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“I know it’s hypocritical to point fingers at the people who point fingers…” starts the tenth song on the fan favorite ska-punk-power-pop record, Scrambles. This is the first of many acknowledgements that Jeff Rosenstock, the man on the proverbial soapbox during “(Shut) Up The Punx!!!”, isn’t free from the shackles of what he’s raging against. But, there is a problem in punk and a multitude of other music scenes; one that actively pushes out people who may have found a home in that culture. After all, most underground music scenes, once founded by the outcasted, now have a set of unwritten rules you have to abide by out of fear of being disregarded by potential peers. Of course, this isn’t to say that problematic characters who emit negativity should be welcomed with open arms (Nazis, racists, sexual harassers, and all other assholes), but, as Jeff puts it, “… we could stand to be nicer.”

These strict guidelines don’t just boot ‘different’ people; they rot the very core of a counterculture. By making frivolous rules like “Vegans only, no meat allowed / Straight edge only, no drinking allowed / Fixed gears only, no three-speeds allowed”, you’re building a layer of conformity that’s hard to see from the inside of the group. Groupthink ideals that say different subgenres or suggestions are ‘not punk/rock/metal/trve enough’ pigeonhole progression. Rather, it creates a childish superiority complex (“Like God speaks through my acoustic guitar…”), a gatekeeping pseudo-authority (“Follow these conditions or we’ll kick your ass out…”), and ironic conventionality (“This organization doesn’t feel like anarchy / ‘Cause we’re suiting up to have the same identity”).

And then what? People on the outside, whether they’ve even been exposed to your counterculture or not, don’t see punkish rogues fighting for social progress, they see weirdos in jean vests “buy[ing] a forty and destroy[ing] a hotel party.” You’re effectively building a wall between yourself and the world around you.

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None of us is perfect, though. Rosenstock shows moments of anger on this track itself (“If you really think that you and I are on the same page, you can go ahead and fuck yourself”), but his message rings true. Negativity and ingroup biases aren’t strengthening the bonds between punks, it’s denying anyone you deem ‘normal’ or ‘uncool’ the chance to see your view. It’s blunt, but there’s one perfect metaphor hidden in the song:

“… the man who cleans your mess up shrugs and says,
‘This nonconformity looks like conformity
Like boring, nice people pose threats to your authority
This positivity is negativity
And you boys sure left me with a mess to clean…'”

By losing their own identities and becoming a negative cog in a machine, they’ve directly left a poisoned impression on a humble, working man. The people they claim to fight for are essentially hurt by their arrogant actions of destruction and stupidity. What’s “punk” is creating a piss-poor consequence on someone just trying to do their job.

I’m not going to pretend that progress hasn’t been made in the 10 years since Scrambles was released. Ever since punk was first made, more acceptance has been granted to the groups originally not included, like the LGBT community and folks once considered to be ‘at odds’ with the “punk spirit.” But, it’s important to note that “(Shut) Up The Punx” shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. Various “cool clubs” have cropped up in music (black metal, death metal, progressive rock, noise, et cetera…) that promote a negative mindset.

I guess my point is that Bomb The Music Industry!’s two-and-a-half-minutes anthem against elitism and anti-conformity groupthink is a blunt, but cleverly forceful, call to action. Not a call to arms, mind you, but a call to positivity. A call to humble mindsets. A call for empathy, inclusivity, creations, progression, and acceptance (within reason, of course). A lyrically dense dive into what made punk rock tick in 2009 and what makes so many others tick in 2019. More importantly, a simple message:

“Smile big, hug bigger, talk big, act bigger.” —Bloon





Odal
05.12.19
Nice write up, can definitely related. The DIY scenes I used to consider myself a part of five years ago just don't interest me anymore from insular politics and the drama. Truth be told, I think most DIY scenes are like that and their appeals fade away a we get older, but maybe I'm wrong.

Dewinged
05.12.19
Really nice write-up Bloon! But hey why is this not a review?

Bloon
05.13.19
Thanks! It's an analysis of the one song as opposed to the whole record

granitenotebook
05.13.19
this is really good 👍

Dewinged
05.13.19
Got it! ;)

Sniff
05.13.19
Honestly. Fixed gears are so much better than 3 speeds. Only nerds use 3 speeds

luci
05.13.19
we’re too committed to contrarianism on sput to be accused of groupthink. it’s why barely any album can get an average above 4.1+

Winesburgohio
05.13.19
Bloon darling you've made seriously good with this one, a thought-provoking read. Pursuant: why I'll always prefer say No Trend or Insect Warfare to the sanctimony of a lot of punk is that if you're not being castigated, or at least implicated, why bother? It's not so much masochism as self-awareness. Never thought I'd be convinced BTMI evinces that quality but here we are!

Trebor.
05.13.19
Had a dream I met Rosenstock and he was mean to me

BlushfulHippocrene
05.13.19
I like this piece of writing.

Bloon
05.13.19
Thanks guys :]

clavier
05.14.19
really nice piece Bloon, thoughtfully put

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