A Lot Of Punk Rock Is “Mindless Bullshit,” And That’s Fine
Posted on March 17, 2015
March 17, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
Somewhat stealthily, an updated version of the always productive argument over what is and isn’t punk has taken hold in recent years. It was largely born out of an influx of bands we’ll call, for the sake of this piece, Fake Punk. These Fake Punk bands seemingly appeared out of nowhere, having paid no dues, their feet never having touched the dirt floor of any basement, skirting by on calculated, expertly planned “buzz” forged through a team of record label executives, managers, publicists, and brand partners. Their music often sounded unrehearsed, unrealized, or clumsy. Non-lifestyle punks can smell mindless bullshit from a mile away, sure, but what if mindless bullshit is actually—at least superficially—the point and our detectors just need to be re-calibrated or turned completely off?
The artistic merit of bands like Fidlar, Cerebral Ballzy, and Wavves is so rarely put into proper context. Intent matters. These bands aren’t attempting to be serious for an audience that wants serious music; they’re attempting, and usually succeeding, to be stupid or give off an aura of carelessness for an audience that just wants to fuck off. But it’s not stupidity from a lack of self-awareness; it’s more like a refined stupidity that seems to say, “Punk rock is fun and I like VHS skate videos and weed and the beach and dumb teenage love and I don’t really care that that stuff doesn’t matter, I like it anyway and that’s good enough for me.” It’s completely calculated and should be taken as such, even if it isn’t your idea of fun. Most of us, in fact, did not fight in the punk wars. We’re not veterans. We’re not above any of these bands or the people in them. We all like dumb shit. It’s fine.
The Misfits, Ramones, The Dickies, Angry Samoans, these are all, by the same metric that I just made up, punk bands with songs about mindless bullshit. And they’re nearly universally beloved by punks of all ages. Why? Is it nostalgia? Timing? Why do we get mad when current Fake Punk bands use these influences more literally and liberally? These bands don’t care. Why do you? Their perceived lack of punk cred isn’t infringing on the punk cred of you or the bands you like. It’s not denigrating the music you love. There’s something for everyone at the table here. If you crave reality, authenticity, or relatability—and there’s nothing wrong with that, of course—there’s a lot to choose from. If you want calculated mindless bullshit, there’s a lot to choose from there too, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. It’s fine.
That equilibrium has to exist. If all punk music was deathly serious, we’d get tunnel vision and too little of it would be taken seriously. If all music was mindless bullshit, well, the same thing would happen. We all relate to different stuff in different ways.
Colleen Green’s new LP I Want To Grow Up is one of my favorite albums of 2015 so far. The lyrical topics include, but are not limited to: television as an analog for real friends (“TV”); loving someone who you know is bad for you (“Wild One”); having a short attention span and being annoyed by the little things (“Pay Attention”); wanting to grow up but not necessarily knowing how (“I Want To Grow Up”); wanting to live a healthy lifestyle but knowing that being unhealthy is way more fun (Parts I and II of “Things That Are Bad For Me”). The discerning, ostentatious punk may perceive Green’s music as mindless bullshit not just because of its lyrical content, but because Green isn’t a man screaming into a microphone about society’s larger ills. But by intently tapping into the core values, entitlements and problems of a lot of millennials, Green’s lyrics are actually pretty ingeniously calculated, not as satire, but as a catchy, perfectly textured snapshot of what it’s like to be a part of this generation: confused, constantly distracted, unsure of yourself, anxious, a little apathetic. Put into that context, it doesn’t seem so mindless after all.