The Punk Manifesto: the Rebirth of Rock

By Matthew Prudham 

As I raced home from Slaves’ triumphant gig at O2 Academy Newcastle, I realised that I had experienced music like no other. It boasted punk music’s character, pure and unleashed, but it went further: their political message was pronounced and fierce, and everyone felt it, the lyrics
reverberating back and forth. When did this start? Well, there’s a definite correlation between a rise in punk music and its popularity and the existence of a Conservative government in Britain since 2010. Slaves, arguably the leaders of its revival within the UK music scene, started gaining prominence in 2012 via the release of their debut EP ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. The collection of songs combined typical anti-government politic with a diverse range of humour, from complaints about modern Londoner attitude to rather bizarre nonsense.

Punk was a movement against pop sensibilities and knowledge of the charts, but is now embracing all kinds of influences

Meanwhile, Wolf Alice were also gaining traction. Born into the same scene that Slaves indebted to The Fat White Family, their debut EP ‘Blush’ (2013), showed a different take on ‘punk’. Wolf Alice combined folk and electro-pop tendencies with core distorted guitars, even screaming at times – take ‘You’re A Germ’ from their debut LP, for example. This scene would also yield the talents of Shame and Rat Boy.

Other punk bands started to pop up throughout the nation. Manchester gave birth to Cabbage and Strange Bones, Bristol yielded IDLES at the same time, and in Doncaster and Brighton respectively
The Blinders and Dream Wife became increasingly popular. Yet what makes this punk scene different is its variety in sound – IDLES combine psychedelic and hard rock influences, Shame pick apart the best parts of Britpop, Dream Wife are self-proclaimed Riot Grrl admirers, and The Blinders went as far as creating, á la Pink Floyd or Green Day, a totalitarian world in their debut release Columbia. Slaves encapsulated this new-found freedom in punk when they covered the synth-pop upstarts Superorganism’s ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’ on the Radio 1 Live Lounge; previously, punk was a movement against pop sensibilities and knowledge of the charts, but this new wave is now embracing all kinds of influences.

Further, Punk is the genre that, in my opinion, is resisting the fake musical genre ‘boundaries’ popularised by online streaming services. You can find Slaves on the main stages of Reading and Leeds, Download, Community or Bestival, and we’ll see the upcoming rapper Slowthai supporting the duo at their massive Alexandra Palace date, a few days before he hits the Warehouse Project. Wolf Alice share fans with Anne-Marie and Bring Me The Horizon; people should be encouraged to listen to a whole range of music, not boxed into one ‘genre’. Personally, my first exposure to Slaves encouraged me to explore a different side to music, that of metal and hard rock – genres that I had previously guarded my ears against because it was not considered ‘alt-rock’.

Modern-day punk still has its vital political edge. IDLES’ second LP, which achieved trailblazing reviews, lampooned Brexiteers and anti-migrant stances, whilst Shame’s ‘Songs Of Praise’ presented a rather negative view of the right-wing. These punks are the soundtrack to the Jeremy
Corbyn generation, and whilst this may lose them fans, especially those who desire politics to stay away from their beloved music (which is, in my opinion, impossible), it indicates that they have made punk music an even more important genre. It is a genre that can enact real social change.

Punk is the genre that is resisting the fake music genre ‘boundaries’ that streaming services are attempting to popularise

In sum, I don’t think punk has ever been this healthy. Now receiving praise and acclaim from radio DJs and critics, it’s giving people a chance to be musically liberated. One might call it a musical revolution– it’s the genre that’s here to save us from musical division. Punk encourages us to explore the wealth of music available to us in the 21st century. And what is more punk than that?

Photo by Kmeron via Flickr Creative Commons

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