Definitions

punk

punk

[puhngk]

Aggressive form of rock music that coalesced into an international (though predominantly Anglo-American) movement in 1975–80. Originating in the countercultural rock of artists such as the Velvet Underground and Iggy (Pop) and the Stooges, punk rock evolved in New York City in the mid-1970s with artists such as Patti Smith and the Ramones. It soon took root in London—where distinctly “punk” fashions, including spiked hair and ripped clothing, were popularized—with bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and later in California, with X, Black Flag, and the Dead Kennedys. It is often marked by a fast, aggressive beat, loud guitar with abrupt chord changes, and nihilistic lyrics. Variants include new wave (more pop-oriented and accessible) and hardcore (characterized by brief, harsh songs played at breakneck speed); the latter continued to thrive through the 1990s.

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Anarcho-punk is a faction of the punk subculture that consists of bands, groups and individuals promoting anarchist politics.

Although not all punks support anarchism, the ideology has played a significant role in the punk subculture, and punk has had a significant influence on the expression of contemporary anarchism. The term anarcho-punk is sometimes applied exclusively to bands that were part of the original anarcho-punk movement in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and 1980s, such as Crass, Conflict, Flux of Pink Indians, Subhumans, Poison Girls and Oi Polloi. Some use the term more broadly to refer to any punk music with anarchist lyrical content. This broader definition includes crust punk bands, such as Nausea, and d-beat bands, such as Discharge. The term may also include American hardcore punk bands, such as MDC, folk punk artists such as This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, or artists in other sub-genres.

Anarcho-punk has been highlighted as one of the social phenomena which took anarchism in the direction of "lifestylism". Some argue that style became an essential ingredient of the movement, sometimes obscuring other factors, although others would reply that the performers who aligned themselves with anarcho-punk in fact embraced a wide diversity of approaches in both format and ideas. This would appear to be borne out by the range of anarcho-punk artists and performers. As well, it is often argued that the fashion was simply representative of the ethics associated with anarchism, such as anti-corporate, do-it-yourself beliefs.

History

Prehistory (1965-77)

Some early protopunk bands of the late 1960's had anarchist members, such as the German blues rock band Ton Steine Scherben as well as English bands connected to the UK Underground, like Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, The Deviants and the Edgar Broughton Band. These bands, along with Detroit's MC5, set a precedent for mixing radical politics with with rock music and established the idea of rock as agent of social and political change in the public consciousness. Punk rock was also influenced by music outside rock'n'roll, including the avant-garde, outsider music, reggae, traditional Irish music and even Free Jazz. Penny Rimbaud said Crass owed more to the avant-garde (both musically and ideologically) than any rock'n'roll band or tradition, citing Benjamin Britten and John Cage musical influences.

Other precursors to anarcho punk include avant-garde art and political movements like Fluxus, dada, the Beat generation, Popular Workshop, England's Angry Young Men like Joe Orton, the surrealism inspired Situationist International, the May 1968 uprising in Paris and CND. The hippie counterculture was a significant influence on anarcho-punk, especially the politically active Yippies. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys cited the Yippies as an influence on his activism and thinking.

Post 1977

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1970s in the United Kingdom following the birth of punk rock, in particular the Situationist-influenced graphics of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, as well as that band's first single, "Anarchy in the UK." However, while the early punk scene appropriated anarchist imagery mainly for its shock or comedy value, Crass may have been the first punk band to expound serious anarchist and pacifist ideas. The concept of anarcho-punk was quickly picked up on by bands like Flux of Pink Indians and Conflict.

As the 1980s progressed, two new punk styles evolved out of anarcho-punk: d-beat and crust punk. D-beat was a faster, more brutal form of punk music, and was created by bands like Discharge and the Varukers. Crust punk mixed anarcho-punk with an extreme metal sound, and was pioneered by bands such as Antisect, Sacrilege and Amebix. Somewhat later on in the 1980s, grindcore developed out of anarcho-punk. Similar to crust punk, but even more musically extreme, grindcore employed blast beats and incomprehensible Cookie Monster vocals. Grindcore was pioneered by bands such as Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. Parallel to the development of these subgenres, many bands in the American hardcore punk scene adopted anarcho-punk ideology, including MDC and Reagan Youth.

