(This is a reply I did to a post on an online webforum that was debating the relative worth of punk vs. folk/Irish music.)
As to folk vs. punk – I liked your argument, but don’t agree with it 🙂
Yep, there’s definitely a strand of punk that’s manufactured and a triumph of ephemeral style over any intrinsic content. But that’s true of any genre that becomes popular. Look at the number of people who latched on to folk when it was chart-friendly in the 60s, or the people who are suddenly ‘roots country’ now, after years of being in Poison clones.
The punk that moves me is the stuff where you can *hear* the passion. Classic songs like Minor Threat’s ‘Straight Edge’ or the Circle Jerks’ ‘Deny Everything.’ In fact, I’ll bet that if I sat down and played you my favourite punk records, I’d convert you. I know I’m on a sure thing here cos if you like folk, you like to hear what a person is *feeling*, not just some rhyming mish-mash constructed to shift units.
I guess what I’m saying is that for me, the best folk, punk, hip-hop, reggae, country etc share certain qualities. For me, the important ones are:
1. They’re political. Whether it’s Phil Ochs or NWA, they don’t mind saying stuff that’ll get them arrested or banned.
2. They’re emotional. And they’re not embarrassed to feel. I love a lot of country music cos of this quality. If I hear Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash, I know what they’re feeling.
3. They’re outsiders. I probably identify with this one as an immigrant myself. But whether it’s a homeless kid made good like KRS1 or a reclusive folk maverick like Fred Neil, these are people who are often observing normal life from the outside.
4. They’re insane. Hmm, well, I mean that they’re songwriters cos they *have to be.* It’s either that or back to the lithium. This insanity means they’d rather shoot a commercial career down in flames than change a song to accomodate the record company. There’s too many folks to fit in this category, a lot of them folkies 🙂
So, bringing the thread roughly back on-topic, these are some of the qualities that I most love in music. I want the *whole deal.* I want a song that’ll make me dance, that’ll be so catchy I’ll have to sing it and that, when I work out what the lyrics are, *means something.*
Is that asking for too much??
love and kisses,