Tag Archives: punk talk

Pop Punk & How the Boomers Played Themselves

Time for an uncomfortable admission: I’m 32 years old and I love Sum 41’s “Fat Lip.”

I can’t help it. Pop Punk was all over the place when I was in high school: from Sum 41 to Good Charlotte to Bowling for Soup, they had a fairly outsized influence on my formative years. After all, it was either that or listen to the Pogues on repeat, and in a small rural Minnesota high school even my own sister told me to knock it off.

It was almost liberating, though, to hear this sort of stuff getting airplay on the pop stations. After seeing my older brothers thumb their noses at authority with bands like Nirvana and even once-scandalous acts like Green Day in the early 90s, my generation was cast into a stagnant pool of boy bands, pop tarts and, dare I even say it, country music. So when something came along that sounded like a sanitized version of the hardcore stuff our older siblings rocked out to, we were ready to ride whatever train didn’t feature choreographed dance numbers. What we didn’t realize at the time, though, was that Pop Punk was an attempt to control the anti-establishment energy that punk and grunge had created. Yet, at the same time the ultimately short-sighted captains of industry were lining up their $600 Italian leather loafers in the sights of a gold-plated pistol when the broad, simplistic ideas of pop-punk crashed headlong into a New Gilded Age.

Pop Punk was an attempt to capitalize on the angry, disaffected “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” ethos of the grungy 1990s. The only problem was, as a capitalist venture they were more concerned with getting it out fast and cheap. Manufacture the band, manufacture the music, and ape as much of what was popular the last time round as quickly and cheaply as possible. As a result, all the edges were sanded off and the whole product was dunked in Listerine, creating a sanitized and marketable product. The problem was they were in such a hurry to make a buck they didn’t think about what exactly they were trying to make a buck from. Any irony or self-awareness that might have been part of the 90s movement was scrapped for a more appealing and marketable product. As the suits learned with Cobain, nihilism doesn’t continue sell well enough if the guy kills himself. This was a nihilistic, anti-establishment, and in some cases overtly anarchistic movement, and the music spoke in that language even if the packaging was squeaky-clean.

So rather than get a nuanced approach, we get bands like Sum 41 playing it entirely straight. We had lyrics telling the listener to buck tradition, reject the status quo, and not become “another casualty of society,” which obviously clashed with the cash-grab nature of the business, a fact many people have pointed out. And what happens when the kids who see this anti-establishment message on MTV or hear it on the radio every day grow up and make decisions? Well, thanks to an adult society also weaned on the Reagnite/Randian toxic cocktail of psychoticly rugged individualism, they’ve been carefully cultured to not listen. Even bubble gum could be a revolutionary statement, and being an individual, an original and fighting the system was drilled into an entire generation for years. The only problem is, it was being translated by marketing hacks without any sort of nuance. It was revolution for revolution’s sake, and nowhere in these songs or commercials did you see anyone saying “now now, let’s be reasonable and accept that real change happens gradually.” You instead got a never-ending parade of skateboarding punks sticking it to “the man” and drinking soda. The only way to be cool, said the culture, was to fight the system, and now the Boomers who wrote those ads and co-opted that movement wonder why the kids won’t listen? You told them not to!

Funny thing is, if capitalism had just taken a bit more time to build a few back doors into the system, or had taken just a little more effort to put that edge of cynicism into it, they would have had an out when things hit the fan. But hey, this is psychocapitalism, and it’s all about get what you can when you can as fast as you can, which is why psychocapitalism is destined to eat itself. You still see attempts at damage control with the “pie in the sky, fairy dust and free ponies” line taken from the establishment, or even Chuck Todd’s latest screed claiming that the establishment is the only way to really get anything done. But, thanks to the short-sighted, profit-hungry marketers and promoters to the Millennial generation, these messages aren’t sinking in and the kids are falling in line. After all, if you do, you just wind up being that creepy lunchlandy or a trite Good Charlotte lyric come to life.

