Good punk music is obvious. That’s the whole point: it strips away all the finery so you can’t help but see the raw heart of it. But when I got on a punk kick for the first time in a few years, much of it seemed lifeless and boring, precisely because it was so obvious. Hearing a rat-tailed dude with bad tattoos scream about the horrors of corporate control and everyday fascism doesn’t feel revolutionary anymore, it feels tired. The message is as true as ever, but who has time to get up in arms about something we’ve all known for all our lives?
Yet some punk felt as vital as ever, even though it was just as obvious. The second verse in the IDLES song “Mother,” when singer Joe Talbot’s voice cracks screaming “my mother works seventeen hours seven days a week,” or live Downtown Boys shows when singer Victoria Ruiz mixes bilingual abolitionist speeches with simple calls to arms like “a wall is just a wall” — somehow, moments like these don’t sound lifeless truisms, they sound like the common-sense analysis of a budding generational movement. The things we’ve known for all our lives turn out to be things we’ve taken for granted, and suddenly something different seems not only possible, but inevitable.
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