REBEL CLOTHES, REBEL SONGS, REBEL POSE: ANARCHISTS ON PUNK ROCK 1977-2010: 8 ½" x 7", free, copied, 47 pgs.

Jun 13, 2014

If you have an interest in anarchist politics and philosophy, you might love this zine. It works almost like a Cliff's Notes for anarchist punk criticism, or like a greatest hits of anarchist thinkers critiquing underground culture. You get a collection of pieces from places like AK Press, Profane Existence, and Crimethinc; you don't have to track down back issues or out-of-print books. But for the casual reader, or for someone who follows underground music but finds anarchist ideas played-out or even delusional, this zine will likely leave you confused and angry and bored. Occasionally, a writer will touch on something interesting or something worth exploring—the fact that punk has been an almost overwhelmingly white movement, or "the importance of skill, craft, and excellence as it applies to life in a human community outside of the demands of capitalist society"—but then they quickly brush past it to get to their main point, some vague thing about the "revolution.” Or they make bold assertions about, say, economic policy in the U.S. following World War II and then offer no supporting evidence. Most of the pieces come off as rambling anarchist op-eds by people who can't decide whether or not they want to sound academic. The Fifth Estate talks about '60s music being the sound of revolution, and then calls Talking Heads and Ramones records "terrible" (talk about losing all credibility right out of the gate, and I don't just mean punk credibility). Joel Olson talks about "destroying America as it stands" and then urges us to help local farmers. Santiago Gomez paces around his bedroom and does little pirouettes, gushing about straight edge and its relationship to the "revolution" (his edgebreak should be epic). Cindy Crabb's "How We Turned Our Shitty Little Town into a Punk Rock Mecca: A Ten-Point Program" is the only worthwhile, practical piece, and you can probably find that online. But what bothers me the most about these anarchist readings of punk—aside from the often mediocre writing and the lack of real insight—is that it breaks music down into a weird binary, where you're either part of some unspecified revolution or you're part of something empty and commercial. It's a narrow view that effectively ignores nuance, character, color, or anything on the spectrum of emotion or feeling or performance that isn't related to capital or collectivism or whatever else. I read some of these pieces and thought "how many bands could these people even like, given what they think is important?" Are they just not going to admit they listen to Fleetwood Mac and Prince like the punks and anarchists I know? Can we get real? There's so much hand-wringing over how punk relates to anarchism, and, in the process, they take something like punk, that could be (and sometimes is) an art form, suck all the esoteric and wild and limitless possibilities out of it, and leave you with some barely coherent screed that amounts to nothing. What a drag it would be to talk music with these rebels. Meanwhile, punk is the only little world that will give anarchists the time of day, and who knows why we do it. Call it quasi-rebellious guilt, or politeness. Sigh, sure man, I'll check out your zine. I only wish the content of this zine was as cool as its title. –Matt Werts ([email protected])