Enemy Mine (not yours, apparently)

July 30, 2010 by Jason Pettigrew

Enemy Mine (not yours, apparently)


Yow! Keith Buckley’s recent venom-dipped blog on this site is the uzi clip heard around the world—or maybe just Warped Tour Nation. All of his claims are honest in their abject disgust for pop bands, dudes enabled by both Pro Tools and flat irons, and the fans that adore them. Well, here’s the science, friends: Every last one of your scenes—from Never Shout Never’s camp-counselor pop to the roofing-nails-and-molasses roar of Whitechapel to Every Time I Die’s brand of misanthropic choogle—are all doomed. Seriously, every last one of you are so patently screwed up in the psychic five-story clubhouses in your mind. Grandpa’s going to explain it to you right now, so you may choose to go update your Facebook profile, or grab an energy drink and take a deep breath.

Back in the days when I could wear a size 28 pair of combat fatigues, the lines of demarcation were drawn. Where I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, mainstream rock (Journey, Boston, Styx, Foreigner ad infinitum) reigned on commercial radio and those bland bands filled up the city’s arenas and auditoriums. Conformity and commodity were tight bedfellows, and on top of that was the social component. Let me explain that to you: Back in those days, I saw Cheap Trick open for Rush on that band’s 2112 tour. I bought one of those classic CT typewriter logo shirts and wore it to school with frequency. One dude (whose name escapes me now, and for good reason) told me that everyone was making fun of me behind my back for wearing the shirt of  “that sucky band.” This was years before the release of Cheap Trick At Budokan, the album that guaranteed the mighty Chicago rockers would forever be etched into the veneer of Truly Great American Rock. But to a bunch of dullard jocks, farmboys and mean girls with fast-running biological clocks who loved them both, Cheap Trick were forbidden. By the time I graduated from high school and began gearing up for college, it was on. I was a skinny-tie wearin’ geek who cared about whoever the British rock mags or NYC-based fanzines were exalting. Wearing a Ramones shirt in those days was a total act of war. “Punk-rock faggot” was a popular slur back then, even though my bros had waaay hotter girlfriends than the huckleberries who wanted to punch us out.

But what was important at that time was that by the beginning of the ’80s, a community of artistically disenfranchised people in Pittsburgh felt the same way. You would consistently see familiar faces at shows, regardless of genre. The same people you saw watching Robert Fripp play at a record store, were also at REM’s first gig, as well as the city debuts of Black Flag, Swans or Gary Numan. The most insane trifecta of rock I had ever experienced was going to see new-wave/glam-rock godfathers Sparks open for Rick Springfield at the local arena; leaving after their set to see the Dream Syndicate at a small club downtown; and ending the evening at the Electric Banana, Pittsburgh’s home of hardcore. (Whatever happened to the Clitboys, anyway?) Back then, this was a huge deal: This community felt an obligation to support the underground in all of its myriad directions, regardless of specific genres. Because we knew who the enemy actually was: commercial radio, the crappy bands it supported and the uptight, close-minded views of everyone who got in line to wait for their culture on a stick.

And that’s your problem, friends: You don’t have a common enemy anymore. Musical genres—and their attendant subcultures—have been able to grow apart from the greater rubric of “underground” or “alternative” into these fiefdoms of alleged moral superiority. So you just end up attacking each other like a bunch of wolverines, only without the actual great gnashing of teeth. All you have is a library of “punk-rock” rulebooks that you stack up higher and higher, which you then climb up to somehow make yourself look taller and prouder than everyone else.

Consider this blog entry me pulling one of those rulebooks out from under you. Because I get the queasy feeling that Nickelback is going to sell more tickets on their impending fall tour than Warped—with its selection of pop tarts and grizzled get-in-the-van lifers—did this summer.