Now all of this wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for one thing: turns out all those trite lyrics turned about a lot closer to reality than the marketers and the promoters intended. The grunge kids, while growing up in a recession, entered adulthood into a bubble economy that made it easier to dismiss Cobain’s nihilism as “teen angst,”  a “phase” or whatnot. The WTO protestors in the late 90s eventually calmed down, got jobs, had kids, moved to the suburbs and assimilated… all things Millennials were banking on doing as well. Again, thanks to the lack of foresight and capitalism’s reliance on boom and bust, the Millennials didn’t get that, and instead had every bit of the manufactured media’s tone-deaf talking points verified: the system is crooked, and only those who reject it and act as individuals will survive. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if you were top of your class or the stoner in the back of the room, because you’re both flipping burgers. Any pretense to following the rules and rejecting the anti-establishment message as youthful transgressions fell apart when it turns out trying to conform actually was a terrible idea. Being part of the crowd just makes you another guy at Bear Stearns cleaning out his desk, but being a stinky, conniving, bend-the-rules individual who no one liked made you Steve Jobs. In a topsy-turvy world like the post-Recession one Millennials found themselves in after paying way too much for college, revolution doesn’t seem like the craziest idea anymore. After all, why should it? We were told in everything from our food to our music to our movies to our video games  that you can’t trust the system, and then that system turned out to be just as horrible as they said it was.

And those in power brought this on themselves by not being able to, or not wanting to, see the bubbles before they burst.

And they wonder why we don’t listen.

Nimrod, Part Two

Pull out the tape, flip it over, and slam it back in for side two! Here we go:


I fucked up again it’s all my fault.
So turn me around and face the wall.
Read me my rights and tell me I’m wrong.
Until it gets into my thick skull.
A slap on the wrist. 
A stab in the back.
Torture me, I’ve been a bad boy.
Nail me to the cross until you have won.
I lost before I did any wrong.

A Millennial often feels like this: we didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s all our fault. So please, Boomers and X’ers, tell us how we were so wrong for studying something like teaching before the entire teaching market died.


Haushinka is a girl with a peculiar name.
I met her on the eve of my birthday.
Did she know, did she know, before she went away, does she know?
But it’s too damn late 
This girl has gone far away.
Now she’s gone.

Sure, it’s a song about a girl… but I see my chances of the future my parents had going in the same way. It’s just too damn late, and it’s far away and gone.

Walking Alone:

The first verse speaks about a Millennials’ struggle in society at large: we’re trained, we’ve got bills to pay, but instead we need to keep our mouths shut and only say hello, maybe even apologizing whether we need to or not. With the death of small town America in both its economy and its mobility, that second verse is particularly painful. And, at the end of the day, we still feel like we’re walking alone, abandoned by the system that promised us so much.


Here are the lyrics. How this is not an anthem for my generation yet baffles me.

Take Back:

Some times, you have bad days. And after eight hours of pretending to not know your boss is an idiot while you do all of his/her work for her because she can’t understand the Twitters or the Facebooks on his/her six figure salary… sometimes you need to vent.

King For A Day:

Given my generation’s unprecedented support for LGBT rights and the cause of marriage equality, this might as well be our giant middle finger to the homophobes of the world. Don’t knock it until you tried it, and until then we’re going to dance around and mock you for your close-minded way of thinking. Just for giggles, try thinking about this song as it relates to Bronies as well.

Good Riddance:

This song was so overplayed in the late 90s (including on the Super Bowl and the hooplah surrounding the last episode of Seinfeld) that it’s still a bit eye-rolling whenever it comes on the radio. As a teenager, I could always understand this song in generalities and vagaries, simply that it was acoustic and deep, man… but as it look at it now, I truly understand what that phrase means. Sure, the financial panic and the recession were unpredictable, but in the end… they were right. I’m not going to win any friends here, but my generation can often be narcissistic and lazy. They are not wholly unfounded claims, but they are also blown out of proportion. Still, this crisis served to smack some of us in the face with the sturgeon of reality quick smart and show us how to buckle down and take control of our lives. I just hope some day we can look back and know we had the time of our lives.

Prosthetic Head:

I see you, down in the front line.
Such a sight for sore eyes, you’re a suicide makeover.
Plastic eyes, lookin’ through a numb skull.
Self-effaced, what’s his face.
You erased yourself so shut up.
You don’t let up.

Sadly, this is where we end. Things don’t look all that great for us, but we plod on. Soon, we may become nothing more than dressed-up mannequins with that same severed pain in our necks, because we cut off our heads to keep ourselves, as histrionic as it may seem, from crying.

