what i watched last week
by request: the last five years (richard lagravenese, 2014)

music friday: "post"-punk

Elisa Salasin drew my attention to a list on Paste Magazine, “The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums”. In the accompanying article, they note that they are picking from the period 1977-1987. I have always been far more a fan of punk music than of “post”-punk music, although such labels are always problematic, and I like plenty of post-punk artists. So, working backwards, #46 on the list, Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex, is a great favorite of mine, but 1) it came out at the beginning of their self-imposed time frame (1978) and 2) I never thought of X-Ray Spex as “post” anything. They are one of my favorite punk bands, and I have no idea what they are doing on this list. Again, I should just get over being picky about labels.

At #31 is Crazy Rhythms (1980) by The Feelies. In my mind, The Feelies aren’t punk, or post-punk. Perhaps this is because I loved them most later in their career ... my fave album of theirs is Only Life from 1988 ... maybe they were less punkish by then?

And so it goes. The B-52’s debut album at #26? Another band where I never thought of them as punk or post-punk. Hüsker Dü, perhaps my favorite band on the list, at #18 with New Day Rising? That is my favorite of their albums, too, but if Hüsker Dü isn’t just plain punk, who is?

My dissociation from the list is exemplified by the top two. #2 is a Smiths album, and while I have no idea if they are post-punk, I know I never connected with them or Morrissey. Meanwhile, #1 is Television’s first album, which I love, and once again, I have no idea where the “post” in this punk album is.

The truth, which I don’t want to admit to myself, is that post-punk is when I started missing out because I was “too old”. In many ways, that’s nonsense ... I was only 34 in 1987. But I have created a large, even excessive, number of Spotify playlists, and one of my favorites is “Punk 1975-1980”. After punk, I loved many new artists, but I was no longer part of what could conceivably thought of as a community of genre fans. So I don’t make much of a connection to a post-punk list. (I should be honest ... in the 80s, my favorites, besides Hüsker Dü, were Bruce Springsteen and Prince, neither of whom come close to punk, post or otherwise. Also, my favorite music has always been from the 60s or 60s-based, no matter how modern I pretend to be.)

Here are some songs I love from the albums on that Paste list.

X-Ray Spex, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours! (I’m cheating, this was originally a single that got added to CD editions of the album Germfree Adolescents.)

The B-52’s, “52 Girls”.

Magazine, “Shot from Both Sides”.

Hüsker Dü, “I Apologize”. (I am required, whenever I mention this song, to quote my favorite lyric: “Take out the garbage, maybe, BUT THE DISHES DON’T GET DONE!”)

New Order, “Blue Monday”. (Another cheat, this single was added to U.S. CD releases. It is, in fact, the biggest-selling 12” single of all time.)

Violent Femmes, “Add It Up”.

Gang of Four, “Anthrax”.

Television, “Marquee Moon”.

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