Thursday, November 20, 2008

Continuing on this trend of music...when did rock and roll become safe? Well, let me rephrase that, when did rock music become safe? I mean, go back to the earliest days of rock and roll and everything about it was dangerous. It was Black at a time when the color of your skin was enough to get you thrown out of a bar; it was sexy during the family friend 50s. Look at Elvis, he was pure charisma and sex appeal. The music itself had a rhythm that was alien to the normalized ears of America. The rock was boring, it was the roll that was dangerous. I mean, my dad played the blues when I was a kid, and I loved that stuff. That was all roll right there. I grew up and wanted something faster and more aggressive. I found punk and ska, and I loved it. It had some of that same danger, but most of it was polished, clean and fun. But man, did it have rhythm. It was always hidden and obscured by sometimes awful lyrics and vocals. I matured though and I delved deeper into the more roll nature of punk and ska. Now, that glossy sheen has been tarnished a little bit, like car dragged through the mud. Don't get me wrong, I still love punk and ska, but my soul lies with rock and roll. It's that danger, the rhythm, the sheer fun of the music.
Punk embodied the danger of rock and roll. Look at a band like the Stooges or Black Flag or hell, any good punk show now a days. If the lyrics do denote some amount of urgency, then the show itself is scary. You don't know if someone is going to jump off the stage and join in the pit. Remember, I said good shows, like when you see the Flatliners or Big D and the Kids Table in some small basement where the stage is a foot high and security is your own forearm.
Ska, ska is the rhythm. You get down and move to the left and the right in some sort of controlled spasm and you just dance. There's something primal about the circle of skankers that just feels right to me.
So what band really does this for me now? It's still those dudes in the Gaslight Anthem. Their songs really speak to the underside of a safe time. Their songs speak about the other side of the happy life. The dive bars and broken down cars; backseat romance and nightlife with a switchblade. They have all the edge and rhythm of a good punk band and they sure know how to roll.
So now I've been digging on Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, picking up Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan, and Lucero. This stuff is rock and roll the way it should be. Punk, well, punk rock is something else, like the bastard child of rock and roll. What the radio plays...the radio lacks the roll, it lacks the soul.

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