We all like bubblegum. It’s so sweet and tasty and fun to chew. Actually, I think I love bubblegum. I love the flavor and to chomp on it and to blow bubbles and to twist it between my fingers. The best kind of bubblegum is probably Super Bubble. It comes in three distinct flavors: pink (yes, pink is a flavor along with being the color that is the new black), sour apple, and grape. Not counting any sports, namely hockey, it’s the most satisfying way humans have come up with to destroy our teeth. Bubblegum is great.
Well, now that I think about it, I guess bubblegum is only lovable for the first few minutes. Once the sugar runs out, the explosion of flavor dwindles to incredibly low levels. You’re left with this big wad of chewy not-so-goodness that you can’t do anything with. It has no zest, no substance, but you want to get your money’s worth so you keep gnawing and blowing big bubbles until it gets hard and you can’t chew it anymore, so you put it under your desk.
I propose that this new wave of so-called punk music is bubblegum without the super, exciting beginning. It’s a sugary mix of three-chord guitar, catchy choruses and spiked hair. It might appear to taste good or be better than any sort of pop music out there, but swallow up some of this music and you’ll be left with an upset stomach.
Perhaps this generalization needs a little bit of clarification. I can see the outrage now if I don’t make my point clearer: “That stupid columnist, he’s so stupid. Why is he dissing on punk? He wouldn’t know punk if it hit him in the head.” Conceivably these sentiments might be correct, especially the one about being stupid, but I’m not so na/ve that I assume everyone knows what I’m talking about. So, I must make clearer my broad proposal of the new wave of punk music being bubblegum.
When I say a new wave of so-called punk music, I am referring to that which you see on the television, namely MTV, and hear on the radio. If anyone partakes in the viewing of this formerly prestigious cable channel (Beavis and Butthead was soooo cool) you know what I’m talking about. Bands like Good Charlotte, Riddlin’ Kids, New Found Glory, and bands that play the same indistinguishable three chord pop-punk, have overrun MTV and popular radio waving the banner of punk.
It’s not punk, though. It’s safe, non-toxic chewable bubblegum. These bands are referred to as punk because most of them have spiky hair, wear jewelry with spikes, have crazy hair colors (green and purple!), wear eyeliner, have piercings, wear tattered jeans and so on. I think it might have something to do with their music, too, but that’s a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t seem to add up. People will call the music of Avril Lavigne, Kelly Osbourne and Good Charlotte punk, and in the same breath call The Clash and The Sex Pistols punk? What the hell is going on here?
Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on. It is beyond my abilities as a music journalist (if I can be called that) and listener (I can definitely be called this) to try and figure out why we call this new wave of rock/pop bands punk. And far be it from me to determine what is and isn’t punk; that’s just asking for an ass-kicking.
My only assertion about this new wave of alleged punk music is that it’s bubblegum for pre-pubescent pre-teens and pubescent young teens. It’s punk music for kids in grades 5 through 9. This is the demographic that eats this up. These bands, some in their mid- to late-20s, are geniuses at portraying typical pre-teen and teenage angst. Their audience cannot articulate their emotions, so they are filling that void for them.
It’s rebellion in a can; it’s love for the 12-15-year-old set. It’s for kids who have crushes they’ll never admit to, kids who are chased during recess by the pretty girl, kids who’ll snicker “I smell bacon” when a cop passes, but secretly respect the services cops provide for the community. I can imagine songs with titles like: “This Acne Really Sucks,” “Fell in Love with the New Girl” and “My Parents Blow (But They Mean Well).” These bands look tough with their spikes, chains and mohawks, but all in all it’s pretty safe.
If there’s one thing I can say about punk it’s that it isn’t safe. Punk doesn’t follow the well-tested formula that these bands seem to follow, i.e., Spiky hair + three chord guitar playing + a dash of rebellion + unrequited love = punk. Well, at least they play their own instruments and they aren’t boy bands in the traditional sense; these suspected punk rockers have that going for them. And maybe if I was still in high school, I’d listen to these bands, but as for now I’m reminded of a Nirvana song that begins: “Teenage angst has paid off well/ Now I’m bored and old.”