Michael Wood and Roque Renteria
By Michael Wood
Without a doubt, those of us on this side of the Atlantic are superior in every way to the Anglo menace. We look better, we dress better, we don't speak with some stupid anachronism of an accent, and guess what? Even our music is better! A whole lot of this comes from our failures as a country and the moral outrages stemming from those failures. And when it comes to failures of government and society as a whole, America excels.
A lot of music out there, versed in rebellion and rage, thrives on the outrage of a militaristic, greedy, and morally bankrupt culture. Frankly, since the 20th century, we've been major league assholes as a nation while the British, with their dissolved empire and effete demeanor towards international affairs, have taken a secondary role. There is so much more fuel to the fire of punk music in America than there is in Britain.
First off, let’s look at the two bands that popularized punk: the Ramones on this side of the Atlantic and the Sex Pistols on the other side. The Ramones were certified bad asses in that they simply didn't give a shit. They learned their power chords, how to keep time, how to sing and then out poured forth a burst of catchy, simple songs with an incredible pop sensibility. It was a big “fuck you” to all the progressive rock bands out there at the time who were so caught up in their nine-minute guitar solos that they forgot that music wasn't just about knowing your scales and using them to your advantage; there's something more to it. It should also be, you know, fun to listen to.
The Sex Pistols on the other hand were founded as the result of a marketing strategy (i.e. their manager wanted to cash in on the growing underground fad of punk music). Their music wasn't fun at all; it was just a sort of disingenuous anger and nihilism that comes from not understanding why you're angry, not caring enough about your fans to write interesting music, and a smug sense of superiority that enabled Johnny Rotten to turn down a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why? No one's quite sure, probably just because being recognized for your work is too mainstream for him.
And when we get down to it, the icons of punk music mostly come from the United States. We have Mike Ness, Joey and Johnny Ramone, Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, and Iggy Pop. We have Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Adolescents, The Descendents, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, The Germs, X, and The Subhumans. We have the icons of punk music and Britain has... The Clash. Oh and Crass, Crass was pretty cool too.
Simply put, America made better punk music because the atmosphere was different. From irreverent to politically charged manifestos, our songs were based on our lives, whether it was craving escape from the suburban hell holes of Orange County or righteous outrage at an American society gone mad with greed and power. Not to say that the Brits didn't have their own problems, but America was and still is the major league asshole of the world, while Brit problems just seem like T-ball in comparison.
By Roque Renteria
Good reader, my opponent is making the claim that American punk surpasses the importance of its British counterpart. He's wrong and ugly, so never mind his bollocks. Not to mention, he's pretty vacant (emphasis on "kuhnt"). The case for British punk's superiority is strong and needs little explanation. That being said, I will focus on punk's intentions and its implied philosophy.
Ever since its birth, punk rock’s message has stemmed from nihilism (a total rejection of established rules and institutions), which gave the music (and the movement) its anarchic leanings. Whether or not the bands were collectivist or individualist is up for interpretation, but what is known is that the groups advocated the abolition of the State and The Monarch. God save her.
That brings me to my first point: The Sex Pistols. These lovable lunatics only released one album back in 1977, but it was one of the most important and influential albums ever recorded. If it weren’t for Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, we would not be having this debate right now. In fact, other musicians, some who do not fall under the “punk” category, as an important musical influence, have cited this album. Also, Johnny Rotten (the lead singer of the Sex Pistols) was even named one of the greatest Britons of all time in a nationwide poll. If that doesn’t signify greatness, I do not know what does.
But enough about The Sex Pistols, I have to bring up The Clash. Why them? Because they were the only fuckin' band that fuckin' mattered, you fuck. The Sex Pistols caused a lot of ruckus back in England but their group disbanded a bit too early to make a huge impact internationally. This is where The Clash took control. Complete control.
When The Clash played their first American show in New York, it was the highest turnout for a show on Broadway since Frank Sinatra. According to accounts, the streets were blocked off and officers were called to stop and prevent riots. Punk shows are notorious for violence and rowdy hooligans, but I have never heard of a punk show that extended across three streets. That is madness. That is The Clash.
The other thing that makes British punk better is the unique musical fusions and styles many of the bands were able to create. For example, London Calling by The Clash showcases how The Clash were much more than a punk band; they were true artists. Unlike many of the American punk bands that ruled the airwaves in the ‘80s, The Clash incorporated myriad musical styles from around the world that garnered a huge international fan base. The Clash’s reggae-infused ragas showed that they wanted to include fans of all nationalities and colors. Many critics of American punk contend that the hardcore punk scene was too exclusive. This is the antithesis of punk and the opposite of anarchy. Punk wanted to eliminate social hierarchy. By limiting the number of tentative fans, you limit the ideology.
In conclusion, British punk was more important and necessary so that makes it better than American punk. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love me some American punk, especially Bad Religion. But there are times when American punk comes off as elitist. And as an anarchist, if there’s one thing I hate, it is elitism. That is why I have to side with my British brothers on this one.