A couple of weeks ago NOFX made some highly thoughtless and inappropriate comments. This isn't exactly a new thing for them to do and sadly is no longer surprising. This however isn't a column about what they said, it's about the aftermath and the reaction of the punk rock community. You see, opinions were incredibly split and the common argument of "what punk rock is and isn't" soon became the main theme of most threads. To be fair, before this month's punk rock controversy, the meaning of punk rock is a subject that is contested more frequently than the argument of what's better – cats or dogs? (Dogs obviously [Emma says cats, whilst proofreading this post]).
I decided to take the incredibly brave steps for putting my opinions on the subject on the Internet. Before I do, I want to put out a bit of a disclaimer to try and limit the abuse I'm expecting to come my way by people who have a different opinion to me. This is just my opinion – I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it's just the way I see it. Please be nice and just see this as one person's views on a subject. He doesn't judge you on your opinions so please show him the same courtesy. Disclaimer/begging people not to be horrible to me out of the way, let's get on with it.
So, to my knowledge and belief, when punk rock first began in the late 1970s it was seen as a way to fight back against a society where you felt oppressed. This was done by playing short fast songs which had strong political messages or were just shocking for the time. At the time, this really did define what being punk was. The more shocking you could be, the more punk you could be. In the next big punk explosion during the 1990s the big political messages began to fade away and the message of a lot of punk rock began to centre around feeling like a misfit and trying to find your place in the world. The shocking nature of early punk rock remained as well but had shifted towards crude humour – basically dick and fart jokes.
In the past few years, there has been a major shift in what many punk bands are talking about. To my knowledge, bands seem a lot more focussed on spreading a more socially aware message. Of course politics and finding your place remain big parts of the subject matter but bands have now added subjects such as equal rights, mental health, building a community and not being afraid to be yourself. Humour, of course, remains but the more modern bands tend to have more of a self-depreciating humour than crude. Bands use their time on stage to try to help and educate people with messages of positivity and, for me, that's a much better environment to be a part of. It's nice to listen to an album or come away from a punk show feeling empowered and wanting to help make a change, not just in the punk scene but in the world in general.
That for me is what punk means in 2018. Whereas in the past it was about being an anarchist and trying to bring down the system by rebelling against everything, now it's about working together and trying to make things better for everyone. The spirit of rebellion remains but now the punks are so much more positive about how they get the message they want to spread out there to the people. The punk rock scene is now an incredible community-driven environment as well. There are small scenes all other the UK who help each other put on shows, share events, review albums and generally just support great music. These small scenes form a bigger community throughout the whole country of like minded people who work together to try and create something better. There are no egos, no drama, no dicks. It's about people coming together to build something brilliant. It's about coming together and sharing your thoughts and opinions in a positive way. The DIY ethos is potentially stronger than ever, only there's been a change. It's not so much about doing it by yourself, it's about doing it with others and doing it with your friends. In 2018, punk rock has evolved from the shock tactics of old. Sure I still love a crude joke from time to time but never at the expense of other people. If it makes people feel uncomfortable, it's probably not necessary. Punk rock is this really special movement that can be used to achieve some great things and generally make your world a better place.
So, in summary, I think that punk rock in 2018 is about working together in a community to positively achieve what you believe in and to try to make everything better.
Punk rock used to be about smashing the system, now it's about fixing it.
This column was written by Colin Clark.