Anarcho-punk in the 2000s has been more musically diverse than in the 1970s and 1980s . In addition to previously established subgenres, anarcho-punk encompasses punk blues artists like Darren Deicide, pop punk artists such as Girlband, the Bus Station Loonies and Propagandhi, New Wave performers or groups such as Honey Bane, and folk punk bands such as The Weakerthans. Some anarcho-punk bands even incorporate indie rock or indie pop, such as the Nation of Ulysses. Fairly recently, bands such as Axiom, Destroy and Disrupt have fused the grindcore and crust punk sounds. Digital Hardcore often takes an anarchist stance in their lyrics, as typified by genre pioneers Atari Teenage Riot. Digital Hardcore mixes punk (and sometimes rap) vocals with elements of many different genres, mainly hardcore techno, thrash metal, and noise music. One of the earliest precendents for this diversification were Rudimentary Peni and TSOL, who eventually became deathrock acts.

Chumbawumba even became more influenced by pop and folk music, leading to top 40 hits around the world.

Beliefs

Anarcho-punk bears very close resemblance to anarchism without adjectives, in that it involves the cooperation of various different forms of anarchism. Some anarcho-punks are anarcha-feminists (e.g. Polemic Attack), while others were anarcho-syndicalists (e.g. Exit-Stance). The Psalters are an anarcho-punk band with an affiliation with Christian anarchism.

Post-left anarchy is common within modern anarcho-punk. CrimethInc., one of the major proponents of post-leftism, is strongly connected to the anarcho-punk movement. Class War is a British post-left federation with close ties to the anarcho-punk movement. Many anarcho-punks are supporters of issues such as animal rights, racial equality, anti-heterosexism, feminism, environmentalism, worker's autonomy, the anti-war movement, and the anti-globalisation movement.

Anarcho-punks have criticized the flaws of the punk movement and the wider youth culture in general. Bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys have written songs that attack corporate co-option of the punk subculture, people who are deemed to have sold out, and the violence between punks, skinheads, B-boys and other youth subcultures and within punk itself. Some anarcho-punks are straight edge, claiming that alcohol, tobacco, drugs and promiscuity are instruments of oppression and are self-destructive because they cloud the mind and wear down a person's resistance to other types of opression. Some crust punks also condemn the waste of land, water and resources necessary to grow crops to make alcohol, tobacco and drugs, forfeiting the potential to grow and manufacture food. Some may be straight edge for religious reasons, such as in the case of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hare Krishna anarcho-punks (see Anarchism and religion for more background).

Although Crass initially espoused pacifism, this is not necessarily the case for all anarcho-punks. Despite the broader punk subculture's reactionary antagonism towards hippies, the ideals of the hippie counterculture were an influence on anarcho-punk. Crass were explicit regarding their associations with the hippie counterculture, and this influence has also carried over to crust punk.

Direct action

Anarcho-punks universally believe in direct action, although the way in which this manifests itself varies greatly. Despite their differences in strategy, anarcho-punks often co-operate with each other. Many anarcho-punks are pacifists (e.g. Crass and Discharge) and therefore believe in using non-violent means of achieving their aims. These include peaceful protest, refusal to work, squatting, economic sabotage, dumpster diving, graffiti, culture jamming, ecotage, freeganism, boycotting, civil disobedience, hacktivism and subvertising. Some anarcho-punks believe that violence or property damage is an acceptable way of achieving social change (e.g. Conflict and D.O.A.). This manifests itself as rioting, vandalism, wire cutting, assault, hunt sabotage, participation in Animal Liberation Front- or Earth Liberation Front-style activities, and in extreme cases, bombings. Many anarchists dispute the applicability of the term "violence" to describe destruction of property.

