I’m not sure where I lost the beat, but sitting here listening to "Blitzkrieg Bop," punk’s big bang, on a new Ramones anthology, it’s all become very clear. The blueprint’s never been easier to decipher. In Dee Dee’s 1-2-3-4 martial call, Johnny’s buzzed bar-chord revelations, Tommy’s pounding foundation and Joey’s warped vocal testifying is punk rock’s beginning, middle and never-ending assimilation into the pop landscape from which it was delivered. And, on the eve of both the Vans Warped Tour and Social Chaos tour ripping through our town, what we’ve come to call punk rock is laid flat on the boardroom table for easier examination.
But I’m a 26-year-old codger for whom the demarcation line between the brilliant chaos of DIY and the modern world of boardroom punkity rockity is the breakup of ska-punk heroes Operation Ivy – though I can give concession to the output of Rancid, the outfit that members of Op Ivy went on to form. Face forward, turn your amps up to 10 and convince me.
You see, the two above-mentioned exercises in the marketing of negation represent two very different faces of social rejection through music. The rock ’n’ roll caravans are neatly packaged as "New School" (Warped, with headlining acts that are essentially today’s pop sounds, such as Pennywise, Blink 182 and Less Than Jake) and "Old School" (Social Chaos, with such gloriously crusty hardcore stalwarts as D.R.I., the UK Subs, TSOL and Gang Green providing the volume).
It’s gonna sound weird, but the Warped Tour – with its inclusion of hip-hop acts Black-Eyed Peas, Ice T and Eminem, and its emphasis on pop, however corporate-radio-flavored – may actually be closer to the original teenage heart of good ole-fashioned American (and Brit for that matter) punk rock. The Ecstasy and rave generation may have replaced reggae with rap, but the fans’ musical allegiance remains just as wide-open. Even with the post-Green Day formulaic punk-pop that’s going around, the retarded teen anthems are near the center of the same universe that spawned the bubblegum-inspired Ramones and the saucy crunch of the New York Dolls.
Social Chaos leans heavily on second-generation English, beer-soaked, politico testosterone outfits. The sounds and images coming from Social Chaos’ stage are much more likely to show up in a Budweiser commercial. The UK Subs, D.R.I. and such are the outsider version of punk rock that was co-opted by folks who wanted to look cool at the mall but didn’t want to enter into a contract with an underground culture. This is the punk rock that will look you in the eye, spit in your face and pick you up when you’ve been knocked to the mosh pit floor.
Both of these punk rock packages – three, if you count the new Rhino Ramones two-CD package – can be yours for the low, low price of admission and both present some attractive options for those young or young-at-heart looking for a bit of nostalgia, confrontation, hormone-addled energy and a bit of historical perspective.
Me? I’ll be tucked under the covers with my transistor radio and a tube of glue searching the airwaves for something new.
And now, kids, back to rock ’n’ roll radio.E-mail comments and nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org