Monday, July 30, 2012

How Low Can a Punk Get?

Have you ever had this experience? You're rocking out to a killer punk song and then you start to catch the lyrics and you shudder because they're full of the most ignorant garbage imaginable. Suddenly, what was once a great musical moment becomes tainted.
My first experience with punk was finding a group of open minded people who were inclusive and cool. That's colored my expectation of what punk should be my whole life. So it disturbs me when otherwise intelligent bands writing songs that seem primed to insult large chunks of their audience. I've mentioned before I'm the kind of person who has a hard time separating my music and my politics, especially when the lyrics are insulting large chunks of your audience. I have a really hard time getting back into a song once the ignorant lyrics come to light. Here's what happens when three respected bands lose their fucking minds for a minute.

Slip Up



What makes this doubly frustrating is, from a musical standpoint, "Slip it In" is a fucking great song. Black Flag never sounded better than they did on the album Slip it In and the title track is one of the best of an overwhelmingly strong lot of songs (minus "Rat's Eyes" ewww). The band was tight and taking stolid, stale punk into new and incredibly exciting places. However, it starts with one of the most ignorant songs ever penned by a revered punk band with "Slip it In." Black Flag is better than this.
The sexual politics of this one are particularly noxious. Just because she says she "don't want it," that doesn't mean you can't fuck her any way, amirite guys? Even though the young lady in question tells us she "kinda [has] a boyfriend" and Hank opines she's "had too much to drink," he still fucks her. Ladies and gentlemen, that's called rape. And even though our narrator is whining and cajoling the girl to have sex with him, he still accuses her of being "loose" and a "whore." The rancid cherry on top of the shit sundae is the pathetically sexualized video that trades in just about every obnoxious jailbait stereotype you can name. If it's meant to be satire, it's failing spectacularly.
And I can already here the excuses: blah blah blah Kira Roessler played bass (and she kicked ass) blah blah blah a woman helped sing the song blah blah blah they tackled the obnoxiousness of the aggressive male libido next album with "Loose Nut." Doesn't change anything for me. It still comes off as obnoxious slut shaming and Black Flag should be better than that.
Mount up? More like fuck off.

White Whine





As far as I'm concerned, those preachy, self righteous fucks in Minor Threat have exactly one good song and that's "Filler." Maybe they would have had more if they hadn't spent the otherwise rocking "Guilty of Being White" spewing self-pitying whiny garbage. Oh noes! A minority was unjustifiably mean to me. My hurt feelings are just as bad as 500 years of slavery and systematic cultural oppression. Oh wait, no they're not.
I got news for you, cupcake, some members of minority groups can be assholes. That's not because they're minorities. It's because they're assholes. That doesn't excuse them being a dick, but, dude, let it fucking go. So even if some random black person tried to make you feel bad for being white and unfairly accused you of being complicit in slavery, their assholism doesn't mean to you doesn't mean you get to run around shouting "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" Because, at the end of the day, you're still going through life on the lowest difficulty setting.
To be honest, I've never been quite fucking sure what exactly Black Flag was trying to get at with "White Minority," even after hours staring at the lyric sheet. If it's satire, it's not coming through and let's all agree that any song that screams "white pride" during the chorus without any palpable sense of sarcasm or irony is open to bad interpretations.

Blow Me Down

Speaking of minorities who stand convicted of assholism:
Bad Brains seemed to have scrubbed all the videos of the infamous "Don't Blow No Bubbles" from the internet, so take a moment, if you will, to peruse frontman H.R.'s less than enlightened thoughts on the '80s AIDS crisis and homosexuality. Let's just say he briefly lost his PMA.

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles

In time before there was no cure
Now through his will it's healed for sure
(TRASH PITS, TRASH PITS, TRASH PITS) Away!
It's not the weather, we've got P.M.A.

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles
There's got to be a better way
Don't blow no spikes
Ask Jah and he'll make the change

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles (and we can stop the AIDS)
Don't blow no spikes
Don't blow no fudge buns
Ask Jah and he'll make the change

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I and I said to thee
To always request and declare
As you can imagine, that didn't go over so well with gay-positive contemporaries like MDC, the Big Boys and the Dicks and caused a huge rift between those bands. It's a real shame because, like "Slip It In," it's, musically, a very interesting song. With the album Quickness the Bad Brains were getting more metallic and experimental. They were taking their hardcore into new and more adept directions. Basically, everything Living Colour got praised for the Bad Brains did better. It's just a shame they wedded that open minded musicality to some of the most bigoted ignorance spewed this side of a Nazi skins show.
However, the band has grown since then and bassist Darryl Jennifer copped to his bigotry and apologized in a recent interview [thanks, Bill, for the heads up on this one]:
" You’ve got to understand that I’m a young man growing, getting into something. Now I’m 46 years old and I’ve learned that that’s ignorant. I’ve learned through the years that we’re all God’s children, regardless of your race, creed, color, sexuality, any of that."

16 comments:

Ryan Page said...

I always thought guilty of being white was about being against atavistic guilt. I did think it was funny that Ian MacKaye got mad at Slayer for changing the last line to "Guilty of being right". I mean, that alterations totally sums up minor threat for me. A bunch of dudes who feel like they're persecuted for their opinions.

But that's not to say I'm defending them. The lyrics are pretty childish and its pushy to the point of sounding a bit racist.

