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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In 3,228 Words John Roderick Tries to Kill Punk—In 30 Words He Validates Its Existence Instead

Posted by on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Long Winters frontman and local Twitter star John Roderick wrote the cover piece in this week's issue of Seattle Weekly—it's called Punk Rock Is Bullshit and it's 3,228 words about how, uh, punk rock is bullshit.

One major flaw of the piece, though, comes in the first half, where he takes a moment to recognize that punk's not all bad:

Admittedly, punk rock was a club that accepted all the misfits. It channeled adolescent anger and frustration into positive and inclusive feelings of belonging. This is not an insignificant achievement.

Boom. Thesis dead. With that 30 words right there, Roderick completely shits on the rest of his "punk is bullshit" arguments because, like he says, that's not an insignificant achievement. That's the whole point. That is the reason punk is, in fact, not bullshit. It wasn't supposed to "defeat Reaganism," as he says, it was just supposed to get people through it. And it did. Same with the Bush years. And high school. And shitty childhoods. And being broke. And any other frustrating or shitty situations people need an outlet for.

And the fact that punk rock, both its attitude and its music, continues to do that on a daily basis for so many people? There's just no way that's bullshit.

 

Comments (61) RSS

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1
Haven't read the piece yet, but heard the shtick on RotL. Sorry Megan, but you're at least half wrong.

If the promise of punk was merely just "to get people through it" and not effect change, then it's merely escapism packaged as revolution/politics. And while that might be nothing to scoff at, it's also, pretty much by definition, just bullshit, as people could say the same thing about Glee.
Posted by Madasshatter on March 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM · Report this
2
(The difference being that people engaged in Glee don't think/act like they're radicals sticking it to the man... which is part of the reason punk is, if it's merely what you suggest it is, bullshit.)
Posted by Madasshatter on March 6, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
3
nice. the whole time i read the article I was trying to put into words why it felt..off, but i couldn't. thank you.
Posted by coreycore on March 6, 2013 at 4:20 PM · Report this
4
He is just mad that the hot young punk rockers won't sleep with aging punk rockers.

The easiest way to feel relevant is to piss on what the kids are doing.
Posted by AK Rob on March 6, 2013 at 4:22 PM · Report this
5
That's what punk was SUPPOSED to be, maybe. Was it, though? Clubs for people who can't get into other clubs rarely stay that way..
Posted by We're all individuals! on March 6, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
geoff teardrop 6
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Posted by geoff teardrop http://twitter.com/wipess on March 6, 2013 at 4:31 PM · Report this
7
I'd have to say I disagree with about every fiber in my being to @1 and @2, as well as the central, self-refuted thesis of the article.

Punk Rock was, especially in the rural midwest where I grew up, both a methodology and an aesthetic for shaping a life that could be communicated remotely through music, writing and only occasional actual contact with the outside world.

It was a life that had no roots in anything anyone before us knew. The concept of placing value on creation of access and opportunity and inclusion.

I made a documentary film about this- which showed a few times in Seattle, called "Grateful Lovers: Finding Punk on the Great Plains" -I interviewed some very smart people who had some very smart things to say. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loHujYpYj…
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on March 6, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
8
You have to admit that his position on the subject is very puck rock.
Posted by tacomagirl on March 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM · Report this
9
I also find it interesting that punk or its analogs seem to pop up in cultures all over the world when they are needed. It might find slightly different forms to be expressed, but the rabid outsider-ism, rejection of peer social norms (as opposed to rejection of parental social norms, which every young person must do), etc.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on March 6, 2013 at 4:47 PM · Report this
10
Sorry, Megan. Punk has been dead for quite a while now.
Posted by Hauley on March 6, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
s.maxim 11
bullshit punk is so punk
Posted by s.maxim on March 6, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Grrr 12
I was in the same boat as #3 while reading the article over lunch today. Thanks for pointing out what made it so, Megan.
Posted by Grrr on March 6, 2013 at 4:59 PM · Report this
13
Tell Pussy Riot that punk rock is dead.
Posted by sisyphusgal on March 6, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
CATSPAW666 14
Punk Rock is a stage in adolescence.
Which is why, every year, there are bands formed inspired by punk rock in Jakarta and Bejing and Buenos Aires and Bucharest.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on March 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
biffp 15
Still love punk, don't really care. Some of the bands were opportunistic, and some were three chord wonders. The spirit of DIY, and just throwing it out there is still vital to music.

