“Edgy” could be one of the most overused adjectives in the history of cultural writing, along with “brilliant” and “understated.” Granted, I am as guilty as anyone else, but words are really just mere vessels for our intentions and ideas. One man's edgy is another one's boring and one of the things I have observed over the years is that most things labeled “edgy” are often the furthest thing from the truth. Sure, a lot of folks clamor for it, but when they actually get it, they will go out of their way to run from it. Case in point, lots of people wet their collective panties over Wes Anderson, an overly arch, white bread faux-indie filmmaker if ever there was one, but a guy like Alejandro Jodorowsky, a born & bred maverick, still has problems garnering funding for his projects. Then again, I'm someone who firmly believes in the adage, “Give the people what they deserve.” Any artist that honors that is someone who will always be my valentine.
Speaking of which, I got to check out the Crass episode of the web series “The Art of Punk” and was instantly inspired by band founder Penny Rimbaud. Unlike some of the other episodes, you actually get to hear some of Crass' music as well as see the intense and vital visual side. Rimbaud is my kind of hippie. Mentally sharp, cranky and individualistic to his core, Rimbaud is as uncompromising now as he was in the 1970's. The other “Art of Punk” episodes are definitely worth checking out, including ones on Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. The former is a super-gem thanks to some interview footage with the great Raymond Pettibon.
Going back to Rimbaud and Crass, I love it that one of the most seminal “punk” bands was founded by an older, commune living activist. Given how popular the phrase “never trust a hippie” was, there is something just so beautifully subversive about that. Not to mention, one thing that gets lost on a lot of folks is that punk originally was purely about DIY. Before it got codified by the mainstream and put in an “angry,skinny,white hetero male with spiky hair” box, punk was actually a musically diverse movement. In the UK alone, bands like Crass would have never been confused with say, The Damned or Big in Japan. Not just because Crass was so incredible, but because a lot of these bands stood out from the pack. The US scene was equal as well, with early proto-punk bands like The Stooges and later on, the massively underrated Destroy All Monsters, standing as unique giants along side bands like Suicide, the New York Dolls, The Fast and Jayne County.
One of the many reasons why I love the concert film”Urgh! A Music War”so much is that it is a semi-perfect document of punk and post-punk before it became completely signed, sealed and delivered by both the mainstream record companies, as well as the more sheep-like “fan”contingent. You have such equally great but different bands as Wall of Voodoo, The Cramps (those last two alone sealed my affection for the film), X, The Fleshtones, John Otway and the still incomparable after all these years, Skafish. (We'll just ignore the fact that UB40 is also in the film. Hey, the devil works in many ways.)
Now more than ever, the air is ripe and the time is more than right for a new cultural revolution. Movements like Dada, the Beats and Punk have all laid out the groundwork to show us that it can be done. Like the song goes, let's rip it up and start again.