British vs American?

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British vs American?

Postby (sowhat) » Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:46 pm

Hi gang,
it was already mentioned in other threads that British and American punk rock are quite different. Not so hard to guess what the question will be: what are the main features of British and American, what's similar about them and what are the main differences, in your view? Musically, lyrically, statement-wise, visually etc. Also, which one do you prefer and why?
As always, all kinds of opinions welcome. :wink:
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (rictified) » Mon Dec 31, 2007 3:30 pm

Well just my opinion but it seems to me that most British punk seemed more real had more menace to it, anger, a lot of it came out of political unrest, poverty, unemployment I believe although I am far from being an expert. A lot of American punk music was just plain decadence.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (squid) » Mon Dec 31, 2007 3:53 pm

I always think of British punk as being more angular. That's a weird word to use when it comes to music, but I think it sums up the sound of it quite well. British punk rock was less chord-based with rhythms that tended to be more halting. There was a certain blend of intelligence and musical naivete that made it "smart" -- it was a decidedly thought-out approach to music making. Looking back, it's really no surprise that the "new romantics" grew out of that scene. It was the same approach but with synths instead of guitars and amps.

The American stuff was really more of a no ******** approach to rock and roll. The Brits were rebelling against the system, but the Americans (generally) were rebelling against what rock music had become (kind of swollen and much too full of itself). There was obviously a political aspect to it, but it wasn't so obvious. I mean, does anyone think of Joey Ramone as a policitical aggitator? It was more of a comment on how your next door neighbour was living his life rather than a critique of your area congressman. When the politics did enter into American punk, the music was way, way angrier. It was much more direct and confrontational (Black Flag were just frightening at times).

There's been an awful lot of cross-pollination in the years following the "birth of punk" (whenever that was). I think it's harder to tell where a punk band hails from these days (just like it's hard to tell where that blues band comes from). And there would be no British punk of any sort without the Ramones. But you know what? There'd be no Bad Religion without the Pistols and the Jam.

These are hurried thoughts that I'm sure I'll wince at later ... the working day's done and I've gotta get home. Happy New Years everyone!
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (kenposurf) » Mon Dec 31, 2007 7:33 pm

I think much of the music was very close, but I agree w/Bob on this one re: more anger rooted in poverty from the UK then the USA...
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (rictified) » Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:33 pm

I hate to keep bringing this up, but are you guys real familiar with the Stooges stuff? I mean the Williamson stuff, Bomp stuff, bootlegs, etc? To me was the epitome of decadent punk music which only the Sex Pistols ever even came close to in their short career. They were rebels without causes as they say, but rebel they did. They alienated at least half the audience (the guys, haha!) at every gig they did, stoned out of their minds but could those guys play they would have blown away any punk band since in both energy and musicality. Even though punk was not in the popular lexicon at that time they have come to signify the epitome on what punk music could be at it's best. I think Iggy came from some space ship somewhere.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (sowhat) » Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:52 am

My impression is as well, as John pointed out, that British was more thought-out, more "counted", while American was more spontaneous. In short, British punk came more from the head, while American came more from the heart. All imho.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (jingle_jangle) » Tue Jan 01, 2008 12:13 pm

sowhat wrote:My impression is as well, as John pointed out, that British was more thought-out, more "counted", while American was more spontaneous. In short, British punk came more from the head, while American came more from the heart. All imho.


Cojones count, too. A LOT.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (rictified) » Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:32 pm

Yes, as I read Sheena's post I was thinking the American music was from maybe a little lower than the heart also.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (sowhat) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:04 am

Higher, lower... who cares? It's below the head in any case, unless you're standing upside down. :wink: Let's say, ratio vs instinct/emotion/whatever is irrational. To me personally, "rationalized/intentional punk" sounds a bit odd. Not that i don't like British bands, but i always had a feeling they were too serious about themselves and what they did. I may be wrong, though.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (jingle_jangle) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 11:04 am

Sheena, I think that, by saying, "who cares?", you're missing a good deal of the point about "anger music" in general, and if punk ain't angry, then what fueled/fuels it?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who measures the sincerity, genuineness, and authenticity of a band, song, or album/CD in this musical stew, called "punk", by how well their anger is expressed, again, in terms of sincerity, etc. Are they feeling it? Do they convey the feeling?

And that takes us into the psyche of humans, which is a mix of mind, emotions, and physical traits. IMO, Vonnegut was spot-on when he boiled everything down to "chemicals". There are "good chemicals" and "bad chemicals" existing naturally in out brains. Furthermore, we modify our perceptions and behavior by adding chemicals to our bodies, for better or worse. The chemicals can be synthesized or natural (GHB vs. THC).

The single most important chemical in the bodies of punk "people", whether they be the people wielding the guitars as weapons, or the performers who are the audience and participants, is, IMO, simply, testosterone. Hard to find in excess in most women, as sexist as that might seem at first glance. (To me, this is why I can't really compare females like Joan Jett or Siousxie; their anger seems genuine but somehow derivative...educate me!) Boy, I'm thinking, have I opened up a Pandora's Box with such statements here, especially in light of artists like Patti Smith? But there are other chemicals and emotions working here, and even Patti has taken her message down a few notches, assisted (and perhaps motivated?) by her son and drummer. Migod, I'm thinking, she'll be 61 soon!