Since John Roderick is sounding off, if he weren't such an asshole to his bandmates, he'd probably have a better career. The Long Winters shows I've seen it was clear half the band had been to one or two rhearsals and only knew some of the material. Good material, but weak execution.
Posted by biffp on March 6, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
16
Take out "punk rock" from that quoted paragraph and insert the name of a violent gang, a religious cult, or a terrorist organization, or anything that you disagree with (Mars Hill perhaps). All of these things make their members feel positive feelings on inclusion. That does not make them good. The paragraph is not a validation or a self-debunking, it's an observation as to how the thing he's decrying works.

There are plenty of arguments to be made against his points, which you start to do in the "getting through it" area, but his thesis is certainly not dead or undermined by that paragraph. Makes for a good headline though.
Posted by mxnw on March 6, 2013 at 5:50 PM · Report this
17
Disagree! Take out "punk rock" from that quoted paragraph and insert the name of a violent gang, a religious cult, or a terrorist organization, or any organization or movement you disagree with (Mars Hill perhaps). All of these things make their members feel positive feelings on inclusion. That does not make them good. The paragraph is not a validation or a self-debunking, it's an observation as to how the thing he's decrying works.

There are plenty of arguments to be made against his points, which you start to do in the "getting through it" area, but his thesis is certainly not dead or undermined by that paragraph. Makes for a good headline though.
Posted by mxnw on March 6, 2013 at 5:54 PM · Report this
18
sorry - to clarify - "positive" in the context of this highlighted paragraph, at least the way I'm reading it, is not objectively positive for the world, it's subjectively positive for the included.
Posted by mxnw on March 6, 2013 at 6:02 PM · Report this
Matt Hickey 19
At #4: Aging punk rocker here. Yes, they will. And yes, it's awesome.
Posted by Matt Hickey http://www.matthickey.com on March 6, 2013 at 6:02 PM · Report this
matt 20
So you've rebutted the headline. Now rebut the other 3000 words.
Posted by matt on March 6, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
matt 21
Also, for as long as I've been aware of Roderick, it's been clear that a good deal of his approach is to troll the confident.
Posted by matt on March 6, 2013 at 6:17 PM · Report this
22
You're missing the emphasis on "was". Past tense. Punk rock stopped being an accepting culture something like thirty years ago.
Posted by Tyler Pierce on March 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM · Report this
biffp 23
Wait, he's just saying a lot of the rules of the club are bullshit. He's right about this:

What started out as teenage piss-taking at baby-boomer onanism quickly morphed into a humorless doctrine characterized by acute self-consciousness and boring conformism.

I disagree about DIY, and thinking critically is hugely important. Punk is not the same as numbing your mind with Genesis. Overall, a lot like a Dennis Miller rant about political correctness.
Posted by biffp on March 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM · Report this
24
Those 30 words might also be used to describe a church youth group.
Posted by pox on March 6, 2013 at 6:54 PM · Report this
25
how many people under 28 know who is john roderick? other than a writer for The Weekly?
Posted by JT Seattle Dude on March 6, 2013 at 7:00 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 26
Punk was counter-culture in the 60's through the 80's. In the 90's, it became the dominant culture.

the fact that some idiot wrote a boom trying to invalidate a social trend/musical genre that ceased being edgy two decades ago shows the bizarre tendency of those obsessed with causes that no longer matter. it reminds me of the way the Baby Boomers argue ideological positions from the 1960's as if they were still cutting-edge. The Right talks about the Soviet Union as if it still existed, and prattles on about the horrors of birth control, free love, Blacks and Mexicans. The Left talks is constantly hijacking protest marches initiated by today's youth, using them as vehicles to relive their own younger days. They also insist on attaching the suffix -gate to every scandal, as if nothing in the modern era can exist except in comparison to Richard Nixon.

You know, they used to classify nostalgia as a mental disorder.

Its also a lens that distorts, causing one to forget the contradictions to one's own theory of self. Punk was not just MC5, The Dead Boys, The Fugs, The Circle Jerks, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. It was also Skrewdriver.

To write a realistic book about punk, one's concept of punk would have to include the parts of it we naturally feel averse to. it means including MTV;s hijacking of punk, and the pop-punk that followed. It means looking at the Sex Pistols singing Belsen Was a Gas as well as Anarchy in the UK. It means looking at punk's development, how it has changed from the earliest days of the phenomenon to the present. Lets not develop blind spots so large that all we can see is 1985. Let's talk about GG Allin and Extreme Elvis. Lets talk about X-Ray Spex and when Billy Idol was in Siouxie and the Banshees.