And that is why Green Day’s Nimrod is a great album for any Millennial to listen to. I still have my cassette, if there’s any takers.

Green Day’s Nimrod: A Millennial’s Best Friend

How Green Day’s album “Nimrod” is actually a perfect companion to the current Millennial in flux.

from Wikipedia:

Nimrod is the fifth studio album by the American punk rock band Green Day, released on October 14, 1997 through Reprise Records. The group began work on the album in the wake of their cancellation of a European tour after the release of Insomniac (1995). Recorded at Conway Studios in Los Angeles, the album was written with the intent of creating solid songs as opposed to a cohesive album. As a result, Nimrod is noted for its musical diversity and experimentation, and contains elements of folksurf rock, and ska. The lyrical themes discussed on the record include maturity, personal reflection, and fatherhood.

Yes, despite being released when a good portion of the Millennial generation weren’t even born (I received the cassette tape as a 14th birthday present), Green Day’s successful follow-up album to their first smash “Dookie” proves to be an eerie mirror and oddly fitting companion to the trials and tribulations currently being felt by the majority of today’s twentysomethings. The most perfect irony comes from the fact that this album was written, performed, and originally intended for Generation X, the original “slacker generation” whose nihilistic heyday in the days of Nirvana, Grunge, Seattle, and mainstream acceptance of limited punk music fits the current frustrated situation much better than the rosy, Clinton-era days of good employment, better prospects, and brighter futures. It is more than a little disconcerting to see the original grunge rats of the previous generation shed their defining characteristics  as adulthood hit them full in the face, instead opting for the road to narcissism through witless, overpriced home purchases, mindless television trends, and a proliferation of a lifestyle that their sixteen year old selves would no doubt have considered shockingly banal.

The album starts with, almost prophetically, a tune titled “Nice Guys Finish Last”

A short sampling of the lyrics:

Living on command.
You’re shaking lots of hands.
You’re kissing up and bleeding all your trust
Taking what you need.
Bite the hand that feeds.
You lose your memory and you got no shame.

Pressure cooker, pick my brain and tell me I’m insane
I’m so fucking happy I could cry.

Tell me this doesn’t apply to Millennials having to compromise nearly every one of the values they had been taught to work for a company they hate, just to have enough money to pay off their student loans and maybe eat today. The second section is particularly telling, when you look at a world where the environment is toast, the government is bought, and your generation is poised to become the first in American history to earn less money than their parents. But through it all, you’re told not to be a “downer,” so you smile. You smile so much because you’re afraid that if you don’t, you’ll cry.

The next track is called “Hitching a Ride”

From the very beginning, there is a small violin intro reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof, perhaps signifying the transient nature of the Millennial. A job here, a job there; interns, volunteers, whatever you need me to be. Later they talk about a “drought at the fountain of youth,” and if there’s a better metaphor for the trouble Millennials are facing in these “Troubled Times,” I’d like to hear it.

The Grouch:

I shouldn’t have to say a word about this one. It should echo the thoughts and feelings of nearly every Millennial with a shred of awareness or dignity left.


The repetition of the minimum wage drudgery is present in this song, a melancholic ode to wasted opportunities and lives set adrift in the wake of a destructive recession.

I cannot speak, lost my voice
Speechless and redundant
‘Cause “I love you” is not enough, I’m lost for words

We have no voice to plead our case, a redundant case for the same thing: income equality, decent jobs, and a progressive future. Even the phrase “I love you” isn’t enough, because most Millennials are caught in the difficult spot between choosing to have a child or choosing to pay rent.


I’ve got some scattered pictures lying on my bedroom floor.
Reminds me of the times we shared.
Makes me wish that you were here.
Now it seems I’ve forgotten my purpose in this life.

Open the past and present.
Now and we are there.
Story to tell and I am listening.
Open the past and present.
And the future too. 
It’s all I’ve got and I’m giving it up to you.

Looking back on the promises that were made to us. We gave ourselves to the previous generations, we told them that we were ready to listen to the story they had to tell. We gave up our futures, mortgaging them in overpriced college tuition, and now all we have left are pictures on our bedroom floor… the bedroom floor, of course, in out parents’ house, where we moved back to.