I do feel like in the US we use guilt as a form of domination, and there are points where it feels like the people who are ostensibly dedicated to equality go an awfully long way to reducing people to their race/gender/sexual orientation. Its the ad hominem fallacy of "that's easy for you to say, you're a straight white male" regardless of circumstance that is frustrating, not because its always incorrect, but because it kills debate.

I don't think it validates saying you're repressed, but it is fucked up that things like class, psychological issues, and other things that may not be apparent like gender issues or repressed sexual orientation, are largely ignored.

Wait! I thought we were talking about music! No Fair!

Andrew Childers said...

ha... it's almost like you can't divorce music from the broader culture.

but i think you're kinda expressing (probably better) my frustration with that song. so somebody tried to make you feel bad about something that's not your fault. so fucking what? get over it and live your life.

you raise good points about using guilt as a weapon. but it's only effective if you let them put that guilt on you.

Ryan Page said...

I think what you're saying is totally true about the effectiveness of guilt. I think if deeper thought was applied to the subject they would have come to the same conclusion. Maybe they did, and then decided to write a song about it... not.

That black flag video has to be a joke, its like Monty Python mixed with AC/DC and that Van Halen video for "hot for teacher'. Greg Gin even wears the Angus Young getup.

Andrew Childers said...

could be. i dunno. maybe i'm just tone deaf to bad 80s sarcasm. but to to me it felt like those annoying seth mcfarlane cartoons where they try to wallow in stereotypes while at the same time claiming to be parodying them. it's like trying to have it both ways. but i could be completely off base. wouldn't be the first time.

and should i mention i cam *THIS* close to titling that section "feminism uber alles?"

Ryan Page said...

That's pretty great. I actually wondered if I would scroll down and see a section on that song, haha.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

I thought the Black Flag song was satire, given the overwrought vocal presentation.

But I'm no expert on Black Flag, so what do I know.

Also, Slayer's versions of Minor Threat songs are way better than Minor Threat's versions of Minor Threat songs, in no small part because they royally trolled Ian MacKaye. Although, I think you can do that by just having a good time somewhere in the world.

And thanks for the shoutout on Darryl's mea culpa. That made me smile when I found it. I made a similar change in my life during my late teens. I'm glad there's no public record of my thoughts from that time, haha.

PatrickDM said...

I never thought slip it in as a pro-rape song. I always saw it as a joke.

Guilty of being white never seemed racist to me, but I had a friend who was the minority at his school. He was beat up for being white all the time, so that song made perfect sense to me when I heard it. I feel like it's more of an anit-racism song than anything.

DesiccatedVeins said...

This is a sweet piece. I feel like I've seen several of these moments in modern hardcore and grind songs, but at this point I just shrug and remind myself that I can't understand the lyrics unless I want to most of the time, anyway.

TheWZAd said...

I like the statement that Minor Threat song is making. Maybe it's just because I'm in college and every semester get at least one class that is basically "Why white people are evil 101."

It didn't get to me at first, because it's history. White people have a long history of being evil and subjugating people who aren't white.

The snarkiness of some of my professors is what gets to me. I'm all for taking potshots at the establishment, and I definitely understand that white people need a heavy dose of humility, often.

But I sit there sometimes and I'm like "you're talking about me right now. you're generalizing, and its bullshit, and it's pissing me off."

At least I'm fucking trying, you know?

I like the song because I know Minor Threat actually gave a shit about things, like I give a shit about things. So when they rail, in one song, against white guilt, it comes across as authentic to me. It isn't some "can't we all get along" happy rainbow song, it's a "fuck you for judging me for what I am instead of what I do" song.

Andrew Childers said...

i think it's absolutely fascinating the way everybody interprets this stuff differently. i love rehearing these songs through your ears, so to speak (guilty of being white still sucks).

bill, if you're interested in quality ian mckaye trolling, i highly recommend the documentary another state of mind. social distortion/youth brigade go on the country's most disastrous tour. they come to dc and crash with the minor threat guys and mckaye has literally put a "no girls allowed" sign on the door. youth brigade hangs around and bros down on how awesome it is to be straight edge. mike ness takes one look at the sign and tells them to go fuck themselves because he's going out to get drunk and laid.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I kind of wish I hadn't bought that Discordance Axis book now, after reading this. Oh, and I love King Diamond.

Trey Azaghthoth's Quake III Clan said...

"White Minority" is a pure joke song. The whole point is that Ron Reyes, their singer at the time they wrote it, was from Puerto Rico.

Andrew Childers said...

thanks tre that's seriously bothered me for like 20 years now. i'm more of a later flag guy so i don't know the early period as well.

James said...

Totally agree about your Minor Threat / "Filler" comment.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you've taken MINOR THREAT's "Guilty of being white" completely out of context.

Ian MacKaye was one of the only white kids at his school and he experienced a lot of reverse racism there (I think he even got beaten up quite a few times).
Later he said that upon writng the song he had never thought anyone outside of DC would ever hear this song.

...and please, MINOR THREAT is a great band and Ian MacKaye is still going strong and sticking to his beliefs.
I don't believe in heroes but still... the way Ian MacKaye is still sticking to his ideals after all these years is just amazing.

Please get the facts straight first before you criticise people, OK?

- Joe Dharma

Anonymous said...

Fick you guys. White Pride. Who isn't proud of thier race? Are Brown pride tattoos and t shirts wrong? Are black power symbols wrong? I'm white pride and I do not feel any guilt or remorse for being who I am.