John Roderick thinks “punk rock is bullshit.” The feeling could be more aptly described as “”punk rock” is bullshit,” but it’s something that punkers of note often come around to as they age.
I’m not talking about punk-rock music, because I don’t believe there is such a thing. Punk music is just rock music, and the best punk is halfway decent rock. Punk rock was nothing new in 1976, and it’s nothing new today. The Beatles’ cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” is more punk than 90 percent of all punk rock; the Ramones were way more conservative—musically and socially—than Sha Na Na; the Sex Pistols were just dumb David Bowie; The Clash was a world-music band and the direct antecedent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If anything, the mantle of “punk rock” was an umbrella to describe a reactionary retro-ness, a feeling that music was best played with old-fashioned dumb energy, simple to the point of being simplistic—which not coincidentally corresponded to the period of the widest proliferation of recreational drug use in world history. It was music to validate being too wasted to think.
What I’m talking about is “punk rock” as a political stance, punk rock as a social movement, punk rock as a fashion trend, punk rock as a personal lifestyle brand, and punk rock as a lens of critical appraisal. The shadow of punk rock has eclipsed countless new dawns under its fundamental negativity and its lazy equation of rejection with action.