, reunions can work, the sprightly return of the brilliant Magazine for one.
The technologically enhanced concentration of ominous power from Gira’s amazing Swans and similarly, Throbbing Gristle’s unsettling experiments on our central nervous systems, not to mention the almost unprecedented second wind of lo-fi creativity by the truly distinctive Viv Albertine, all other credible examples, showing exactly why people still want them on the scene, whilst throwing new curves into the mix.
These however, are in the minority rather than the majority, Christ, even the mighty Pop Group sounded feeble to these ears.

To compound my malaise, this creeping tsunami of nostalgia we’re watching crudely blossom under our very noses doesn’t just apply to bands reforming.
Younger bands are also in a majority as ones who simply only look back for inspiration, hardly ever bringing anything new to the equation.

Almost every mainstream band launched lately on us with the promise of being the second coming you can track back to someone else specific, (yes YOU Hurts, Vaccines, XX, Mumford, Beady Eye ad infinitum).

It now seems you can’t move for everything having the mothballs of the past attached to it.
Granted it’s hard to be totally original, but we’re looking back way too adoringly to a 60’s, 70’s, and most insidiously, an 80’s, which is something of a marketers dream by keeping dad, mum, and the 2.5 dancing to exactly the same tune.

However proficient the artist, there’s still a Prozac aftertaste, you know it sounds and looks real enough, but try getting emotionally involved?…I’m drawing a blank here too.

I thought a large part of my generation were into cutting edge sounds and only too willing to check anything new and exciting, but it seems to be, from my personal experience at least, that we’re now mostly running on the spot and waiting for the next bunch of chancers who were ”˜third on the bill at the Lyceum’ to give each other a bell so as we can go out and compare the size of our bellies again, where did we give up on the adventure exactly?

This is why I feel so powerfully compelled to turn my back on the last 40 years and only search pastures new. It’s genuinely not a vain attempt at stealing the fountain of youth, (I’m basically just trying to be a good student of the school of Peel), but if I have to make a parallel, this certainly wasn’t what I V-signed Teds and bounced off awkwardly in my bondage trousers to look forward to in later life.
Sadly, it seems I’m once again surrounded by ”˜Teds’, only these are the ”˜Nu-Teds’, who actually used to be Punks or Goths.

To name names at last, here’s a gentle A & B list of what this ”˜Old Punk’ used to enjoy (and still do of course) but importantly, what I’m enjoying and checking now. Even if they may be derivative, remember, they’ve still got the energy and they need your support!

If you liked Blondie, maybe try Keep Shelly In Athens or Hercules & Love Affair.
If you liked Ramones, maybe try Shitty Limits or Flats
If you liked B-52’s, maybe try HeartsRevolution, Cults, or I.O.U.
If you liked Slits, maybe try 10Lec6 or Swahili Blonde
If you liked Throbbing Gristle, maybe try Demdike Stare or Raime
If you liked Monochrome Set, maybe try The Chap, Skeleton$ or Capillary Action.
If you liked A Certain Ratio, maybe try Shackleton, Scuba or Gold Panda
If you liked Danse Society, maybe try North Atlantic Oscillation or Peixe : Avião
If you liked Big Audio Dynamite, maybe try Lone, Bullion or Hudson Mohawke

Also surely a must for any respectable old Punk is Toronto’s criminally undervalued (and LTW faves) Fucked Up whose epic range of sounds are almost a one band potted history of the story of Guitar based music, but no, getting mates to check them has been like trying to drag an Elvis fan along to a Damned gig in ”˜78.
I’d willingly give my signed copy of ”˜Sid Sings’ to see what sort of mayhem they’d inflict on 4,000 people at Brixton Academy, but will they ever get the chance?
If my pals went to one gig this year, was it really too much to ask them to give Damien’s crew a try as well as Steve Ignorant’s inexplicable resurrection of the songs of Crass, or indeed shelling out a ludicrous £50 to see Adam with some faceless new Ants?

Plenty of my contemporaries loved Cabaret Voltaire, Birthday Party and Suicide, so why is like pulling teeth to try to get them to check the euphoric arpeggiated meltdown from London scamps Factory Floor or San Francisco’s superbly intense Mi Ami?…OK, just the one ticket please”¦

PIL diehards could have saved themselves £35 and checked the instinctive bass heavy dubs of the incredible Anika instead, who knows, she may even be able to afford to tour again if you came along and told her you loved her.