All The Time:

These are the bad days for Millennials: thoughts of destructive behavior, all this talk of wasting time and resolutions that never came to pass, broken promises as we watch the clock tick and wonder where all the time went. Times up, the song says, when you work like a dog. Salud.

Worry Rock:

Another sentimental argument and bitter love.
Fucked without a kiss again and dragged it through the mud.
Yelling at brick walls and punching windows made of stone.
The worry rock has turned to dust and fallen on our pride. 
A knocked down dragged out fight.
Fat lips and open wounds.
Another wasted night and no one will take the fall. 
Where do we go from here?
And what did you do with the directions? 
Promise me no dead end streets
And I’ll guarantee we’ll have the road.

A depressed take on the present, with still one sliver of hope for the future. Fucked over by those in power without so much as a kiss, feeling like we’re raking our fists against a brick wall of uncertainty, beaten to hell by what the last five years has given us. It’s no wonder the worry rock is dust, we’ve tried our best to rub it when things get tough, but it was just too much. Please, Millennials beg, just no more dead end streets: no more ridiculous legislation, no more hyper-wealthy celebrations, no more doors slammed in our faces, and we guarantee we’ll have the road to a brighter future. That ending phrase seems to musically echo the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” which creates yet another layer to the loneliness and depression felt by the generation.

Platypus (I Hate You):

The lyrics can be found here.
I’m sure we’ve all had days like this. Maybe a clueless, Baby Boomer boss who doesn’t understand why WE can’t afford a new car. Maybe a cancer survivor campaigning against decent healthcare. Who knows.


I woke up on the wrong side of the floor.
Made, made my way through the front door.
Broke my engagement with myself.
Perfect picture of bad health, another notch scratched on my belt.

The future just ain’t what it used to be.
I got a new start on a dead end road.
Peaked, peaked out on reaching new lows.
Owe, I paid off all my debts to myself.
Perfect picture of bad health, another notch scratched on my belt.

The future’s in my living room.
Uptight, I’m a nag with a gun.
All night, suicide’s last call.
I’ve been uptight all night.
I’m a son of a gun.
Uptight I’m a nag with a gun.

The horrible irony is that Gen X wrote this and, looking back, their lives couldn’t have possibly looked any rosier.
Sure is easy to get a gun these days, though.

Last Ride In:

Finally, a cool down. A little surf rock relaxation. Perhaps the Millennials’ support for the legalization of Marijuana (and the success of such efforts in Colorado and Washington) could explain this slightly trippy, mellow end to the first side of the album.


Well, that’s it for side one. I’ll do side two later this week. Hope you got a kick out of it, or something.