Then we toss in the peculiar flavo(u)r of the cultures and subcultures which spawn each musician/spokesman. Americans have a whole different take on their anger from Brits, from Canadians, from (yes...) Brazilians, and from Russians. I can't begin to speak with authority on any of these; I can only share my impressions, but in the case of Brits, to ignore working-class roots and the anger which grows constantly (to the point now where relatively "focused" pursuits like music are rejected in favor of a fatal, vague ennui and pointless violence) would leave little else to consider. In the case of Americans, who are characterized as "doers" rather than "thinkers", I would have to say that both Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra are beyond the pale and certainly more eloquently communicative in word and deed than the likes of Sid Vicious, so that comparison may not hold punk water on closer examination, if we were to throw Nicky Crane into the soup. Yet I think the British working class musical "tradition" (of the last 40 years or so) of anger and frustration expressed, is wider-spread and allows us to mine a richer lode than the American. Who can I think of as "early American punk"--besides the MC5?, whereas it's easy to draw a direct line between Townshend's smashing of our beloved guitar brand, through to the Clash to the present day anger management problems of groups like Dislocated Youth. Still, these days, it seems to me that the American scene is much more vibrant than the Brit. I wonder why?

Back to female punkers, as a detached observer, as I also was during the "hippie" phenom of the late '60s, I see some parallels here in that quite often the women are along for the ride, because that's where the guys, and in some cases, like-minded girls, are. Over-simplified, I know, but as an olive branch, I refer forumites to Music, Power, and Politics, by Annie Janeiro Randall, for some well-considered opinions and a timeline of female participation in rock music, spread across America and Europe.

Finally, I have no difficulty rejecting over-promoted rebels like Green Day as "punk", although their message is clear and genuinely fueled by personal angst. They and their ilk are simply too tied into sucking the mega-corporate teat, to continue to be lean and mean.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (sowhat) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:52 pm

Well, as somebody said, there are four human organs that can produce different forms of art: head, heart, parts responsible for children's arrival, and arse. The latter, perhaps, is responsible for what we call **** music/literature/painting/whatever. :wink:
Speaking of genders and anger, perhaps it wouldn't hurt if we bear in mind that we girls also have our sources of it. Don't forget about mother's instinct. It may be dangerous if you step on this territory with your huge men's boots. A woman driven by mother's instinct for whoever — be that her child, or loved man, or a friend, or a relative — and even whatever (may be an idea or a philosophy as well) may cause you a big trouble. That kind of anger is 100 % irrational, wild and weariless. No prisoners. :wink:
So what else could be the factors for the differences? Geographic location? Climate? A dominating nation vs a "melting pot" of nations? Should we dig in there or is it much simpler?
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (jingle_jangle) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:17 pm

Agreed to all, Sheena. People are complex, and generalizing, though necessary, always puts us on shaky ground that must be firmed up through discussion and consensus.

Is it simpler than all that? I'm afraid that, though I wish it could be, I find through experience that things just get "curioser and curioser..."
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (longhouse) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 6:30 pm

Wikipedia offers a nice piece on the history of punk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punk_music

For me punk has always been epitomized by these four bands: the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Misfits

All the elements of punk are captured in those four acts. Sure, there were the Damned, the Buzzcocks, the Saints, etc., but their influence and impact on music as a whole and this listener are not as important.

Of the groups in the punk genre the ONLY one I listen to these days is the Clash. Of course, I love the JAM but they're not really punk are they? The Ramones are fun, but listening to them is like drinking Kool-Aid now: a sweet and quickly passing bit of nostalgia. The Pistols needn't be heard again unless it's to remind American mall punks that their insipid heros are really knicking that faux-accent/sneer from none other than John Rotten.

What happened after punk was a lot more interesting musically, I believe. Looking back I wonder how some people ever managed to launch, much less sustain, their careers. Her apparent influence notwithstanding, Patti Smith has always struck me as GRATINGLY untalented and with all the stage appeal of a crazed homeless woman. Somehow people love her caterwauling though, so maybe I'm wrong about her.

I've enjoyed reading the responses thus far.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (wints) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:44 pm

The British punk scene addressed relevant social issues in a very angry, and far more direct way. The way you only can when you are poor.

The UK is also far more accepting of that cutting edge, and is dramatically different in certain social ways, that led to kids wearing bin liners to school, having their faces pierced and singing songs about abortion.

S**t, you can't even do that in Florida and most of the US today and that's over 30 years ago!

The British took a root idea from the States, made it extreme, and then both commercially and socially acceptable, capturing the youth of the time like the Beatles did in the 60's. Then they sold it back to the world in a watered down version.

It's no surprise that the Clash are touted by those outside the UK as the more accepted face of punk. They addressed relevant issues well, and their first album is what it and them are all about.

However, the Pistols NMTB remains the yardstick to many. Back in 77, there was them and then everybody else. That one album has an energy and power that nothing else came close to at that the time, and still doesn't today.
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Re: British vs American?

Postby (jingle_jangle) » Wed Jan 02, 2008 10:03 pm

wints wrote:The British punk scene addressed relevant social issues in a very angry, and far more direct way. The way you only can when you are poor.

The UK is also far more accepting of that cutting edge, and is dramatically different in certain social ways, that led to kids wearing bin liners to school, having their faces pierced and singing songs about abortion.

S**t, you can't even do that in Florida and most of the US today and that's over 30 years ago!



Thirty years ago, you could do a lot of stuff in the States that you couldn't today. We are moving backwards in some ways (speaking of social and personal freedoms), and that's as far as I'm going to go on this point, because uh-oh--it's gonna get political.

Remember, the Puritans left England and settled here in the USA. That legacy ebbs and flows.
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