So while this phobia of new sounds from a lot of my peers surrounds me, I’m seriously beginning to wonder what would have happened if I’d merely taken the beating from the Rock ”˜N’ Rollers instead”¦
”¦ would it have made a sliver of difference?

Blog by Anthony Barrett.

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22 comments on “Open Letter from an angry ‘Old Punk’”

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  1. I really enjoyed that! I will definitely be checking out some of these bands. I’m not sure a tsunami can ever ‘creep’ though….

  2. That was a great read. I agree with the sentiment, to a large extent, although I have to say that many of the old bastards who have decided to give it another go are really excelling at it. Of course, some of these older bands could well do with hanging up their Docs (again) – but it’s still worth keeping an eye on the past. I don’t think anybody should have an expiry date and there are some ‘heritage’ acts that can still cut it. Some, in fact, are just now starting to come into their own.

    I applaud the author’s mission to keep it Peel, though, and I’m certain his journey will bring him rich rewards.

  3. I agree. I just want the young people to produce something genuinly “new” that a 40 yr old like me can’t start to understand, something that affronts my musical sensibities. I wanna be offended! Mostly, I’m just bored going “X sounds like Y mixed with a bit of Z”

    C’mon kids!!

    • Everything always sounded like something else…no matter how original everyone pretended it was…music has always been about variation…

  4. only genuinely ‘future music’ is made in dubstep genre really and even that is getting tired.

  5. A lot of dubstep just sounds like on u sound/tackhead from the 80’s though. A weird thing to come round again, but not new. Maybe John’s right and its all just variations on a theme, and we’re just running out of themes. Maybe all old music is much more accessible than it used to be so new musicians are assimilating too many influences too shallowly. I don’t know but to hear something as fresh as, for example, bebop, punk, rap or acid house sounded at the time would be wonderful.

  6. Sweet Hooligan

    The music you hear in your teens stays with you like no other and we spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate that thrill – the revival scene is just part of that process. It’s just pot luck what era you grow up in – I got Bowie and the Pistols – my daughter gets Biffy Clyro and Foals (no offence to either – she happens to like them). If you think the revival circuit is bad now, just imagine what the ‘scene’ will be like in 2030!

  7. Great piece, Anthony. As you point out, it’s too easy to dismiss new music for sounding derivative. I am guilty of doing it. I really enjoy a few young bands, but I need to be more curious. My wife and I are in our 40s, and she is better than me at this. Too often I’m the grumpy 40-something musician, who feels like it’s all been done before. Must try harder. Thanks, Toby

  8. Great article. I’m pushing 40 and I genuinely believe there is more great music around now than there ever was when I was younger. I go out watching live music probably 4 mights a week on average; I still do the odd nostalgia show but my expectations are different there, and I’m never happier than when watching a new young band for the first time and thinking “yeah these are fucking brilliant”. which does still happen. The only difference between me and the people my age who moan they have heard it all before is one of mindset – if you still genuinely believe there is great new music out there, it will find you.

    • Anthony Barrett

      Hehe, Just read this Cath and then scratched my head as to why I’d written close to 1,000 words when what you’ve put there in one paragraph would have done nicely.
      I’ve seen your writing on here and in MM (stood next to you at an Engineers gig in London too I believe, I know Mr’s Peters & Land & Ms Hanna a little) and have joined in on threads with you on Facebook once or twice and know you’re flying the flag and then some, it’s always inspiring to see good new stuff genuinely championed and unearthed rather than given space due to PR clout & favours which seems to be something that hangs round the (supposed) major publications now like a gas cloud you can’t see the centre of, in that respect, I’m roundly glad I’m not 16 again.

  9. Anthony Barrett

    Everyone’s adding great extra points here, I think Sweet Hooligan’s point about ‘recreating the thrill’ is something I didn’t articulate particularly well, but I am definitely finding I’m able to do this still, and perfectly naturally, despite my \’maturity\’!
    I’ve been to s a string of gigs this year that were absolutely mint 10/10’s (The Go! Team at Heaven being a particular highlight)…but mostly on my ownsome, even after putting the word around.