The Point of Punk

I tend to do some of my best thinking in the shower. This morning, it was this. The point of punk rock is not so much a strictly anarchical or rebellious theme, as it is (or rather, was) a rebellion and anarchical look at music of the time. At its very heart, true punk rock music is comprised of all emotion, not just hatred or vehemence.
Punk music came about out of more than just anger. Besides, there’s usually an underlying emotion to all anger, if you really think about it. In this case, the anger was a direct result of the frustration and disappointment a generation had with what had become known as “rock” music. The original rebellious strains of pioneers like Chuck Berry had become homogenized and put through the wringer that is business. No musical style can completely survive the conversion from underground phenomenon to moneymaking enterprise, and punk itself was no exception in the late nineties and into the beginning of the naughts. However, at the time of punk’s birth, it was seen as a cherishing of the original ideas of rock ‘n’ roll, far from the overblown area rock that had begun to become the norm. No offense to arena rock, as it serves its niche, but it is a far cry from rock ‘n’ roll, which hung its hat on simple, uncomplicated three-chord melodies with a driving drumbeat as opposed to complex guitar lines, drum solos and, dare I say it, the occasional unholy sin against true rock, the synthesizer. This was no longer rock ‘n’ roll, and people wanted rock ‘n’ roll, ergo Punk.
Do me a favor. If you can, pull up the Dave Clark Five’s song “Bits and Pieces” whether it be in your mind, on your computer, or maybe an old 45. Apart from seeming quaint and cute as “oldies” tell me what else you notice about the song. This was later in rock ‘n’ roll’s heyday, while things began to be put through the wringer, but even then this song speaks to the roots of rock, the simplicity of rock. An uncomplicated, pounding, remorseless song that could well be considered proto-punk in its design, even though it came from a shameless “pop” band. The music is simple, the tune is catchy, and the lyrics have the be all and end all to true rock music, EMOTION. Yes, there is a reason why the term “emo” is a negative one, because that subculture relies too much on overblown, unrealistic, histrionic emotion to drive their music, and as such comes off as laughably melodramatic. This could be a symptom of the modern culture at large, but that is a topic for another day. Songs like “Bits and Pieces” or “Hound Dog” or even “Johnny B. Goode” while apparently seeming to just be pop ditties, actually encase the very spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, and that spirit is emotion.
I won’t lie. I think that the Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” is a wonderful song, but I don’t know if it’s ever really touched me like solid rock ‘n’ roll has. I sort of get lost in the spectacle before I can dig whatever they’re trying to say. There might be some really interesting emotion in there, but I can’t hear it over the infernally catchy electronic organ riff. Compare that to, say, “God Save the Queen” and there’s much more of am emphasis on the words, and the emotion behind them, as opposed the music. Yes, the Sex Pistols were bits of sellouts themselves, but the point remains valid. What I’m trying to say, ever so laboriously, is that you can put anything off of Social Distortion’s album “Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” against the top Pop album of the same year and I can swear to you that you will be moved more by the former’s music than the latter’s, even if the music is secondary. The point of rock ‘n’ roll is to affect you on every front, with music, lyrics, and emotion, and punk rock does that far better than any other of rock ‘n’ roll’s offspring, making it the true successor to the throne in my book. When a song gets stuck in your head, it’s well written. When it get stuck in your heart, it’s truly a good song. Yes, there is better music out there, but who cares if you can’t make it connect? I’d take the simple splendour of Bach’s Jesu over anything needlessly complex and nerdy DreamTheater cranks out.
Music isn’t just about sounding pretty, it’s about conveying an emotion, a real emotion, that can make you cry as the sensation washes over you. Social D’s “Don’t Take Me For Granted” has done that. Bad Religion’s “Sorrow” has done that. The Bouncing Souls “The Something Special” has done that. What we call mainstream rock today has not. Mainstream (as horrible as that word is these days) lacks the soul which makes music powerful, which is not uncommon. Even in Handel’s day there were tons of schlubs making copycat oratorios and whatnot to make a quick buck. Whenever something gets popular and stops being underground, it will lose a bit of its soul and cease to be as effective as anything other than a nice distraction and a catchy tune to hum on the subway…but it won’t stir your soul. Rock ‘n’ roll, and its favorite son Punk, can connect themselves to the great composers of yesteryear because they understood that music must be felt, and not played, bled, and not performed. Hearing Mike Ness sing “Under My Thumb” will ultimately have more power than whatever Miley Cyrus or Kelly Clarkson can scrounge up. The emotion any kind of emotion, is bigger and better, and that is what makes truly good music.

And everything inbetween

You know what? We’re still going to claim him.
Greg Graffin was born in Racine, Wisconsin. Sure, he’s known as the eloquent, didactic front man to Bad Religion, one of Intellipunk’s elder statesmen bands, and as such is entrenched in the SoCal environment he moved to at a young age. Who cares, he’s Wisconsin born, and we’re claiming him.
Now, Bad Religion is a bad whose sound reminds one of Martin Luther King, Jr driving a monster truck: social and political issues that are going to railroad you, and sound wicked awesome (oops, little east coast there) jast grayt, doncha know…you betcha…I give my kids retarded names…oops, now we’re in Russia, er, Alaska. Sorry.
Anyway, Bad Religion is known for hard-hitting issues and even harder hitting musical styles, a musical far cry from the tear-jerking life stories of Mike Ness or the wild emotion of Greg Attonito (wow, I just realized I have two Gregs and a Mike…weird). Bad Religion is the George Bernard Shaw to Ness’ almost melodramatic poetry and Attonito’s work that flirts with the avant-garde at times; Bad Religion is a band that doesn’t let you leave the show without pondering deep questions and tough issues. Allow me the hubris, but I’m rather proud to have a Midwesterner leading that charge.
I truly believe that it is the Midwestern influence on Mr. Graffin, no matter how small, that gives him the insight into issues that the surly eaterners and sun-drenched westerners don’t quite have. Midwesterners take things slowly, are less selfish, more polite, even more empathetic, and as such Graffin puts his great empathy for the human race into a tough-love approach through punk music. The songs say “you’re doing something wrong, America, so shape up and fly right,” while subtley adding “because I know you can do it” with all the earnestness of a fretful mother. Midwesterners are the ones who worry about the fate of people. Westerners worry about the fate of whales. Easterners worry about their own fate. Generalizations are fun.
All that pontification aside (and most of it was done with tongue firmly in cheek), Greg Graffin is a very intelligent man. In fact, Dr. Graffin teaches at the University of California in Los Angeles, also known as UCLA. It is his legitimized smartypantsness, along with his upbringing in California, that earns him merit on both sides of the country, but one really can’t doubt just a little of that Midwestern influence about the man. No matter how many Cornell-level words or California punk rock riffs he uses, Greg Graffin will always be a man that cares, who writes music that cares, and to me, that says the Midwest.