Some anarcho-punks, notably in North America, have sought to use the electoral process in order to bring their respective areas closer to anarchism, although none of them ran for office as members of an anarchist party. Notable anarcho-punks who have run for office include Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra for mayor of San Francisco; T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham, for governor of California (he became disillusioned with anarchism and became a social democrat); and D.O.A. lead singer Joey Shithead. Jello Biafra, argues that humans are not ready for anarchy, and that some form of government is needed until certain social changes are implemented. Many anarcho-punks vote, and several anarcho-punks, such as Propagandhi, Jello Biafra, and Thought Riot have expressed support for Ralph Nader and the Green Party.

DIY punk ethic

Many anarcho-punk bands subscribe to a do-it-yourself ethic. A popular anarcho-punk slogan is "DIY not EMI," a conscious rejection of a major record company. Many anarcho-punk bands were showcased on the Bullshit Detector series of LPs released by Crass Records and Resistance Productions between 1980 and 1994. Some anarcho-punk performers were part of the cassette culture. In this way, an attempt was made to bypass the traditional recording and distribution routes, with recordings often being made available in exchange for a blank tape and a self-addressed envelope. The anarcho-punk movement had its own network of fanzines or punk zines which disseminated news, ideas and artwork from the scene. These were DIY productions, tending to be produced in runs of hundreds at most, although there were exceptions such as Toxic Grafity.The zines were printed on photocopiers or duplicator machines, and distributed by hand at punk concerts and through the mail.

Musical style and asthetics

Generally speaking anarcho-punk bands play fast songs that are less focused on musical delivery than the average punk band is. The message is considered to be much more important than the music. It is not uncommon for anarcho-punk songs to lack the usual structure of verses and a chorus. One of the bands to take this to the extreme was Crass with their release Yes Sir, I Will, a raging and almost free-form improvised musical backing over which the lyrics are shouted. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, later Chumbawumba songs were more pop oriented and had a pop song structure that made their message more accessible, even gaining chart hits in the process.

With these exceptions, anarcho-punk is stylistically diverse with bands having different musical aesthetics. Folk-punk bands sometimes perform ballads and traditional folk songs, often with acoustic and folk instrumentation. Already mentioned in "History", some bands could even be considered indie rock, such as The Weakerthans, Blyth Power or Nation of Ulysses. Some members also play in indie rock or pop acts, such as Oi Polloi's drummer, Murray Briggs, going off to play in Aberfeldy.

Some anarcho-punk bands even subvert regular pop song structures, lyrics and pop music conventions either for artistic reasons and also to show how these are part of a repressive system of production and culture.

Fashion

Some members of the anarcho-punk movement distinguish themselves from the rest of the punk subculture by adapting punk fashion to represent their political beliefs. Anarchist symbols and slogans are common elements of anarcho-punk dress. Following the example of Crass, some anarcho-punks dress entirely in black, as well as wearing military apparel (combat boots, bullet belts, military surplus clothes]). Some anarcho-punks avoid leather, usually as an expression of vegetarianism or veganism, or other similar ideals. Other anarcho-punks such as Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys have embraced the anti-fashion ethos that was prevalent in the early hardcore punk scene. However, other anarcho-punks and anarcho-punk bands have drawn on other fashion traditions. For example, Nation of Ulysses drew heavily on the dress of 1970's soul bands and politicised street gangs, like the Vicelords. Anarcho-punk music is popular with some anarchist skinheads, and some punk fashion influences have crossed over into the Punk-Skinhead subculture.

Bibliography

  • Geoff Eley - "Do It Yourself Politics (DIY)", Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, chapter 27: "The Center and the Margins: Decline or Renewal?". Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-504479-7 p. 476-481.
  • Ian Glasper - The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 (Cherry Red publishing, 2006 ISBN 978-1901447705)
  • Craig O'Hara - Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (AK Press, 1999 ISBN 978-1873176160)
  • George Berger - The Story of Crass (London: Omnibus Press 2006, ISBN 1-84609-402-X)

References

See also

External links

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