The Loneliest Jukebox

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Punk is Dead

So farewell then, Johnny Ramone. The bowl-headed guitarist says ‘adios amigos’ to us and joins his amigos Joey and Dee Dee in the afterlife. Only drummer Tommy, and his various Spinal Tap-style replacements remain to beat out a 1-2-3-4 on behalf of the suburban adolescents they no longer are. The Raindance Festival’s screening of End of the Century next month seems a good place to pay your respects.

As we lay the Ramones to rest, perhaps it’s time to do the same to their musical style. It was 30 years ago folks; that rawness and excitement soon goes stale after years of repetition and imitation. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Ramones and one day that vinyl and those cassettes will be replaced with CDs in the car, so my driving can further deteriorate. But it’s irritating that their entry-level basics are now the preserve of boyband Busted and the new new wave of new wave, or whatever we call those New York and Scandinavian rockers. Let’s push things forward, as the Streets would say.

Fellow foxiles Kasabian, whose self-titled CD is playing in the background as I write, were recently criticised as proof that ‘British rock has become scared of technology, retreating into an arid world of old-fashioned instruments, analogue recording equipment and supposed “honesty”. (See John Harris, ‘The slow death of punk’, Guardian September 9, 2004: 26.) A bit harsh, but you know what he means. Part of the problem is that society itself isn’t giving bands much to work with. If we take punk to be a historically specific reaction to the economic downturn of the 1970s and the end of the post-war boom, then it’s hardly surprising it hasn’t lasted forever, even if some of us wish it would. The ‘punk is dead’ argument kicked off in 1978: maybe the post is so terrible in Harris’ neck of the woods that he's just cottoned on. Kasabian’s slogan ‘Reason is treason’ seems much more in tune with our times.


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