Welcome back to Answer That and Stay Fashionable, where every week various members of the Dying Scene team will take a question posed by you, the readers, and pour their hearts out in regards to all things punk rock: from favorite records and show experiences to embarrassing purchases and fashion styles. If it’s punk, it’s fair game.
This week’s question:
“Sometimes punk bands will begin making music that’s very un-punk, but still manages to be pretty good. Who’s your favorite punk band that stopped playing punk?”
Read our responses below.
For me, it’s The Clash. Their first two albums are very solidly Brit- punk. They started to branch out with London Calling, and I’d definitely consider every album after that more post-punk, or general rock, than punk. The Clash was the first band I really got into, so my soft spot for them is big enough to excuse Cut the Crap, and even enjoy parts of Sandinista!. Their first three albums are my favorites, but I tend to like the less punky songs on those the most, actually. By not trying to stick to one style, they ended up making a lot of really great and interesting songs.
Fake Problems might never have been considered straight up “punk,” but Spurs & Spokes/Bull Matador was pretty close. I’ve followed them since as they’ve matured and Real Ghosts Caught on Tape is by far the best of their output, and one of my favorite albums of all time. The music is both bright and cheery, and dark and depressing, and I love that about them. The fact that Chris Farren is the funniest person on Twitter doesn’t hurt either.
The Offspring obviously. They’ve been switching genres since their early material. The self-titled debut album from 1989 was a T.S.O.L.-inspired record, while their next two albums (Ignition and Smash) were in the vein of bands like Nirvana, The Vandals, NOFX, Pennywise and perhaps Bad Religion. With Ixnay on the Hombre, The Offspring started to veer away from the style that dominated their first three albums, and subsequently produced a series of more alternative/pop punk/rap rock-oriented hits like “Gone Away”, “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” and “Original Prankster”. Their post-Ixnay stuff is clearly more alternative rock/pop punk rather than punk. Despite always changing their style, I love The Offspring so much that they were one of the first punk bands I got into, and all their albums up to Americana are actually my favorites.
blink-182 made a quick move from punk into what is now really more of a pop sound. Even between Dude Ranch and Enema of the State the band makes a sharp transition from a younger and much more “punk” sound to something considerably more melodic and pop-station friendly. The transition is seen not only in melody but also in the gradual softening and purifying of the vocals, which in my opinion were much better when they were primarily grittier and – dare I say – punkier.
Blondie! While the band is probably best known for the disco hit “Heart of Glass”, their original sound was heavily influenced by punk rock. A staple of CBGB’s and other landmark venues in the late 1970’s, the original Blondie sound mixed whatever the band felt like. Pulling heavily from reggae and rock, the band’s early music was direct and mixed multiple genres of music. “Rip Her to Shreds” is a perfect time-capsule of early call-and-response choruses which belittled the beauty standards promoted by gossip magazines of the day.
Most importantly, it seems like Blondie had the quintessential punk attitude of not giving a damn what anyone thought of them, releasing rap songs like “Rapture” even though singer Debbie Harry clearly didn’t rap well. Blondie still has some of that attitude; recently at Riot Fest, Harry performed in a witch’s costume, complete with full-on floor length black cap and pointy hat. However, as Blondie’s greatest hits came from their disco recordings, and the band’s wild antics seem to have mellowed with age, it’s hard to think of them as a punk band.
Yeesh, this is a hard one. I don’t really think I listen to any non-punk bands, to tell the truth… I guess you could say Face To Face isn’t really a straight up punk band any more (at least not on their latest record) but their live show is the same as it’s always been – fast, kick-ass, and full of emotion. I would have just said Green Day or some shit like that but I was advised against doing so when this question got sent out via email ;)
No Doubt would be my answer. As someone who was in middle school/junior high when Tragic Kingdom came out, I found that album to be damn near perfect. Their earlier stuff was even more ska-influenced, and while I loved Return to Saturn, their sound has continued to evolve in a way that I still respect, but don’t enjoy as much. However, I still saw them live last year and they killed it.
There are a lot of ways to define what “punk” is, which leads to a lot of ways that this question could be answered. Do we measure “punk” based on the composition of a band’s songs or do we focus more on a band’s ethics and ideals? What if a band has an incredibly strong DIY, non-corporate, vegan, anarchist (all typically associated with punk ethics) stance, but spreads that message through disco or traditional folk and a capella music… is it still punk? Obviously since its inception, punk rock has become more open and welcoming to different sounds, but sometimes a punk band will make such a drastic change in their sound that they are no longer associated with the genre, no matter what kind of ethics they promote (I’m looking at you, Beastie Boys).
This is just a long-winded way for me to say that we have a tendency to judge how “punk” a band is based on the composition of their music. With this in mind, my favorite former punk band is Chumbawamba. Initially an anarcho-punk band, Chumbawamba abruptly released an a capella album full of traditional folk covers, before heading in a more sample-heavy electro-pop direction. By the time they broke up, they had experimented with a variety of sounds, including hip hop, world music, dance, folk, and (as you undoubtedly already know) straight up pop music.
Fun fact about Chumbawamba: in 2002 they sold the rights to their song “Pass It Along” to General Motors to be used in a commercial. Chumbawamba then donated the $100,000 they made from the commercial to the anti-corporate activist groups IndyMedia and CorpWatch. Chumbawamba’s music might have stopped being punk pretty early on, but they never let the success of “Tubthumping” go to their heads.
I would have to say Against Me!. Reinventing Axl Rose is pretty widely considered a punk album and has a gritty aggressive sound, however their sound now is much more pop rock with flavors of punk.
I have a unique perspective on the group because I saw them for the first time in September of 2013 at Riot Fest Chicago with Laura as the singer. I looked them up after the show because they were so energetic and fun as live performers. The first album I listened to was White Crosses, so I never really considered them a full on punk group to begin with. Even though the album didn’t sound like anything I would usually like, it captured me and I ended up really loving their music, new and old. I don’t know if I ever would’ve gotten into them if I hadn’t heard them live first, but I’m thankful that I did!
Do you have a question for us? Check out our Facebook page every Monday when we’ll be accepting input for the next week’s topic.