And in response to #2, let me draw upon the words of one of punk's earliest icons.

Q: What exactly are you rebelling against?
A: What have you got?
More...
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on March 6, 2013 at 7:23 PM · Report this
27
I don't give a flying fuck about punk rock and never have, so I don't know if Roderick's mini-gonzo rant contains any truth, but it was really fun to read.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on March 6, 2013 at 7:29 PM · Report this
28
I never met any group more rigid about enforcing social norms of taste and conduct than punk rockers. The second a band learned chord #4 the hardcore punks angrily denounced them. And then went back to moshing and devising fanciful haircuts.

Like so many things, great in theory and disappointing in practice.
Posted by Do It Yourself on March 6, 2013 at 8:19 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 29
13,

I would, but Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park beat me to it.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on March 6, 2013 at 9:23 PM · Report this
30
Old John Roderick must have spent too many long winters with little fruit as a musician. Now all he can do is bitching about punk rock like a socialist who gave up his dream of revolution. Before he gets more miserable, young punks should cheer him up!!
Posted by Hirokun on March 6, 2013 at 9:40 PM · Report this
31
I'm with Roderick. I don't think he's dwelling on the subject as much as a lot of these commenters--I think they're proving his point. Without letting go, all you are is what you're not. In this case--not John Roderick.

Here's Slavoj Zizek to prove my point.

"There is no ideology (punk rock) that does not assert itself by means of delimiting itself from another 'mere ideology' (capitalism). An individual subjected to ideology (punk rock) can never say for himself 'I am in ideology (punk rock)', he always requires another corpus of doxa (capitalism in form of 'the mainstream') in order to distinguish his own 'true' position from it."
Posted by Sherlock Homeboy 3008 on March 6, 2013 at 10:16 PM · Report this
32
i think many of you are conflating some mainstream consumerized version of the music, or some very narrow idea about some clique-ish sub genre 'punk culture' as a particular exclusive 'club' -while those things exist they have very little to do with anything - no more than some artifact like Eminem speaks for or represents hip hop culture.

Do not mistake your passing interest in the Dead Kennedys when you were 15 for having been engaged in a meaningful way. If it was a phase for you, that is fine- but do not project that onto the culture as a whole.

Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on March 6, 2013 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Dean Fawkes 33
The least punk thing a human being can do in 2013 is still use the word punk.
Posted by Dean Fawkes http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Author?oid=479789&section=Blogs on March 6, 2013 at 11:22 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 34
So...is this a troll?

Is it an ironic metawank where he means the opposite of what he writes?

Is it that he could never belong to the punk groups because he's a pretentious emo hipster douche, and all he wanted to be was punk, so now he is tearing down the institution even though it has been passive since Green Day?

There are so SO many things wrong with the article, that it can't be a flat honest piece. But, I know one thing. The Long Winters weren't (aren't?) punk.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 7, 2013 at 12:18 AM · Report this
35
Punk is always a reaction to a scene that is too big, too corrupt and to "smartified" to be accessible. In that sense it was no different than the PC revolution against mainframes happening at the same time.

Sure, if The System is doing its job, and you can get what you want by drawing lines from 3 to 4 to 5, then rebellion itself becomes staged.

But if not. If everything is a constant drone about how you should be happy...when you're not happy, and the storefront that says Happy on the front is too expensive, too far or just full of people you can't stand, the sticking a safety pin through your cheek is the only answer.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on March 7, 2013 at 12:29 AM · Report this
36
Breaking news: Middle-aged white man decries youth.

Film at March 25, 1957.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on March 7, 2013 at 12:40 AM · Report this
37
@35 That was kind of thoughtful. Didn't think you had it in you. Well said.
Posted by cracked on March 7, 2013 at 1:20 AM · Report this
TLjr 38
I always thought the point of the music was that it's got a great beat and you can dance to it.
Posted by TLjr on March 7, 2013 at 6:12 AM · Report this
--MC 39
I read this -- I usually like this guy's writing, but he's way off base. Blaming punk for what punk did not do. There were people putting other people down for not being cool, a hipthink orthodoxy, ever since there were in groups. And there has been ironic appreciation of music and such since the dawn of culture -- please look up Amanda McKittrick Ros for a great example of this. If those things have been commodified in our current culture, there are other factors that put them there (I blame the irony wave on the repackaging of old art by nostalgia merchants + a deep national embarrassment at being suckered into trends and fads so often).

