This Occupy Wall Street jazz, or the inchoate and proudly ramshackle version of it I witnessed in Seattle on Saturday, has triggered a little anarcho-punk renaissance in my house. What I saw on the street—the purity of the anger, the volume of the despair—reminded me of my own political education, which temporarily branded me with ink-stained fingers and permanently scarred me with serious doubts about anyone who thinks they understand how the world works, for as quickly as I adopted the radical stances espoused by the likes of Profane Existence and its roster of be-patched doomsayers, I saw the lovely shades of gray they all seemed to be willing themselves to ignore.
Axiom, "Crippled With Fear"
Doubts about certitude I may have, but that doesn't mean I'm not with the Occupiers, and it doesn't mean I don't still love the profoundly dark sounds and frequently stupid lyrics that briefly shaped my punk sensibility and political attitudes in the middle to late '90s.
I look at it this way: it was a fairy tale that first eased me into the American dream, so why not self-administer an inverted solution—a simple story about how every single thing is utterly fucked, told by some guy with a Rudimentary Peni patch and a face tattoo—as a means of waking up?
Resist, "Masters of Deception"
I would have snapped to life at some point, I have no doubt—the world has a way with cold water—but crust punk and various other Crass-derived forms caught me in time to nudge me out of high school and into veganism, into my own shitty political punk band, into a perhaps overly trusting relationship with whatever AK Press published, into shirts that embarrassed my grandparents. You know the drill. You probably owned one just like it. It was a pretty good drill: it put a hole in my head just big enough to let some much-needed light in.
Detestation, "Class Warped"
Portland's anarcho-crust-punk-hardcore-whatever scene was especially strong at the time I came to. It matched the scene in Minneapolis (where Profane Existence did its profane existing) bullet belt for bullet belt, spike for spike. I did not live in Portland at the time, but I imagined I could be very happy there, very vegan there, very fucking punk rock there. And when I visited Portland in 1997 (seven years before I moved there), I was briefly very happy there, very vegan there, very fucking punk rock there.
I have been casting my memory's hooks back to that summer rather desperately lately, hoping to bring some of that old productive rage into the present. I want to proudly hold up my witty Occupy signage, not shyly thrust it in front of my face to avoid making eye contact with my comrades. I want to add my voice to the chants instead of crack wise about the lameness of the couplets. I would like to march without a sarcastic monologue in my head. I don't want to be afraid to look silly or ill-informed or naive.
Excepting a brief intermission for spelunking into Coldplay's new album, I've been listening to that Portland punk of yesteryear pretty much non-stop for a few days now, in order to feed off of whatever boiling blood still courses through the blackened tunes. There's not much there that these dull teeth of mine can get at, to be honest, but they are still damn good songs by powerful, punishing bands, and I only hope there are kids out there getting righteously bummed out by the terrible outcomes promised by these simple blasts of noise, and I hope they commit themselves to learning more, thinking more, being more, fighting more, because I'm afraid I will not, and I'm not proud of that.
Defiance, "No Future, No Hope"