Friday, May 30, 2014

Punk, Better Known as Music: You’re Doing it Wrong!

The weekly column on South African bands and live shows.
 by Omri Ismail Cassiem
 This week: Punk Music

I begin today’s column with a question: would you hire an architect who cannot design a house? Or for that matter an accountant who cannot do maths? How about a game designer who thinks that solitaire is the height of fun? A writer who cannot spell? No! So why would you listen to “music” made by “musicians” who cannot play their instruments? Yes, I’m talking to you, punk fans. I know, I know, if you put enough monkeys in a room on typewriters you may at some point get a work of literature (more likely you will end up with a sequel to the twilight saga), but put enough talentless musicians in a room with musical instruments and you will either end up with pop or punk music. Today, I thought rather than write another review, I will write about why I disdain the genre called punk.
First of all, what ever happened to the fine art of the solo? Did your entire genre miss the importance of it? Personally, I am a classically trained Jazz Saxophonist who has played in various Orchestras and Jazz bands, so I think I have a say in this regard. The solo is an important part of any song composition; place it well and you can make it the greatest form of musical self-expression. You do need to learn scales to play a brilliant solo though, so it might be too "poser" for punk I guess. Let me just list off a couple of solos in songs that change lives: Jimmi Hendrix (Any one of his songs), Guns and Roses (November Rain) and Lynard Synard (Freebird). If you don’t have a guitar player who can play solos then why even bother being in a band? Why not just start your job flipping burgers at McDonald's and give up on life and dreams? 
Secondly: lyrics. Okay, punk music actually does interest me in this department. The lyrics are very anti-establishment, which is inherently something I tend towards. The problem here is the brilliant middle finger to society is completely let down by the rest of the music, and the fact that you are shouting not singing said lyrics. I came to watch a band, not a service delivery protest; give me my music or my money back! 

Thirdly, dress sense… or lack thereof. Let’s be honest here: if it takes egg yolk and wood glue to do your hair, maybe you have too much time on your hands. Get a passion, or, failing that, a hobby. Might I suggest learning to play the guitar? Piercings and tattoos, on the other hand, I’m alright with; I actually like them as a medium of self-expression, but the world has evolved to a point where you don’t need to be a fan of punk music or in a biker gang to have some ink on your body. 
Fourthly, the rebellious spirit. Being rebels without a cause is fun, but in South Africa we already have established institutions for that, they are called Trade Unions. Why not join one and fight for 12%? 
Yes punk music was the origin of Grunge (my all-time favourite genre of music) and Alternate Rock (a close second) and I thank-you for that, but for the exact same reason that I would not buy an Apple Mac II today, I don’t listen to punk. Why not accept extinction gracefully and have historians write about you as part of the 80s, or as everyone who lived through it would tell you, the decade that was a blur. 
So for all you budding punk musicians out there; learn to play your instruments, practice real hard and maybe one day you can be a Hendrix or a Slash and make music that actually matters in the world. If you disagree with the views and opinions expressed in this piece feel free to send an email to If you haven’t received a reply within five working days, try