Sure, the title feels trite – a conversation that has happened a hundred times already for decades. But I’m not approaching this from a strictly musical standpoint. Instead, my focus is largely ideological. Punk, and even other genres like outlaw country, centered around ideas that ran counter to the mainstream narrative. But now, it feels like what many of these artists believe or fight for lines up curiously with the same things coming from the media (an undeniable extension of the political structure as well as collateral of the the consolidation of journalism to under ten companies) and pop artists alike. In large part, there is nothing radically counter-cultural here any more. The artform has been coopted by the mainstream, commercialized, and dressed up. It’s been said pop punk was a silver bullet to punk. Maybe that’s not true, but at this point in society, what can a punk artist say that doesn’t align with professional pundits yet not warrant immediately being banned from all venues? If Abraham Lincoln isn’t safe, is anyone?
Where does punk go when the anti-establishment sentiment becomes the new establishment itself? When the culture feels it has reached a new stage of utopia, another one is always waiting.
Understandably, the Christian scene isn’t necessarily trending in the same exact manner. But there have been many compromises. Perhaps the more prevalent is less-direct lyrics or focusing on politics over God. Ultimately, the message is the core of the punk mindset. And the message of the Gospel should not return void. So if a band’s music is neither offensive nor compelling, something’s weird. That’s one thing that punk has tended to do well naturally: divide supporters and dissenters.
Arguably, Christian artists have more potential for impact in the present moment. Much of society is caught in a dogmatic echo chamber, one that’s playing in some ways for good and other ways is leaving a trail of destruction. But artists who are willing to break the script and comment on “the elephant in the room” may find a ready audience, one weary from the same story day after day. Indeed, much of society has funneled ideas in tandem. Many folks are bearing the heavy weight of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps there’s more dissent than people would expect; indeed, the last election was a more even split than pretty much anyone would anticipate.
But genuinely, I don’t know what the next step here is. Is the punk mindset dead on a large scale? What does reasonable rebellion look like in an age of homogenous thought? What sort of things should artists be speaking to that they’re silent on? What would you want to see from a new wave of Christian punk?
Matt Thessien from Relient K once said that it was hard to say “Jesus” in a song without sounding cheesy, but I couldn’t disagree more.
I’d love to see more Doxological/Theological punk if ever there was a new wave.
Sing it like you’ve been saved from Darkness.
I guess topics like self-destruction mistaken for freedom are great for a punk band. Or self-pitty mistaken for emotional evolving. Today every punkbank still fights for left-wing ideas, although left-wing politics already won and took over mainstream. Maybe it’s time to have some backfiring voices against every Bad Religion and Anti-Flag who have nothing rebelious to say in a world full of rebels and law-haters.
“But artists who are willing to break the script and comment on “the elephant in the room” may find a ready audience, one weary from the same story day after day.”
I think this is spot on. Exhausted by the status quo and cognitive dissonance as you stated, something’s got to cut through it all. I think a bold middle ground that’s not afraid to call out either side, one that doesn’t adhere to the boundary lines of partisanship or even conservative vs. liberal Christian theology/culture. Anything to destroy the false dichotomy we’ve been presented with that is so divisive.