Eulogizing Pastepunk

So, today it was announced that was shutting down. This might not be huge news outside of the “people who read punk website” set, but it is huge to me. When I first got stoked on punk rock, there were two sites I checked daily. PunkRocks was one, and Pastepunk was the other. Both of those site are now done, and it is a goddamn shame.

I have been reading Pastepunk for over a decade, even after it became heavy on strict hardcore and metal bands (despite my general ambivalence to the former, and general dislike of the latter). The reason is because I grew fond of the people doing it. I liked going back and reading the old columns. Jordan Baker always had good ones (my favourite was “Attention: Distributor Of Scene Points”), as did Tami Ryan. Punknews is great, but it doesn’t allow itself to have the personality that Pastepunk (or PunkRocks for that matter) had.

I started high school in 1999. As is the case with a lot of people, I really got into punk rock while in high school. I missed the mid-90’s punk stuff because I was too young to understand it (I was only nine or ten when records like Dookie, Smash, and Stranger Than Fiction came out and brought mainstream attention. Never mind the older stuff). After an awkward phase of radio alternative rock and nu-metal in the late 90s, I finally discovered punk. From then I was on a mission to find new things. Pastepunk was right up my alley.

Most punk sites and blogs want to be Punknews, which is fine. I want to be Pastepunk. My ultimate goal, if I could find a way to balance content and quality here, is to accomplish just half of what Pastepunk did. I want to provide to some young punk kid with what Jordan Baker and his contributors provided to me. I’ll probably never be that good, but it is my goal. While my tastes diverged from what they were covering, Pastepunk was hugely important in my growth as a music fan. It was where I fully formed my love for the forbidden beat.

Thanks a bunch Jordan. Broken Lamps And Hardcore Memories was fucking great.

REVIEW: Handguns – "Don’t Bite Your Tongue"

Handguns is one of the million bands doing the whole pop punk meets hardcore thing. What we have here is an EP of dudes singing stereotypical songs about how girls are mean. You know, the whole “you broke my heart” schtick. Which is obviously nothing new, especially given the genre. But, goddamnit, just because it is the genre norm does not make it any less stupid. The RIYL for this record is The Wonder Years, The Movielife, Fireworks, and Set Your Goals. Sounds about right.

Saves The Day, New Found Glory, The Movielife, and even Fall Out Boy could write this kind of stuff without it being fucking terrible. Not the case here. I mean, musically, this is pretty standard stuff. It sounds like any Drive Thru Records type band (circa 2000-2005). If that was your bag, then this is up your alley. But, the lyrics are fucking terrible.

“Scream Goodbye” give us this gem:
“I don’t regret a thing I did, I don’t regret a thing I said.

I’d drive nails into my ears to get your voice out of my head.
And I would rather die, or staple gun my eyes, than have to see your face again,
You’re wasting all my time.”

“I Hope He Kills You” give us:
“You’re always on the wrong side of the turnpike.

I want to choke myself to death with the phone line.
‘Go your own way and I’ll be with you,’

but nothing that you ever say could make me hate you.”

(Sidebar: Fuck you guys for quoting Further Seems Forever in your goofy song. Especially when that song seems like an attempt to write a song like “Hope.” You are not the Descendents, you will never write a song like “Hope,” so stop.)
Basically, this is generic radio punk with generic lyrics. Seven songs at just about 18 minutes. I have listened to this record a few time in preparation for this review. I want my time back. Although, at 26, I am not the target demographic for this. Somewhere, an angst ridden 15 year old boy is stoked. So, why not give him some garbage that objectifies and degrades women? I mean, the only reason women exist is to serve as love interest props for guys to sing about, right? It will make you a quick buck. The current Warped Tour scene will eat it up.
No fucking thanks.

Kids And Heroes

Quick update, because it is Sunday (well, Monday now) and I have not updated anything. So, quick updates.

