Punk Rock Academy Fight Songs

Where do you start when it comes to the music and bands that would ultimately define you? How do you compress a lifetime’s worth into an hour? You can’t, but we tried. The punk explosion of the mid-90’s played in important part in many a suburban teenager’s life- and its long serving effects are still being felt today. While some will discredit the movement for homogenizing a previously (and notoriously) underground element, one can also see its positive influence on the world.

Speaking personally, without it, I would have never found the vast and incredibly life-altering artistic appeal of a scene buried deep beneath the surface. Whether it was hardcore, post-hardcore, indie, or punk in its earlier forms, bands like Green Day and Offspring were the gateways to enlightenment, activism, and self-reliance. For an hour, we tried to reminisce and share some of the bands that made it big during this time period, bands that went on to influence millions of listeners around the world. We also made time to remember some of those who were fueled by the mega label’s who sought to cash in on this trend, and ultimately sank some promising bands. We spun tracks by the previously mentioned, Rancid, No Use For a Name, Klover, Jawbreaker, Millencolin, and MxPx to name some.

To this day, these songs still resonate.


Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault

This is less a review of The Getaway Plan live than it is a skewed, opinionated critique of the scene in which they inhabit. One for this purpose, I shall call the “New Youth Music Movement” which blankets the subgenres of punk, hardcore (including post), screamo, emo, and pop-punk covered and done by those just past their teens and just before. It is essentially rock music coated and covered with the anti-flags of generation now- the clothing, the hair, the tattoos, the styles, and the attitudes for which, I do not essentially have a problem with. So while this could quickly degenerate into an “old guy waxing nostalgic” piece peppered with current cultural relevance, I do feel as if some of it has to be said. Especially after I did go see current Melbourne darlings The Getaway Plan triumphantly storm the stage for a sold out show at local city institution The Hi Fi Bar.

As it was, we plodded into the venue rather sluggishly, leaving us without the opportunity to see another local act about to make waves; Closure In Moscow (who recently inked a deal with US-based Warner subsidiary Science Records). The warm-up act we did see (who we hoped were just a really late Closure In Moscow) turned out to be from across-the-pond, New Zealand’s Goodnight Nurse (already on Warner) who were a more technically sound (but far less urgent) rendition of Blink-182’s more naïve days. Their sound was in every sense, by the numbers, but their drive and youthful veneer meant the crowd remained interested, and with some likable chops to boot, were more than capable of holding their own. With a new album fresh, they closed their set with their lead single, “This Night,” a thoroughly catchy tune built for the airwaves. The only serious flaw of their outing was a truly horrendous cover of Kelis’ “Milkshake,” which, like most hip-hop/R N’B covers by bands of this genre, are terrible by default. Nonetheless, hats off to them for bringing to life a New Zealand scene, which until now, had seemed virtually non-existent.

The first thing that struck me about the Getaway Plan, all of one album into their career, was how much their act and performance was built. It was a stage fit for rock royalty, giant cover banners, adjoining sets, and lavish lights to heighten the atmospheric allure. It was a production to say the least, confounded only the exorbitant number of recording equipment flanking it that made it less a show[1] than a press conference (I counted at least 3 broadcast quality video cameras and 4 professional photographers; mobile phone toting youtube yuppies not included). Maybe they were filming a live DVD, or maybe they just liked watching video of themselves? Who knows?

So this is where I’m getting at, some four years ago, The Getaway Plan were in their infancy. Four years! Now as I type (Sunday, July 6th), the band are preparing for their national television appearance on Rove Live (Australia’s Tonight Show) and will soon permeate living couches across the country before excelling to greater heights. The accelerated careers paths in which many of today’s youthful artists venture down are both a wonderful blessing and an ominous curse. I for one am thrilled to see so many kids, who through their teens get to dream rockstar dreams. And with some hard work, and some handy internetting, can cross the globe touring and doing what they love. During my teen years, when I started a band, if we were able to get a gig down at a local bar with our friends in the audience, it was considered a great accomplishment. Now with the advent and constant self-promotion viable by Web 2.0, rockstar dreams are less so, and more reality. I’m okay with that, but I guess in today’s cultural landscape, being in a band is more about making a living, becoming famous, and selling yourself- and again, I’m an accepting individual, I’m alright with (pop) cultural change. Yet I worry of an impending doom ahead, an inevitable implosion or collapse burdened by the current market saturation of trends and clever marketing ploys. In the next 10 years when the dreams are over, will anyone bother to remember them?

Perhaps it is the romantic in me, but maybe, if we’re lucky, those old war dogs of 80’s hardcore, all its offshoots and subgenres, and the forerunners of the pre-1994 explosion, will always have their place in musical history- not because they didn’t make it big, but because the few who found their passion within, knew its echo would resonate for years to come. They didn’t have the web and a way for their enthusiasm to permeate the minds the world over at their fingertips, but in leftover issues, rare records, and a heightened sense of relevance, they may just outlive the transient, imperceptible nature of music fostered today.

Then again, maybe it’s just me, and maybe my definition of integrity has become obsolete and that quick ascension to fame is just the name of the game. Or maybe it’s envy or jealousy. Or maybe I’m right.

[1] The show however, was pretty good. The band was tight on stage, played their instruments well (albeit, with lead vocalist Matt Wright either stoned, drunk, high, or a combination of all three), and gave the crowd what they came for.

Album Reviews, Music

Review: Alkaline Trio – Agony And Irony

Grappling with change is a seemingly routine aspect of life that we often have a great deal of trouble with. Over the course of these past few months, I’ve found a level of comfort in the Alkaline Trio’s sound, not so much its aesthetics, but rather its often vengeful/spiteful mantra that, I’m sure, speaks out to a great deal to some of us (see songs like; “Stupid Kid,” “Radio” where getting revenge was more than just hateful words). Progression was of course, inevitable, as the band’s popularity grew, their sound expanded from the raw days of their southern rock/punk beginnings to the more gothic-inspired nature of their recent album (2005’s Crimson), to the more dark-pop tone of the new Agony & Irony. Yet as the polish gleamed, their attitude behind the songs never wavered, sure, they’re on MTV a lot more, and the songs are less aggressive and more calculated, but the venom underlining them is still craftily woven in with their trademark spite.

I for one am all-ears to the handclaps of “Calling All Skeletons,” the piano accompaniment of “Help Me” (which Skiba wrote in tribute to Ian Curtis), the mid-tempo nature of “Do You Wanna Know?” Each are beautifully crafted pop songs without the bubblegum gloss normally associated with it, and as the crescendo from the death-stricken (would it be anything else?) “Over and Out” melds into the brilliant “I Found Away,” it is clear that Alkaline Trio have reached a creative apex. The latter track, proof that punk attitude can successfully amalgamate with pop leanings and indie fervor without losing any of its substance. “I Found Away” climbs high on their list of bitter songs that in every way, strikes the right chords.

As you would expect, Agony & Irony is not for every Trio fan. You’ll hear those grumble that they don’t write songs like “Goodbye Forever” anymore, or that they’ve lost much of their acidic veneer as it evolves into a more recognized, albeit blackened, face. Yet I’ve always found that accepting change comes down to the personal connection you make with whatever is changing and how it continues to communicate (or not) with you. I don’t care so much that the video for “Help Me” is so painfully cheesy (what? No Will Smith?), or that they’ve got their own Nike brand shoe (enticing I have to say), because in Agony & Irony I’ve found a place to relate my frustrations of coming-of-age; the futility and the complicated mess of life ever evident and the clenched fists of hope in broken hearts.

Alkaline Trio – I Found Away (from the album Agony & Irony)

Agony & Irony is now available via Amazon.