by Mike Vinti
Earlier this week it was announced that Virgin Money will be putting out a series of credit cards bearing classic Sex Pistols iconography. The reaction to this has been pretty much universally horrified, as well it should — but really, what did everyone expect?
From the start the Sex Pistols were more about the image than integrity, they swapped Glen Matlock, the band’s only songwriter, for Sid Vicious because Matlock wasn’t punk enough; they let Malcolm McLaren run the show so long as they got paid, and last time anyone even thought about Johnny Rotten was when he did those fucking butter adverts. Virgin Records was the home of the ‘Pistols following their split from EMI and released the bands only studio album to date, the only thing shocking about the new credit cards is the fact it took them 30 years to come up with the idea.
Now this isn’t to say that the Sex Pistols are without merit. Or that you shouldn’t be disgusted by the prospect of some yuppie Richard-Branson-wannabe popping into his local branch of ‘Champagne and Fromage’ to buy some brie with his new ‘Anarchy for the UK’ credit card. But can we please let go of the idea that punk begins and ends with Johnny Rotten and co?
Punk’s importance came from its ferocity and its urgency
‘Punk’ is undeniably dead. This is not a bad thing. Youth culture has moved on and the only people you’ll see sporting Mohawks these days are either far too old or trying far too hard. Punk’s importance came from its ferocity and its urgency, even if it was still alive its impact would have been greatly diminished.
However, while the punks of old are propping up the global financial elite, the spirit and even some of the sounds of punk are undergoing something of a revival. This is vitally important. Punk is for the kids, it’s loud, snotty and most importantly pisses people off — without young people punk is just David Cameron listening to ‘Eton Rifles’ with a smug grin on his face.
Not only is this new breed of punk reinvigorating a pretty stale youth culture, its opening up the genre to voices that were all but ignored the first time around. Most notable is the rise of all-female or female fronted punk bands, bringing a vital feminist voice to the traditionally male dominated genre.
Syracuse-based Perfect Pussy are at the front of this wave and lead singer Meredith Graves is as punk as they come, unafraid to speak out against the bullshit she encounters as a woman in punk and the music industry generally, smashing the stereotypes about female punk singers and totally unafraid to piss people off. For the release of their debut album Say Yes to Love, Perfect Pussy released a special edition vinyl mixed with Meredith’s menstrual blood, it sold out in pre-order.
trust me your parents will hate it
Their brand of hardcore is as chaotic and fast paced as any of their ‘DC’ influences and it’s refreshing to hear a female vocalist in place of the usual immature angst spilling from the shirtless frontmen of their contemporaries. An understanding of bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat is probably best if you’re going to appreciate the sheer anarchy of Perfect Pussy but by no means required — trust me your parents will hate it.
While Perfect Pussy are shambolic and frantic, Savages turn to the drive and relentless groove of post-punk for the foundation of their work. All female and equally as outspoken as Graves, Savages are somehow heavier than many of the bands they draw influence from, taking the pounding drums of Joy Division, adding stabbing guitar riffs and piercing chords to rolling basslines the and intense vocals of lead singer Jenny Beth . They’re not afraid to experiment either, having recently completed a live-project with Japanese noise-rockers Bo Ningen to vast acclaim.
the new breed of punk is re-discovering the bonds between
the primarily white working-class genre and the
immigrant communities of London
As well as providing a much needed platform for ‘women in rock’ the new breed of punk is re-discovering the bonds between the primarily white working-class genre and the immigrant communities of London that made the original scene so vibrant.
The Clash worked with countless reggae artists during the eighties, most notably producer Don Letts, and while leaning heavily towards two-tone or Ska, no one can deny the punk ethos of the Specials. Like these bands, modern acts, such as Slaves, are getting involved with artists from traditionally black genres such, finding a common approach to music and a strong DIY scene away from major labels.
a damning attack on the elites that dominate politics in America
Algiers’ fuse elements of gospel and soul with more traditionally post-punk guitars and rolling drums. Hailing from Atlanta, their music explores everything from racial tensions in the US to power and sex. Stereogum describes them as ‘politically charged gospel’ yet the punk aesthetic is clear, especially in the video for latest single ‘Black Eunuch’. Standout track ‘But She Was Not Flying’ is a damning attack on the elites that dominate politics in America, brutal, drenched in pain and powerfully moving.
Another band taking heavy influence from outside of the traditional punk spheres is Sleaford Mods. They fuse programmed, fast paced drum and bass-esque instrumentals with ‘Oi!’ style lyricism to fantastic effect. Lead singer Jason Williamson has a flare for capturing the voice of the working-class and disenfranchised unseen since Mike Skinner called time on The Streets, skewering the state of modern Britain with depressing and often hilarious accuracy.
an angry yet tragic ode to those left behind by society
‘Jobseeker’ chronicles the fortunes of ‘Mr Williamson’ an unemployed, seemingly alcoholic man ‘desperately clutching on to a leaflet on depression’ as he’s forced to jump through hoops at the job centre — an angry yet tragic ode to those left behind by society reduced to simply the song’s title.
Live, there are no guitars, no ripped jeans, and no patched up leather jackets. They are just two men, one behind a laptop and one behind the mic and yet, they’re undeniably more punk than any member of the Sex Pistols.