1) Went to day two and three of Bouncing Souls’ four shows this weekend at Reggie’s up in Chicago. Overall, they were great shows. Day two was their self titled record and Hopeless Romantic. The openers for that show were The Brokedowns and The Arrivals. The Brokedowns were great for what they are. If you are stoked on the whole D4 / Lawrence Arms type Midwest pop punk, check them out. The Arrivals were alright. They were never my thing. Souls were great. A few lyric flubs, but a solid performance.

Day three was How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh. Openers were The Night Brigade (who I missed) and The Falcon. It is always fun to see The Falcon. Their line-up consisted of Brendan Kelly, Neil Hennessey, Eli Caterer (Smoking Popes), and Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio). They were fun as always. Got to talk to Toby Jeg briefly, as he was doing merch for The Falcon. But, like a terrible blog runner that I am, I was drinking and did not ask anything worth noting.

The downside for the show was that it had totally sold out, and Reggie’s is fucking terrible with sellout crowds. Fucking nowhere to move. Souls were great when doing the songs from …Summer Vacation. Just good for Anchors Aweigh. Overall a good show.

2) Picked up the Hot Water Music / Bouncing Souls split. HWM’s cover of “True Believers” was great. The Bouncing Souls cover of “Wayfarer” is good. But, covering HWM is always kind of a pain in the ass.

3) Music Think Tank posted an article called “Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians?” Worth reading. As an editorial side note, bands need to have websites. The whole purpose of social networking sites is to send traffic to your website. Yeah, you can host music there, but most of those media players are terrible. Stop using those as your primary websites. Shit, even set up a Tumblr or something.

Also, good to see the Mavericks win the NBA title. Fuck the Miami Heat. I hope the Bulls can sign someone good in the off season. Chicago needs a championship.

Now that basketball is over all I have is the Cubs. Fuck.

You wouldn’t take what you couldn’t have.

I was listening to Jawbreaker today. The song Friendly Fire came on. This was really the whole reason I wrote this little thing. The line “you demonize so you don’t look so bad. You wouldn’t take what you couldn’t have” made me think about all this. The punk scene, for better or worse, still seems to get stuck in the debate of major labels vs indie labels. This debate seems to keep resurfacing every time a pretty big band signs to a major. We saw it when Rise Against and Anti-Flag jumped shit from Fat Wreck to Dreamworks and RCA respectively. They both did it under the guise of “spreading their message to a wider audience,” which always feels like a cop out to me. There was an even bigger fuss when Against Me! jumped from Fat Wreck to Sire. Accusations of “selling out” were thrown, and we all got much stupider in the process.

At a time when the entire music industry is losing money hand over fist, this debate seems more ridiculous than ever. Since Napster was founded in 1999, it changed the way most of us got music. Why spend upwards of $16 on a CD, when all you wanted was the single? With the advent of Bittorrent, it has become even easier to illegally download media. If you intend to just rip the shit off anyway, does it matter what label you are stealing from? And, let’s be clear, downloading is stealing. I do not care how you justify it, or how I have justified it. You are taking a product designed for purchase without paying for it. People try to make the argument that, as long as it is major label releases, it is not really stealing. The problem is, people are taking just as much from indie labels. But, this is a whole separate discussion entirely.

Basically, the major vs. indie debate, in my mind, is just another offshoot of the 80’s hardcore movement. More or less, you had a bunch of bands that no major showed interest in, so they built the indie labels/distro themselves. The whole DIY culture. With the exception of Dischord Records, everyone seemed to be reactionary to the majors because they were not accepted vs. having any real underground ethics. Shit, even Black Flag and SST had a distro deal with MCA (via Unicorn) for about 10 minutes. It is easy to refuse something no one offered you anyway. This became evident when Hüsker Dü went major. The Replacements went major. Post-Black Flag Henry Rollins even had a few releases on Dreamworks. Again, uproar and bullshit. Basically, the foundation of “punk rock ethics” was built by the hardcore scene. Then, Maximum Rock N Roll built the dogmatic shit around that. So now, almost 30 years later, that dogmatic bullshit is law.

