Friday, April 11, 2008

Sellout

The term "sellout" seems to be used more and more often these days, especially in the rock and punk communities. But what some music fans don't seem to understand is the difference between maturing as musicians and compromising your values/beliefs for money. Usually artists are scrutinized for signing to a major label or releasing something that sounds little different. Let’s take the punk band Against Me!, for example (http://www.myspace.com/againstme). They released several albums on an independent record label before signing to Sire recently. When they released their major label debut, critics praised it; some even claimed it the best album of the year. However, fans of Against Me! disagreed. They called them sellouts and went from being number one fans to number one enemies. In an interview, the band said that they were under the influence of so many substances during their earlier work that they couldn’t come up with enough material for an album (which is why all of their songs are so short). One would think that their “hardcore” fans would be happy that their favorite band made it to the big time.

So why was the underground punk community shaken by the direction this band took? Why did they refuse to listen to Against Me!’s music even though it had strongly improved? Here is why: it is now a threat. These fans went from seeing an easily approachable band in basements with people just like them, to seeing this band as an opener for the Foo Fighters in large venues. This can be a shock to the leftover fans that were willing to journey into this uncharted territory. Although both of these bands can be classified under the very general term “rock,” they attract very different crowds. The more mainstream an act gets (the more KROQ plays their music), the younger their crowd gets. The younger a crowd gets, the more teeny boppers and soccer moms Against Me! fans have to deal with. This is where class comes into play. Teeny boppers and soccer moms aren’t used to seeing such a large gathering of tattoo baring, heavily pierced, aggressive, and rowdy troublemakers. On the other hand, these punks aren’t used to seeing such a large gathering of kids and women with scrunchies in their hair. These different cultures clash. The punks now feel out of their element. Even other fans that look like them could just be “posers”-pretending to be something they are not- or they themselves could be considered posers for attending such a concert.

Does your head hurt yet? It should. This can all be very confusing. Punks in general have a stereotypical reputation. A reputation that the younger generation enjoys and feels the need to upkeep (the aging punks learned a long time ago that none of this really matters, and soon the younger generation will also come to this realization). The need to challenge the mainstream and any kind of authority is the basic attitude behind punk. But the ironic thing is that true punk was exploited a long time ago and is no longer around. After a counter-culture is discovered by the mainstream it dies; just like grunge and the hippies. But the stereotypical punk lifestyle is so desirable to so many people that in a way it carries on. As these kids go to hot topic and buy their Sex Pistols shirt, they know (in the back of their minds) that they are buying from a major chain corporation. They also know that this isn’t what the anarchy/punk attitude is all about and that Sid Vicious is turning in his grave. But they do it anyway, and they choose to ignore these facts along with their peers and everyone else. This is done because the music they listen to tells them to look and act rebellious; but in this act they aren’t actually rebelling, they are simply conforming.

Against Me! fans went from seeing shows like this:




To shows like this:

2 comments:

Cecilia said...

I thought it was really interesting what you said about the "posers," the kids and the soccer moms. I think it realates to what i wrote about. Music is part of ones identity and i think that people feel threatened when others try to steal that identity from them and make it into something its not. I think this element is present among a lot music genres, like the white suburban teens listening to gangster rap. Do you think its because they want to fit in with this other crowd or just escape from thier lifestyles. Also you hardly ever see people who typically listen to rap, listening to classical music.

Rod said...

Well the Sex Pistols were not so pure themselves. They were signed to a major label, and they are what I like to think of as the "Cute" anarchists. Delve in a little deeper and you will find those anarchist bands that are scary to people, like Crass, Conflict, Discharge, Subhumans, MDC...Punk is not gone, it never left, its just the media ignores these acts because they are more radical then the Sex Pistols, and refuse label offers, and are only covered after riots. Crust punk is alive and well, its just too much for people to swallow and are those "bad" punks you see on the news or police dramas. Against Me!, I never was a fan, do I think they sold out? I dont know, and I dont care. If they do not comprimise the quality of their music to make a buck then fine. What does annoy me are people like Averil Lavigne, which, (according to a special I saw on T.V. about her) switched from singing country to punk because it was more "lucrative". Punk is an art and should be taken seriously. I understand, Bad Religion and Green Day will be the first punk acts a lot of people will hear, I mean they have to start somewhere, and not everyone gets a Dead Kennedys cd dropped on their lap as their first band, but get a little more educated before you think your so hard-effing-core. In fact, anyone who thinks they are so hardcore needs to grow up a little bit.