Sneering at punk for what punk became (as filtered through mass market interpretation) is a bad game -- if you look at culture that way, you wind up with Fat Elvis, Weird Michael Jackson, and Genesis with Phil Collins -- you toss out the early greatness of things in order to focus, National Star like, on the ugly remainder. You forget WHY punk rock happened -- because it was FUN. Cf. John Holmstrom's PUNK Magazine, which coincidentally I read the best-of book last week, in which he maintains that one of the features of punk at its best is that it was FUN. The Pistols didn't have a coherent manifesto -- so what? watching Johnny channel Richard III was FUN. Johnny Ramone voted GOP -- so what? He loved monster movies and wrestling, and the Ramones were FUN. Why not do something if it's just for fun?

I shudder to think what the 80s would have been like without it. MTV would have been nothing but Ultravox videos. Goodnight, Vienna.
Posted by --MC on March 7, 2013 at 7:17 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 40
the philosophical project of malcolm mcclaren was to fuse Situationism with exploitation. punk was both negation and fraud, and it's remained as such, for whoever needs whichever aspect. "bullshit" is irrelevant, because it was built into the framework.

back in the midwest, we thought "punk" was over in 1980. kids still need it 30 years later, so it obviously wasn't.
Posted by Max Solomon on March 7, 2013 at 7:28 AM · Report this
Beetlecat 41
I think it's hilarious that so many of the comments are basically "No true Scotsman [Punk]" arguments against the author... ;)
Posted by Beetlecat on March 7, 2013 at 9:18 AM · Report this
42
Oh gawd ppl, even entering into this argument puts you on the barren wasteland of middle-aged rawkist fogeyism, no matter what side of this you're on. Do what the rest of us do - refuse to listen to anything past 1952, fund your ROTH IRA and let the kids do what they're gonna do with the carcass (*because it's really not up to you).
Posted by yerbamatty on March 7, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 43
@41 I challenge that he's falsely writing as if he has deep knowledge of the punk movement, and everybody is reacting to his actually being an outsider to the punk movement, poser of the punk movement, and/or a giant douche nugget in general (the latter of which is probably true regardless of the veracity of the first two statements).
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 7, 2013 at 9:39 AM · Report this
J. Burns 44
@40: Apparently Die Kruezen, Naked Raygun, Articles Of Faith, The Effigies, Big Black, et al didn't get the memo.
Posted by J. Burns on March 7, 2013 at 10:02 AM · Report this
45
@8: Well done.
Posted by PEM on March 7, 2013 at 10:06 AM · Report this
J. Burns 46
@40: Never mind. Misunderstood. More caffeine.
Posted by J. Burns on March 7, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
ryjan 47
John Rodrick is so fucking boring. He should just stick to boot collecting and making shitty music.
Posted by ryjan on March 7, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this
48
@40/44- Neither did any of the pre-SEX bands, Including the Ramones, who toured the UK prior to MM even opening SEX.

Punk doesn't do real well in the daylight. The short blips of time when it became something that could catch popular, mainstream attention (1975-79, 1994-95) simply highlighted the most easily digestible. Benign neglect is the ideal environment.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on March 7, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
49
My thoughts, briefly, as someone who both loves and identifies with punk and a lot of it's ethics, but also was never, ever orthodox about it:
1) he presented a lot of arguments, not a lot of evidence. If this had been one of my students, I would have dinged him for making huge claims without much support.
2) There is a lot of gleeful trolling going on here. And maybe a few sour grapes, as he seems to attack most of the guitarishy music from the NW that falls outside of his indie pop genre.
3) Some of his points about self-sabotage and scene sniping were/are true. Some of the things he says about it having grown from something liberating into something limiting are also true.Though I think you could find that sniping anywhere, and you can find the same suspicions of success in a lot of artforms (see Kafka, protest folk of the '30s, etc) though punk maybe codified it a bit.
4) The idea that because a place is small, or a "backwoods" it can't produce interesting, valid culture is, to me, the most problematic idea in this essay for many reasons, and he slips it in fairly surreptitiously with his "so far from places that produce Actual Culture" comment.
5) Someone should go back and tell Voltaire that punk invented Irony, and that Irony never achieves anything or creates any lasting art.
6) There also seems to be a lot of projecting of motivations here.
Posted by gi on March 7, 2013 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Bree Mckenna 50
#13 Right?
Posted by Bree Mckenna on March 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM · Report this
51
Someone, please explain to me why John Roderick is important in this city, aside from having famous friends? Am I missing the part where he helped build the Crocodile or something?
Posted by Casual_Observer on March 7, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
snacktruck 52
Rock critic and sensitive beard rocker John Roderick feels the need to shit in his own nest for if it wasn't for punk rock and the ethos surrounding it, his band would be in a much different place. Punk in so many ways paved the way for so much more.

