My So-Called Punk News and Analysis 

Green Day, Operation Ivy, and Rancid's place in Matt Diehl's new CliffsNotes of Punk.

"Fuck this shit, pleaseeeeeeee." "Another clueless writer." "You are all posers." "ghey." And my personal favorite: "... punx don't read."

Matt Diehl's new nonfiction autopsy My So-Called Punk (St Martin's Griffin, $14.95) elicited some very telling comments on The kids hadn't even read Diehl's book on Green Day and the East Bay, yet they're brimming with piss and vinegar over Diehl's Punk History 101.

Clocking in at a short, perfect-bound, paperbacked 272 pages, My So-Called Punk flits from Iggy Pop and the Clash to Blink-182 and Sum 41 with incredible speed. In-depth analysis or literary flourish yield to Diehl's suspicion that, indeed, "punx don't read." Instead, he gives them a blended Jamba Juice smoothie chock-full of chunky highlights and insights.

Formed as the anti-Eagles and the anti-Pink Floyd, all the original punk icons — the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Ramones — were on major labels like Warner and Columbia. Punk then went underground as new wave, synth-pop, hair metal, and grunge arose, until Kurt Cobain killed himself just weeks after Green Day's Dookie came out. Dookie ended up selling more than ten million copies, certifying it diamond. Then the Offspring's Smash sold eleven million, numbers only dreamt of today. Out came the corporate wolves, and now we have mall punks like Sum 41 and emo superstars like Fall Out Boy.

In extensive interviews with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, we find that the anti-establishment mall-punk showcase sold more than 650,000 tickets in 2004, making it the longest-running, most successful establishment of its kind in history. And we get great lines like this:

"If you get into the marketing, the bands that are remembered are the bands with the great logos," Lyman says. "Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Crass — they all had the greatest shirts. I heard a great story: Glenn Danzig gets six-figure checks every couple of months from the Misfits' "Skull' shirt selling at Hot Topic."

"The Mohawk, the spikes, the fucking Exploited T-shirt," Distillers' guitarist Tony Bevilacqua scoffs. "It's retarded — like, what are you rebelling against?"

"Clichés in punk today are full-arm sleeves of tattoos, three-row studded belts, Spock haircuts, and nail polish," snarks Matt Kelly of the Dropkick Murphys. "It's acceptable now to have funny-colored hair and stupid clothes."

For one, Henry Rollins thinks he's "sticking it to these motherfuckers" with a talk show. Yes, the former Black Flag singer and meathead impersonator frees minds and defeats defeatism Fridays at 8 p.m. on IFC. Season two proves tepid, if competent, even as Rollins sucks up to Joan Jett and asks Ben Stiller such deep questions as "Do people assume you're funny off the screen too?" Of course they do, Chuck, just as I assumed you'd do the show barechested and barefoot, sporting your Black Flag corporate branding and screaming "'Cause I'm a LIAR!" at every Hollywood celebrity who showed up. Press Play can only dare to dream.

In related news, rumors continue to swirl that the East Bay's Green Day is back in its home Studio 880 in Oakland recording a follow-up to the Grammy-winning American Idiot, which sold in excess of five million copies. Studio 880 stands tall as one of a handful of endangered recording leviathans in the East Bay. It has survived the comet impact of the digital home studio revolution, partially by also becoming Wal-Mart's recording home.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart doesn't carry American Idiot because it lacks a "Parental Advisory — Explicit Lyrics" sticker; ostensibly for lyrics like Maybe I'm the faggot American/I'm not part of a redneck agenda.

In a sense, Green Day's timeshare with Wal-Mart is part of a redneck agenda, but I don't fault them. Punx may not read, but a lot of truth still exists in books by Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, who posit the theory of "binary oppositions." The theory says that concepts like good versus evil, corporate versus indie, and revolution versus institution need each other to exist. They lean on each other for strength and definition. There is no "Rage" without the "Machine." "Subverting the paradigm" just reinforces the existence of a paradigm to subvert.

And that's Press Play's final beef with My So-Called Punk. Diehl expends acres of dead trees "searching for punk's soul," but he refuses to critique its empty head. Just say it, Diehl: Punks are flunkies. They got played. They failed to understand a power structure that not only needs but eventually co-opts rebellion. Real world-changers tend to ignore the binary oppositions and do their own thing. Think Albert Einstein at the patent office; Larry Page and Sergey Brin with PageRank; Shawn Fanning napping in his dorm.

In 2007, there's nothing more DIY than crafting your own online presence with the help of Rupert Murdoch's MySpace. Diehl's book should be cross-marketed next to those Misfits T-shirts at Hot Topic. Punx don't read, but the posers just might learn something.


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