Bo Ningen @ Ramsgate Music Hall, 2018 by Elissa Vinh
1977. Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten, leaning over his microphone, eyes wide open, is screaming what is to become the emblematic slogan of the punk rock movement: No Future! An angry political contestation against an institutionalised society which does not give power to the people. In 2020, this punk ideology has not aged one bit. Rather, it seems to resonate particularly well amidst the uncertainty that reigns in a dystopian world governed by the pandemic.
The difficult times we are experiencing have been revelatory. Light has finally been shed on several issues the music industry has been struggling with. Punk artists cannot simply rely on small streaming royalties and declining physical music media sales, which do not provide sufficient funding. Instead, they are endlessly obliged to go on tour to transmit the real punk spirit to their audiences. Unfortunately, for many of them, this major source of income has recently been cut off. Most upcoming live shows have been cancelled or postponed due to safety measures. And yes, this also applies to The Exploited, who initially declared they would keep on touring and refuse to go home. As infamous lead vocalist Wattie Buchan puts it in his own words, ‘Fuck coronavirus!’.
Do it the punk way! People Have The Power.
Nevertheless, making money has never been part of the punk philosophy, which does not ultimately strive for music commercialisation. Many are the bands which are barely managing to make ends meet, like Swans which resorts to crowdfunding to finance the making of their albums. The hedonistic libertarian label, commonly attributed to the punk movement, tends to obscure the sense of social and political emancipation that lies at its core. Punk does not limit itself to what the outsider may perceive as dissonant noise immersed in its own cacophonous feedback. The raw musical aesthetic is also an educational vehicle for anti-establishment ideas, rebellion against oppression, and activism. It’s all about taking an autodidactic D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) approach from the stage to the crowd.
As a matter of fact, the last couple of months have seen the evolution of D.I.Y into the even more empowering D.I.T and D.I.O (Do It Together / Do It Ourselves) mentalities. This outburst of solidarity, that has sprung up in the punk scene, is a direct response to the social injustice the world has recently witnessed, as well as to the restrictive nature of lockdown. The subculture will certainly not let itself be a passive victim, whilst the virus sweeps uncontrollably over humanity. Instead, punk communities have actively been finding creative ways to combat the current challenging environment. This can be seen from organisations such as the German Dequarantizeme, which have been raising money for struggling communities via live streams and selling merchandise. From the scene for the scene; their slogan confirms the collective efforts of the supportive project.
Bo Ningen @ Ramsgate Music Hall
The shift to online platforms, engendered by social distancing, has invited a new and younger demographic to join in the punk scene. Backed up by the newcomers’ encouraging contributions, bands have been able to keep their musical activity going strongly. For example, London based Japanese acid punk group, Bo Ningen, recently managed to release a long-awaited full album. Hopefully, their purely digital promotional campaign, consisting of Zoom interviews and social media posts, will bring success to their upcoming gigs in 2021.
Sudden Fictions is a project which aims to figure out the status of an alternative four-piece band in an industry ruled by bedroom music producers’ DAWs. The percussive polyrhythmic instrumentals, accompanied by a mix of bilingual vocals and spoken word, find their inspiration in literature, Dada art and dance music. The eclectic tracks are created from cut outs of lengthy group studio jamming sessions; a bit like an innovated version of Les Rallizes Dénudés’ enigmatic discography, solely composed of live recordings, rough takes and demos. The end result pushes the boundaries of musical genres in true punk spirit.
It’s Slits Tradition
This sonic experimentation lies in the tradition of forgotten no-wave artist, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and the post-punk sounds of famous all-girl British band The Slits, that mixed dub alongside rock, funk, world music, and folk. In the last couple of decades, the rapid development of technology has made music hardware and software more widely available than ever, with the joys of distortion converting any noise into a malleable soundscape. Additionally, in our digital age, releasing music independently has become a straight forward procedure, only a couple of clicks away. Distrokid has replaced homemade burned CDs, whilst Bandcamp and SoundCloud now serve as substitutes for mail orders requesting music and merch. As a consequence, music production has become much more accessible, facilitating the D.I.Y approach. Yet, in turn, this has induced a landfill post-punk phenomenon, which may slowly be killing the innovative and alternative status of the genre.
Punk’s Not Dead!
However, you can be reassured that punk is still not dead, and you can bet that The Exploited will make sure that it stays well alive. If the original punk rock sound is aging, the D.I.Y experimental legacy will surely be taken over by new generations of artists who are bound to open up musical horizons. Unconventional lyrical experimentations, increasing digital music consumption, and a postmodern interpretation of the definition of punk, are phenomena that can be expected. It seems that we are on the verge of a musical punk revolution – it’s the future of no future!
Bo Ningen @ Ramsgate Music Hall
Edited by Emma Short, Music Editor