Thursday, June 6, 2013

Subcultures Close to Goth: Punk

There is a lot of debate over what elements of goth culture actually belong to goth and which little spooky bits are more the possessions of their morbid counterparts, but no one can deny that goth and punk are evil stepsisters. Who was the first to rip fishnets and backcomb hair? Why punk of course! Who introduced the DIY ethic that so many goths are proud of today? Punks! And who...were the wear Doc Martens? That would be punk as well. The subculture emerged in the middle of the 1970's, although no one is really sure if Punks first popped up in the United Kingdom or the States (here's one vote for UK, because, lets face it, everything is better in Europe). Much like goth, Punk is a very music centered subculture that also embraces a certain fashion sense. In 1960, a form of garage rock was revamped into a new form of music called Protopunk, a sound that was soon to be dubbed Punk Rock (the label first appeared in 1974 in New York). Shortly after Punk began overrunning New York, London's Punk scene really got going, and Los Angeles was quick to follow. Punk music typically features aggressive drumming and bizarre distorted guitar (can you see where that sound would soon turn spooky?) and the songs are normally pretty short. They have basic structure with simple chords, as the lyrics are usually the part of the song that is really important to most Punks; they express ideology and mantras embraced by the whole scene. Punks typically dance to their songs by moshing (basically thrashing around a lot) or pogo (jumping up and down in the same place). 
A bit of a difference within the Punk and the goth scene is that you'll probably hear a lot of goths say that "goth is different for everyone" while Punks have a pretty clear cut definition of what makes up the subculture. Here are some definitions of Punk ideals:

Individual Freedom and Anti-Establishment: 
A system of views of beliefs that opposes conventional political economic and social principles.

A system of beliefs that goes against forms of social organization which feature submission to authority. The opposite of Authoritarianism (fancy that), Anti-Authoritarians typically believe in strong civil liberties and full equality in matters of law. This term is sometimes synonymous with anarchism, an ideology that seeks to completely do away with authority figures in general. 

Non Conformity
Choosing to act against the attitudes, beliefs of behaviors of a society. 

Direct Action
phenomenon that occurs when a group of people take action to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. These actions are often nonviolent and typically target groups or property that the direct action group finds offensive. Examples of direct action include: strikes, sit-ins or occupations, graffiti, tax resistance and blockages. 

A doctrine that was first suggested in the Sex Pistols song "God Save the Queen" that emphasized life with no objective, meaning or purpose. This idea suggests the negation of at least one meaningful aspect of life.
Most Punks embrace at least a few of the above ideals and many more. Typically, Punks have left wing political views and support equality of gender and sexuality, environmentalism, vegetarianism/veganism, and animal rights. Some Punks do uphold other ideals however, such as Neo-Nazism and being Apolitical. Nihilism and apathy were especially embraced during Punk's early years, a way of living born from what many considered a disappointing failure of the sixties hippie culture. These sorts of views expressed "unconcern for the present" and for a while, Punk's slogan was "No Future." It was these sorts of ideals that lead many (but not all) Punks to use some pretty heavy drugs such as heroine and meth. As Punks began to realize their subculture was leading many youths to self destruction, a new movement emerged within the scene born of the Minor Threat song "Straight Edge."  A subset of Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge adherents refrain from using any kind of recreational drug including tobacco and alcohol. Many Straight-Edgers are also celibate and follow a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet while some are interested in Hare Krishna spirituality. Straight-Edge members usually identified themselves with X's on the backs of their hands. Any relation to X's being used as symbols for underage bar members? Note: It is quite possible for someone to be Punk and not a Straight Edge member without having drug problems or believing that living fast and dying young is the best way to go about life. 
Wikipedia tells me that "Punks seek to outrage others with the highly theatrical use of clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, tattoos and body modification." I'm not so sure that outrage is the right word here, but certainly Punk clothing will get the same amount of raised eyebrows and sneering as a typical goth wardrobe on the high street (ha ha, ever since I've started reading English blogs I've wanted to use that phrase. I want high streets in the USA!) perhaps more because most Punk looks aim for a slightly "dangerous" vibe. The hallowed leather jacket is probably the most recognized of Punk looks as well as the easiest bit of subculture to hoist in the air for DIY pride. Other commonly seen looks include skinny or "drainpipe" jeans, skirts or pants that are usually plaid along with kilts, converse sneakers, skate shoes, creepers and the famous Doc Martens.
Shock value is a highly sought after look for Punks as these individuals typically want to broadcast their beliefs, but not in the sense that they're attention whores. They just want their clothing to make a statement. Punks are proud to live creatively, and they're going to show it to you. Some Punks wear swastikas for shock value, but many contemporary punks typically wear crossed out swastikas in coordinance with their anti-racist beliefs. Popular hairstyles typically feature at least one vibrant color and mohawks as well as gelled spikes are just as common as backcombing. Just like goth, there is a constant argument over which is more important, the music or the fashion. Some Punks even go so far as to be anti-fashion, arguing that the subculture should really be about ideology and music. In the Hardcore Punk movement just after the 1980's, anti-fashion Punks dressed in plain T-shirts and jeans to proclaim the idea that what makes one Punk is really on the inside. 

A Quick List of Punk Bands
  • The Dead Kennedys
  • The Sex Pistols
  • The Misfits
  • The Clash
  • Minor Threat
  • The Ramones
  • Operation Ivy
  • Rancid
  • The Dead Milkmen
  • Social Distortion
For more punk bands, check out: Music Forum's Top 100 Punk Bands

Song of the Day:

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