Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Chickenshit Conformist Like Your Parents

When I was a teenager, I went through a very very hard rock phase. At the time, the type of music I was listening to was called “Thrash”. It has also been called “Hard Core” (a name I don’t like, because any kind of music can be “hard core”), and “Death Metal”. Some of the stuff I listened to had no redeeming value whatsoever; groups like M.O.D. (Masters of Destruction), and Dayglo Abortions, for example. Some of their stuff was great to listen to, but not exactly intelligent, or socially responsible. Which is fine, because that’s not what they were aiming for.

And then there were the Dead Kennedys. (I was going to put up a link to the Wikipedia article, but it had a warning at the top that it might not be “neutral”, so I didn’t bother.) The Dead Kennedys were a punk rock band that sang about things that really mattered; they cared about politics, both world-wide and domestic. Being a know-nothing teenager in Blenheim, Ontario, I didn’t know half of the things that they were talking about, but I really cared about the things that I did know. And I went off and learned about some of the other things, after. The Dead Kennedys are probably one of the big reasons I’m interested in politics today; they taught me that there is a lot of injustice in the world, and you need to care about it. (And this is before I became a Christian.)

The following song lyrics are a great example. This is a song called Chickenshit Conformist, from their Bedtime for Democracy album. It’s my favourite Dead Kennedys song.

Chickenshit Conformist
Punk’s not dead
It just deserves to die
When it becomes another stale cartoon
A close-minded, self-centered social club
Ideas don’t matter, it’s who you know
If the music’s gotten boring
It’s because of the people
Who want everyone to sound the same
Who drive bright people out
Of our so-called scene
’Til all that’s left Is just a meaningless fad

Hardcore formulas are dogshit
Change and caring are what’s real
Is this a state of mind
Or just another label
The joy and hope of an alternative
Have become its own cliché
A hairstyle’s not a lifestyle
Imagine Sid Vicious at 35
Who needs a scene
Scared to love and to feel
Judging everything
By loud fast rules appeal
Who played last night?
“I don’t know, I forgot.
But diving off the stage was a lot of fun.”

So eager to please
Peer pressure decrees
So eager to please
Peer pressure decrees
Make the same old mistakes
Again and again,
Chickenshit conformist
Like your parents

What’s ripped us apart even more than drugs
Are the thieves and the goddamn liars
Ripping people off when they share their stuff
When someone falls are there any friends?
Harder core than thou for a year or two
Then it’s time to get a real job
Others stay home, it’s no fun to go out
When the gigs are wrecked by gangs and thugs
When the thugs form bands, look who gets record deals
From New York metal labels looking to scam
Who sign the most racist queerbashing bands they can find
To make a buck revving kids up for war

Walk tall, act small
Only as tough as gang approval
Unity is bullshit
When it’s under someone’s fat boot
Where’s the common cause
Too many factions Safely sulk in their shells
Agree with us on everything
Or we won’t help with anything
That kind of attitude
Just makes a split grow wider
Guess who’s laughing while the world explodes
When we’re all cry babies
Who fight best among ourselves


That farty old rock and roll attitude’s back
“It’s competition, man, we wanna break big.”
Who needs friends when the money’s good
That’s right, the ’70s are back.
Cock-rock metal’s like a bad laxative
It just don’t move me, ya know?
The music’s OK when there’s more ideas than solos
Do we rally need the attitude too?

Shedding thin skin too quickly
As a fan it disappoints me
Same old stupid sexist lyrics
Or is Satan all you can think of?
Crossover is just another word
For lack of ideas
Maybe what we need
Are more trolls under the bridge
Will the metalheads finally learn something
Or will the punks throw away their education?
No one’s ever the best
Once they believe their own press
“Maturing” don’t mean rehashing
Mistakes of the past


The more things change
The more they stay the same
We can’t grow
When we won’t criticize ourselves
The ’60s weren’t all failure
It’s the ’70s that stunk
As the clock ticks we dig the same hole
Music scenes ain’t real life
They won’t get rid of the bomb
Won’t eliminate rape
Or bring down the banks
Any kind of real change
Takes more time and work
Than changing channels on a TV set

When I was a teenager, I always had this dream of what my life would be like, when I grew up. It involved wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work every day, and then being in a punk band by night, where I would always show up to gigs dressed in a business suit. Rebelling not just against the authorities, but also rebelling against the “punk scene”. How meta, eh? Unfortunately, I didn’t do it. (I have some colleagues who might claim I’m sort of achieving the first point; I don’t always dress as I should for work. But the only people who would think that are the really old-school fussy business types; not the people whose opinions would matter.) I’m definitely not in a punk band, regardless of how I dress.