and West Coast.

Mike Ness is an American legend, or at least he should be.
You can gripe all you want about how rock ‘n’ roll descended from blues, and how blues descended from the music of native Africa, and how the White Devil homogenized and toned down the strong Nubian sound to make it appealing for us milquetoast boring, Buick-driving, too-tight bowtie wearing Saltine brothas. I don’t care what you say, because when it comes down to it, I can only listen to about fifteen minutes of blues, or soul, or rhythm, or whatever they call it these days (Lord knows that “Country” music isn’t even allowed to be called “Country” anymore, thanks to those Nashville pea-brains). When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, however…real, good, old-school three chord simple song rock the fuck out and roll… I can listen to that for hours, and I often do.
I cut my teeth on guys like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and, to a lesser extent, the luminaries like Chuck Berry and Bill Haley blaring out of 94.7 WOFM out of Wausau, Wisconsin. Like a lot of kids, I grew up listening to what Mom n Pop listened to, and, unlike most ungrateful little brats, I developed a deep affinity for “Oldies” so much so that I want to eat the children of those douchebags who keep turning my beloved Oldies stations into “Classic Rock” drivel playing Whitesnake more times than should be legal. As it was, the original rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s and early sixties was RAW: it was simple music, usually only a few chords, and simple songs about girls, cars, rockin’ a new lifestyle, or sometimes all three. “To hell with the bland conformity of the 1950s!” these songs said, “We’re not keeping up with the Joneses, we’re taking Suzy Jones out for a wild night of loud music and louder ideas, and you can stick it!”
True, the songs like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Great Balls of Fire” seem tame when put next to, say, Slipknot or Sabbath, butfor (what’s a butfor?) the parents of that era, this was devil-scribed prophecies of the downfall of the American life that they had fought so hard to preserve. Now, don’t get me wrong, Hitler needed a good tushy-kicking, but the buttoned down, McCarthy-era terror that followed VJ Day was not the reward America, nay, the free world deserved. You do not remove one tyrant three thousand miles away to be ruled by three thousand tyrants one mile away (sing it Mather Byles, Sr.), and rock ‘n’ roll was here to buck the establishment to the delight of the new American youth.
Sadly, as all wildly popular things, big business types got their hands into rock ‘n’ roll, and by the 1970s the once noble art form had fallen into a morass of flimsy, innefectual music or, even worse, disco. In a supreme example of History flowing like a river, this button-down version of rock ‘n’ roll had its own detractors who fought back with, you guessed it, musically simple, raw, high-energy songs, and thus was born punk rock, the spiritual ancestor to the original rock ‘n’ roll and the domain of one Mike Ness who, along with his band Social Distortion, are one of the elder statesmen of the punk rock scene. In keeping my musical influences within the family, it was my older brother who introduced me to punk, and bands like Social D, who rule so hard that I someday hope to see Mike Ness’ eyeliner pencil in the Hall of Fame next to the comb used to coif Elvis’ signature pompadour.
There’s no one better to discuss the history of Social D than the band themselves, so I’ll slap this link up here for brevity’s sake:
Mike Ness has nearly THIRTY YEARS of experience in punk rock music, dating back to 1979 at the age of 17. He, along with a few others, are considered virtual Gods of the genre, with careers spanning everything from loud and nasty raw punk in the Carter Administration to “Western” (because I’m told I can’t call real Country “Country” anymore, rargh) influences produced at the end of the tenure of Bill Clinton. Finally, the punk met the cow, along with some Berry and awesome sauce in the form of “Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll” an album put out in 2001 and easily the best offering from Social D to date. Social D, unlike nearly any other punk band, exemplifies what punk rock has and always will be: a strong, rebellious, truly American art form with its roots in blues, jazz, co…grr…”Western,” and rock ‘n’ roll music, any old way you choose it. Mike Ness, as leader of the band and the only surviving member from its earliest days, serves as the figurehead of Punk rock’s true Americana, writing and singing songs that don’t just connect to today, but yesterday, the day before that, and decades back to the first proto-punk that first slicked his hair, slipped on his brothel creepers and cranked “Johnny B. Goode” out of the speaker of his father’s Packard on the way to crash the local ice cream social.
Social D, and by extension punk music as a whole, is the music of the American spirit, and Mike Ness channels that spirit and crafts it like a master artisan. A Social Distortion song is not only listened to, it is experienced. There is no better way to hear Social Distortion than with the windows down on a vintage Cadillac, cruising down a sun-soaked stretch of highway in Southern California, the place where Ness calls home. American built cars, American-built music, and warm California sun. It doesn’t get any more American than that.