This is not to say there is not a difference between the two kinds of labels anymore. On a practical level, a major label album (or even an album on a large indie like Epitaph or Fat Wreck [which are distributed via majors]) are going to be more readily available in a commercial sense than an album put out on Too Indie For A Lyric Sheet Records based out of bullshit middle America. On an ethical level, indies are better when it comes to how artists are treated/paid/supported (Lookout! being the notable exception). But, given the advances in technology (most of all, the internet), does the label still matter?

The way I see it, not really. The fact that people are still willing to put out records at all is enough for me. Plus, with the majors losing so much money, they might not be around for much longer anyway. Now, I am not endorsing major labels, as I generally do not like them. But, a band signing over to one is not going to make me stop listening. Similarly, just because a record came out on a major is not going to stop me from buying it. If a band wants to make that jump, let them. Just stop with the bullshit back and forth. No one cares anymore.

Well, the “punx” do. But, fuck them anyway.

Emo Is Not Dead

Music, like everything else, is cyclical. A genre will come out, get over saturated, bastardized, and generally turned into a joke. The real aspect of that scene will go underground, and the scene will thrive again. This happened with ska (rather, ska-punk). That scene blew the fuck up due to pop acts like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, and the like. Due to the commercial expansion, and later collapse, lots of things of the scene were lost. Moon Ska Records closed it’s doors. Ska became a punchline. Music for band geeks to cover cheesy 80’s songs. It became a joke. However, with bands like Streetlight Manifesto, The Chinkees, The Slackers, and The Toasters (holy fuck, those dudes have been around forever), the scene managed to stay active. If not more underground.

The same is true for emo music. Like many people my age, I was first exposed to the genre via the early/mid 2000’s explosion of popularity. Shit, Jimmy Eat World managed to get a hit record. I was exposed through bands like The Get Up Kids, Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and At The Drive-In. Those bands put out some great records. In some cases, I do not consider them “emo,” but they were certainly influenced by it.

Meanwhile, there was another big thing happening in the scene. It was the Drive-Thru Records era. That label was putting out record after record of radio ready “pop-punk” that was constantly getting classified as emo. Bands like New Found Glory, The Starting Line, The Movielife, and Something Corporate (ugh), were all getting tagged as being emo bands. Those bands were to emo what Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris were to ska. Ok for what they were, but totally muddying the scene. From the Drive-Thru bands, you had the further bastardization of what was emo. Most notably with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fallout Boy. The genre tag was getting applied to things that had nothing to do with the genre, and in some cases nothing to do with the greater punk scene in general.

Well, as is wont to happen, the scene became a joke. It became more of a term to describe bands catering to kids with shitty haircuts, a penchant for self-harm, and day-glo shirts. Bands like Braid, Mineral, I Hate Myself, Heroin, and the extended family of bands stemming from Cap’n Jazz fell by the wayside. Now it was shit like “I wish my grass was emo, so it would cut itself” or “how many emo kids does it take to change a light bulb? None, they would rather cry in the dark.” What the fuck happened?

Well, the real scene went underground. The mainstream thought it understood what emo was, while being totally unaware. Through labels like Count Your Lucky Stars Records, Square Of Opposition Records, and Tiny Engines Records, we are finally seeing good records coming out to wide release. There is a bunch of talk about there being a “Midwest emo revival.” I disagree with the phrase because, for some of us, the scene never died. There were always bands we could stand behind. But, of the newer crop, there is Snowing, Castevet (now CSTVT), Grown Ups, Perfect Future, and Football, Etc. They are plenty more, but those are my personal favourites.

It seems unlikely that the mainstream definition will ever change to being realistic of what the scene historically was (and currently is), but I do not think anyone expects it to. But, at least we can take back what is ours.

See also: Article  @ Chicago’s Newcity Music:
The New Emo: It’s back, living underground and thriving in Chicago

*the picture for this entry is of CSTVT. I do not know the source, but I got it from the band page for them on Sorry.