Show some gratitude rock critic John. Rock criticism in this day and age...hilarious!
Posted by snacktruck on March 7, 2013 at 5:45 PM · Report this
LEE. 53
"some people don't believe in God..."

"...Elvis is King!"
Posted by LEE. on March 7, 2013 at 5:56 PM · Report this
54
I read maybe 200 words of of that little article before I got bored with it. Ripping a musical movement that's over 40 years old just isn't all that interesting. "Yeah! Fuck bluegrass, man! It's bullshit!"

Might care more if his the bands he played with didn't suck farts.
Posted by LMNOP on March 7, 2013 at 11:56 PM · Report this
55
Sounds like sour grapes.

Punk was/is a sub-culture and type of rock and roll for the young and the young-at-heart.

Is John Roderick a Troll? Does he live under a bridge? :D

Did he have a youth?
Posted by still here on March 9, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
56
Sounds like sour grapes.

Is this guy a Troll? Did he have a youth?

Music is always valid if it speaks to you.

Punk music may be largely ground up by the music biz, but punk attitude will always be around.
Posted by still here on March 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
57
So loooooooooonnnnnnggggggg winded and spilling over with so many self satifisying adjectives and adverbs. This article screams I LOVE ME and I LOVE TO BE HEARD. There are one or two good points." The path to indie greatness was to appear to loathe any but your oldest and purest fans, to blush and whimper at praise, to stand to the side of the stage or in the dark, back to audience, renouncing attention. The desire to project egolessness was ultimately a pathology of complete self-absorption". This is still the case today Seattles music scene is full of narcissists pretending it doesn't matter if people like my music as they aggressively pursue a record deal and management. Personally I would respect them more if they were just honest with their intent. Most of us can appreciate hard work and the love of your individual art. " Successful art isn't always garbage, and lazy, shitty art isn't always teaching us something. Why celebrate whiny millionaires and indie-snob Robespierries?". Listen to what you like, who cares? Great statement so true and calling out Wilco and Radiohead what about Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Billy Joe, Green Day and many others or is it taboo to talk about the home team? After having to take my ADD medication to finish the entire article I must say I respect John Roderick's opinion and Megan Seling's counterpoint. Punk rock is just an attitude. The Christ of punk rock John "Rotten" Lydon appears to have the net worth of over $100,000,000. Wait Punk Rock is bullshit! Damn it!
Posted by Legendinmymind on March 9, 2013 at 6:18 PM · Report this
58
So loooooooooonnnnnnggggggg winded and spilling over with so many self satifisying adjectives and adverbs. This article screams I LOVE ME and I LOVE TO BE HEARD. There are one or two good points." The path to indie greatness was to appear to loathe any but your oldest and purest fans, to blush and whimper at praise, to stand to the side of the stage or in the dark, back to audience, renouncing attention. The desire to project egolessness was ultimately a pathology of complete self-absorption". This is still the case today Seattles music scene is full of narcissists pretending it doesn't matter if people like my music as they aggressively pursue a record deal and management. Personally I would respect them more if they were just honest with their intent. Most of us can appreciate hard work and the love of your individual art. " Successful art isn't always garbage, and lazy, shitty art isn't always teaching us something. Why celebrate whiny millionaires and indie-snob Robespierries?". Listen to what you like, who cares? Great statement so true and calling out Wilco and Radiohead what about Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Billy Joe, Green Day and many others or is it taboo to talk about the home team? After having to take my ADD medication to finish the entire article I must say I respect John Roderick's opinion and Megan Seling's counterpoint within the point. Punk rock is just a fuck you attitude. The Christ of punk rock John "Rotten" Lydon appears to have the net worth of over $100,000,000. Wait Punk Rock is bullshit! Damn it!
Posted by Legendinmymind on March 9, 2013 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Posted by ben_easher on March 13, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Posted by ben_easher on March 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM · Report this
61
Folk rock seems to be taking over and these dude are feeling themselves. White dudes wanna be old blues heros. This dude is missing the point. He needs to come outside his privilege and remember why people made music in the first place (good music anyway) and it was due to the suffering place upon the black American. Riot/praise music of the poor. Which is punk as fuck. If you look at music today it's really punk vs these privilege indie/folk dudes saying nothing political at all..
Posted by Black punk on April 17, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this

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