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Article: Lables...
Writer: Brinepacer
Date Posted: 01/03/00

Can you imagine if there were no labels? No I'm not talking about record labels or the paper things you peel off bottles of beer when you don't like the company, I mean the type of labels that define things. Like punk. Damn, that's one label we could do with out. My friend keeps asking me if bands are punk or not. 'Are Offspring punk?'; 'Are Stereophonics punk?'; 'Are Blink 182 punk?". Who cares? It's music. Why do we have to label... things? What does it say about us that things have to fit little categories. Sure its handy if someone uses it to tell you what type of music a band is, but why ask it about a band you know. He plays me music he likes and asks if its punk... It doesn't bother me, I just think, so what if it is, kudos to them, who cares. Labels shouldn't lend weight to something. I really don't care myself if the music I listen to is punk or not. Labels got me beat up in the past. When I was young, you were either a 'mosher' or a 'raver', meaning you either listened to music with guitars, or dance music, meaning anything from Prodigy to Steps. Damn, why can't you listen to both? I have my brother's computer this week, so I have all my mp3s back (i keep all my albums on MP3 on Cdrs and my own comp is broke, so I normally have about 80-100 cds here and another 150 elsewhere, but now I have about 1000). So I start playing people Moondog Jr, The Tindersticks, The Dandy Warhols, Trail Of Dead, Tim Buckley, Wedding Present... It just doesn't compute... Are they a (whatever) band? Is this (whatever) music? Who fucking cares, its good...

But bands (particularly punk bands) promote this. It seems the idea of just playing one type of music is so commonplace it's expected. For example, Agnostic Front, Bad Religion, CIV, Suicidal Tendencies, Refused, Pennywise, No Use For a Name, Good Riddance... all these bands are excellent, but consistently play the same type of music, at the same tempo, and thus box themselves in. You can't listen to them all the time cos they only fit one mood. Prime example, latter-day Millencolin records. 'Lets play a little punk, a ska bit, and then end with a punk bit'. Everyone knows, recognises and (most detrimentally) expects the formula. The same with Less Than jake, who I had never heard of until I saw them two years ago. I personally really like them, but I wouldn't rush out to buy any of their stuff, because it's too predictable, as if they have a formula. Punk + ska = song.

The best bands (and coincidentally most remembered bands, ooh, how does this fuckin work!) are the ones who play different types, not consciously but naturally. Take NOFX. Now, I know some may say they are a dodgy example, but take an unbiased look at it. NOFX started as a Bad Religion/Minor Threat clone, but they changed, and now play several different types of music (primarily punk, but they also excel at punkska (All Outta Angst), reggae (Reeko) and some kind of swing stuff (Theme to a NOFX album)). Some attribute this to El Hefe, some say it's for money, but you can't deny that they do it and they do it well. Look at 'Punk In Drublic', their most popular album and many's favourite punk album. It mixes up styles and tempos, and excels because of just that; different parts suit different moods.

Look at the bands that have crossed over to the mainstream - Rancid, Greenday, The Offspring... Ah The Offspring. Bad example? Well not really. They have changed a lot, no doubt about that, but anyone who's seen them over the last few years knows they still put on a punk show, not just hits, but loads of their old punk songs - Opening with 'All I Want' and closing with 'Smash', they do still mix it up. Their singles may be damn listener friendly, but they still mix it up a little on record. But they got famous on an album that broke their mould of being just another So-Cal TSOL quasi-cover band. Slow songs (Self Esteem et al) and fast songs (Smash). Another band that got big just before them, Nirvana, got big on (and because of) an album that mixed upbeat stuff (Territorial Pissings) with slow stuff (Polly). That's what a band should do. Rancid - punk and ska, both done to perfection on their standout (and modern classic) album '...And out comes the wolves'. Green Day, pop punk and the odd acoustic song hand in hand and thus a fantastic band.

I dunno, I had this big argument with this asshole about... Well, I dunno, he was saying punk was shit and grunge rules (man). I was arguing that grunge was just an offshoot of punk and that if you stand far back enough, it's all the same. Look at Nirvana, Mudhoney, The Melvins, Sonic youth. All of these, to me, are punk bands, kinda garagey and metally, but still punk. But my point was to him that it doesn't matter if a band is punk, or grunge, or techno, or whatever, songs are songs, bands are bands, labels are to identify bands you've not heard, not to restrict your listening material. But he refused to even listen to any 'punk' bands simply because they were 'punk' bands. No concept of taking songs as songs, the label was all-important. But I guess this is what it comes down to. People want to have an identifiable sense of themselves, they want to be able to say "I listen to X music so people will associate them with whatever that association entails". They pick out something they feel comfortable being associated with and they put that out as identifying themselves. I just don't see why we have to rely on these things. Why can't you just listen to music? You see people who don't have any outward affiliation with any type of music, and they have no problem with this, and why can't everyone else? If I go to a gig, I see people around with band shirts, they move in packs and it's always the same bands. For me the big test came in starting up the zine and having to categorise it for search engines and whatnot. Well, is it a punk zine? No, cos I want to cover indie bands like the Dandy Warhols (who I'm listening to right now) and Wilt and Pavement. Ok, so it's an indie zine. Well no, cos I cover NOFX and Lagwagon and De La Hoya. Then its punk and indie. Not exactly cos I want to do stuff with Trail Of Dead and Motorambo. Those are the kind of bands I really admire. What kind of band are Motorambo? Fuck knows. What kind of band are Trail of Dead. Who knows, and who fucking cares, they fucking kick ass, and that's all that matters at the end of the day. Isn't it?