August 24, 2009

Who Sold Out Now?

Ch 24.

I have been enjoying various degrees of punk rock for about 10 years now. And over this time, I really saw a ton of changes to the scene - a scene that had supposedly been dead for 20 years. I saw Greenday "evolve", the Offspring ... turn old. I saw Rise Against fall within radio-friendly territory, and Jim Lindberg from Pennywise yell @ a complacent, lazy group of Calgarians to get off their lazy stoner asses @ warped tour and to start moving, and recently announce his retirement from the band. I've seen AFI go from "east bay hardcore" to "emo artsy vegans" and Poison the Well - not change at all. Gob's done its best to keep Canadian pop punk alive, just as SNFU and DOA has done amazing at keeping the old school 80s scene alive through constant touring and shows. The hardcore scene was tangibly kept alive by a recent North American tour that had a selection of 10 bands play shows for "the scene" for $10, although only about 3 or 4 out of the 10 bands were "famous" in the underground world of hardcore.

So with the many types of punk shows I have seen over the past 10 years, the fact remains: a lot have seriously sold out. You may find it difficult to blame these guys who invest soo much into their music and really hardly reap any rewards. But a band with a name like "Rise Against" - well gee, I guess I just expected more from the Chicago foursome from a philosophical perspective. Their music is and was great. But the songs definately changed. Songs like "Halfway There" and "Alive and Well" are a far cry from any of the ballads that you would hear on their most recent radio releases, and the band's name is simply just too anti-establishment tor them to ever become as successful as they have. To me, the words "rise against" stated as generally as that would mean first and foremost: "count me out from media control" and "the system doesn't work so leave me out of it". This is not how the band proceeded, despite the many PETA flyers available at most of their shows.

But that's nothing compared to that mascara-wearing goth-like macho-man, M Shadows. Avenged Sevenfold's arrogance, I think, made them go from one of the most promising hardcore acts of the 21st Century to one of the biggest let downs to those really living their lives in the shadows. Too much fame, way too fast. A7X is like the Disney product Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, where too much investment and expectations from too young an age (released 1st album when they were in highschool) had completely spoiled the band. (But 2 great albums, nevertheless) (And the bat skull is pretty cool too).

Similar fad bands got popular real quick, taking this tough-guy hardcore approach to their music, only to be losing every aspect of that persona only a short time later. Atreyu - what the hell happened? Did I hear you on sonic about a year ago??? My Chemical Romance wasn't ever as tough, but they definitely road the coattails of similar bands that had money being poured into their marketing, resulting in more and more radio-friendly hits. MCR became the epitome of sellout with their sadistic death-cult, pop-friendly made-for-radio hits. Maybe they took some tips off of Billie Joe Armstrong when they toured with Green Day (black eyeliner and a hair stylist on the tour bus)... If you are unfamiliar with punk music but have ever heard "Drag Me Down" and "Paralyzer" by Finger 11, released maybe 8 years later, you will know exactly what I am talking about with respect to how a band can go from passionate and cutting edge to formulaic and dull.

The respectable thing to do when your band is getting bored of reproducing the same ol' shit is to quit and try to re-invent yourself in a new light. Tsunami Bomb, Good Riddance, Satanic Surfers, and Minor Threat are the first few that come to mind where members of the band have gone to extensive lengths to see if The Action Design, Only Crime, Enemy Alliance, and Fugazi (respectively) can do well. If ending the band is out of the question, and artsy "expansion" or creating "concept albums" or "progressive musicianship" is what you want to be recognized for, chances are, you really are more of a capitalist bastard than a lover of music and art. Otherwise you'd do what the bands I mentioned did and not fear losing your name. and any previous success attached to it. "Happiness in America equals dollar signs", this is true after all.

Death By Stereo. They put on endless free shows in southern California but sell everything imaginable to make money. Their products include (but certainly aren't limited to) key chains and condoms, belt buckles and thongs, stickers and skate decks. I purchased a $5 wrist band and a ball cap in 2005, but there was 1 dollar beer in the parking lot of the daycare/community hall that they played at - for a 12 dollar show. I think that dbs represents the socal scene, for all of its best and its worst, and I think that the band would seriously benefit from spending some time in Canada, or maybe NYC. Just get out of Orange County. (I get to pick up their newest album from HMV on Friday for $12.99!)

H20, Propagandhi, Bad Religion are continuing to keep it smart. They don't over-indulge. And when they do produce and perform it is always worth the wait. Guttermouth's singer Mark Adkins is a shameless, but sarcastic capitalist, who, I think "cares" more than he lets on. Mark Unseen obviously cares, and has been showing it since he started singing for the band in 2003.

The Unseen may be take the name of one of its members, but it is not named for that member. To me, those self-titled artists were always easy to dislike. They were never in punk (AWK, maybe), as that would come across as a less egalitarian way of distributing the success or sharing the blame. I think Matthew Good was the 1st one I was aware about who even went as far to "lose" his band. (MGB became just Matthew Good). The arrogance involved to name 3 or more people making music after yourself always bewildered me. Henry Rollins rocked his way out of Black Flag and went on to "spoken word tours" at venues like the Winspear - but nevertheless, he must be credited for a lot of his DIY work in the 80s. It's just my opinion that Jello Biafra did the same thing, but better, as he took leave from the Dead Kennedys. BUT NOW THAT I AM OLDER, I am actually okay with bands named after the singer! Artists with unique styles like Jeremy Fisher, Justin Rutledge, Jill Barber, Luke Doucet, Melissa McLelland, or Elliott Brood are simply taking credit for their incredible musicianship - say, a 6 string guitar - and amazing singing voice. With that, they offer up very enjoyable entertainment and seek no excessive monetary rewards - it's usually more about the music with these "folk" musicians than anything. They realize their odds of becoming a Bryan Adams, Sarah McLaughlin, Neil Young, Shania, or Celine are just as good as your odds are at making the NHL or becoming a neurosurgeon. But something tells me the Jim Lindberg Experience wouldn't have taken off nearly as well as a band named after the psycho killer clown created by Stephen King.

Check one, two
The plow that broke the plains
We as humans destroy everything,
Well, there's limits to the land
Left the resistance and the monkey wrenchin' cause money rules again
Life is easier when your bills are paid,
You finished studies,
Masters degree
Now consulting development companies,
Who sold out now?
Who sold out now?

Sixteen years old and live at home
In front your friends calling out at shows,
You left the scene cause your new girlfriend told you so,
Freaked out on X at some rave or techno,
Money rules again
Distro circus at every show,
I came to support these tourin' bands and nothing's free,
Pay my ticket at the door,
Who sold out now?
Who sold out now?

Constant complaining makes my ears ring
I care about hardcore but I hate the scene

The plow that broke the plains
We as humans abuse every way,
There's limits to me, friend
What happened to the brotherhood we shared,
Well, money rules again
I'll give you anything if you just ask,
Hung yourself from your own rope
I count my loss and just walk away,
Who sold out now?
Who sold out now? (3x)



  1. Blogging is way too mainstream, I mean everybody does it now. Way to sell out, Ryan.