Milly Whyles is LTW’s youngest writer. At 15 she has written some great perceptive pieces about new music and punk which she has a passion for. For Milly one of the key things in punk was its politics and a politic she sees reflected in a new generation of bands which she explains here…
Political ideas and ideologies have always been expressed through punk music and the culture surrounding this. As I write today I listen to a copy of ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ on vinyl, an album littered with political concepts. There has always been something to be angry about, especially in the era of Trump, Brexit and looming threats of war. In this article, the importance and limitations on the role of politics in punk will be discussed.
In many ways, politics serves as a base on which to make music coming from a real place of emotion and a deep sense of injustice. It’s a way for artists to project their feelings about their own situation through means of passionate and meaningful music. Furthermore, by making music about an issue the band or artist raises awareness of this issue and helps to gather a cause for or against it. Without discussion, change would never happen. Punk is a great way of creating this discussion and therefore influencing change and activism. Censorship is easily a dampener on the raw honesty of punk music – by saying politics should stay out of the movement it silences something that should never be silenced.
In contrast, there are a few ways in which politics are a bad influence on punk. It creates riots and violence, giving punk a bad name as a subculture based on useless violence. Another example of this bad name is the association of Nazism and extreme nationalism with the punk music due to the racism that crept into the second wave of the skinhead movement. Instead of its original nature – working class solidarity- it was twisted to become a symbol of white supremacy, as Don Letts tells of in ‘The Story of Skinhead’. Again, this becomes a cause for violence and fights.
In today’s upside down world, politics holds an important place in punk. The younger generation are more involved politically than we ever have been, and we are more inclined to talk about what we believe to be wrong. This awareness and knowledge is our power for the future. We are full of frustration that the world is going backwards instead of forwards, and you don’t have to look far to find fantastic music coming from a politically charged attitude. Goat Girl are a wonderful example of this, making music about the dismal state of London and Brexit – a perfect backing soundtrack to the world that crumbles around us. The Blinders are also an incredible band making music about our political situation – take ‘brave new world’ and ‘hate song’. My vote (see what I did there) is that politics should stay intertwined with punk as an essential string that has run through the movement from the beginning.
I’d be happy to hear other opinions, feel free to comment yours and we can get some discussion happening.