East Coast?

Sorry about going AWOL on you yesterday, folks. Stuff got busy, and I don’t have internet at my new place yet because the wireless WEP is being a jerkface 🙁
Aaaaaanyway, I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now, and I think I can say with a clear conscience that Greg Attonito is one of the most powerful singers in music today. Well, I suppose I should say “singers” per se, but I’ll get to that later. Mr. Attonito is the lead singer of the east-coast punk rock band known as the Bouncing Souls, fellows whose music alternates between rollicking tales of dumbassery and fun with friends to gut-check ballads of dark days and destinous decisions. Mr. Attonito, as lead singer of the band, has as his charge the task of spanning such a broad range of song styles, and does so with a flair that is all his own.
Much like Rex Harrison of “Doctor Doolittle” or “My Fair Lady,” Mr. Attonito doesn’t exactly sing his music. Now, of course, someone talk-singing like Rex Harrison won’t get too far in a high-octane punk scene (although I’d love to see it attempted) so Mr. Attonito decides instead to apply a musical style I like to call “shouting on pitch.” To be honest, I have no idea how the career vegetarian has the ability to belt out such musical vitriol without tearing into a hunk of Bambi or Thumper from time to time. I need a pound of bacon just to blink my eyes in the morning.
If Greg Graffin is a Mercedes, with smooth, intelligent engine notes, and Mike Ness is a vintage Corvette, with a power and gravity that is as steeped in Americana as George W. Bush is steeped in stupid juice, that would make Greg Attonito the equivalent of a Mack Truck. He’s coming at you, he’s loud, he’s intense, and you’d best get out of the way lest you wind up nothing but a bloody smear. The guy sings with such passion and raw emotion (much like my brother, actually, who you can hear at www.myspace.com/thedisabledwi) and at such an incredible volume, both aurally and spatially, that it’s almost overwhelming. Graffin inspires, Ness digs deep, and Attonito abrades the surface right off.
It may sound as if I’ve got a bit of a man-crush for the guy and, rest assured, if he asked me on stage to sing a boys’ love version of “Wish Me Well,” I’d be hard pressed to say no, let alone keep from squealing like a Beatles’ fan circa 1964. Tangentally, let me say that “Wish Me Well” is the most realistic love song ever written, no argument, shut up. That being said, my masculinity would be preserved until the day someone manages to genetically combine Graffin, Ness, and Attonito into one Golden God of Punk Rock Power, and in that case all bets in regards to my heterosexuality would be off. I strongly urge you to give the Bouncing Souls a try, especially if you want to hear the most raw power in a singing voice since probably Dame Melba. If nothing else, “the Something Special” is a song that should be heard at least once by every person on Earth before they croak.