    The stuff is out there, I’m finding I just have to dig a little deeper to counter the aggressive culture of marketing and ad-men dominating & narrowing our taste windows and then simultaneously filtering loads of average stuff off because there is just such a high volume. Ultimately, it’s if you think it’s worth it…Which I happen to.

    I’m also slightly saddened by the demise of a few relatively unknown but really superb bands in the last couple of years simply due to the expense and return factor, they were playing to much smaller audiences than they should have been, these bands will never get the chance to do a ‘reunion tour’ either.

    I think my most centred ”angriness” comes from not being able to fire people up enough to get their asses of the sofa and check stuff they 100% would have done similar 20 years before and then having the same people expect me to go and see XYZ’s 30 year anniversary bash. A little give and take here would be nice, you can go to the pub any night of the year as well, if a band come from LA to play to 17 people in a back room of a pub in Camden, it\’s a major major suck for them I\’m sure.

    John’s also totally right in saying “everything always sounded like something else”, it’s a question of degree and choice here though. People will inevitably sound similar to others due to simple assimilation of the sounds in their surroundings, but there are also a lot of artists who now think simply choosing (or possibly having their A&R man choose) an obscure album from their dad’s collection to ape is going to be the key to getting everyone on board to listen to them.

    Revporl’s point “to hear something as fresh as, for example, bebop, punk etc” is the one that hits me most square in the face, to be in the epicentre of a new movement is invigorating and I think I managed to be pretty close during Punk, then New Romantic, then Acid House / Rave then Britpop by just my general willingness to keep checking new sounds, but there hasn’t been anything particularly coherent in recent years apart from already branded and packaged attempts since.
    Drum N Bass & Dubstep are both superbly inventive soundwise, but are far more a genre than they are a movement – I happen to live in Croydon which is the general centre-point for a lot of that stuff and it’s still pretty niche and surprisingly underground for the length of time it’s been around, even here, and by it\’s nature, I\’m pretty sure most of the artists prefer it that way as well.

    Recent media labelled ‘movements’ such as Witch House and Chillwave, although arguably throwing up some of the most innovative sounds around right now, are still essentially playing by the same rules of lumping people together who use the same programs and instruments to record and then presenting them as a whole, basically the marketing people again ruining the organic flow and sticking a funky tag on everything before it has a chance to grow naturally…

    I dunno, maybe our current sociological climate will play a major part in something spicy shooting our way and recharging us old duffer\’s batteries as a whole at the same time, we can only hope.
    Cheers for the interaction though, If I can just turn a bit Emo for a micro-second, it\’s great to hear I\’m not solely alone in how I think here.

  10. I agree and love the idea of nu-teds.
    Some bands like Killing Joke though have aged incredibly well,I love the new album as much as the first and Sparks I still love (age suits them as they were always rather strange and old to me as a child in 1974 anyway).
    Mostly however,every band that ever existed still exists or will exist again at some point to diminishing returns.It’s not so bad if they do a gary numan and kind of re-invent themselves but so many just seem to be doing the greatest hits thing.
    It’s like people say lady gaga is like madonna,but so what,people need something of their time to enthuse about even if it is like something before.
    It is different now though as pop or rock,dance music is a much mined seam whereas in the 50’s,60’s etc it was a new discovery.Black metal was pushing boundries in the 90’s but now that is starting to seem old.
    I wonder how the future will be.

  11. A well thought out, thought provoking & passionate piece.

    Its also a minefield & much of what I would add has already been covered by other responses.

    A School Of Peel will ( if there’s any justice ) one day be the standard for musical appreciation in all its forms. We lack a natural heir to John, or so I thought until ( only recently ) I discovered LTW.

    These days the punk DIY ethic is still alive and kicking, with loads of marvelous top notch DIY equipment to boot but this always brings its fair share of crap – as it always will.

    I often scratch my head at the preponderance of re-unions amongst those who maybe don’t have the fire any more. They need to pay the bills as much as anyone, and are maybe falling prey to $-eyed ‘nostalgia peddlers’ against their better judgement.
    Who knows ?

    I’ll be happy to welcome 30 years of Killing Joke next week but was put off by Pil for two reasons; one, no Jah Wobble. Two, price.

    Anyway, I have taken note of your words and reccomendations & maybe I’ll be one of those few people in a back street bar with you soon.

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