The Downfall of Punk Rock: Political Rock in the Early 2000s

Political rock in the early 2000s, this section spoke almost explicitly about the years 2003 and 2004 before the Bush vs Kerry election, was dominated by an overarching sense of moral obligation to reach from the stage to the people. Political rockers targeted the Generation Y youth in swing states especially hard to help them register to vote, energize them, and ultimately try to save the world. As we are reading about this in 2018 with the recent Climate Summit’s forecast of climate-related doom to be only twelve years away, we know that these political rockers failed in their mission to oust Bush from office and radically change the minds of US citizens. How and why did they fail? Many thinkers believe that even though more youth voted in that election than previously, political rock just didn’t have a strong enough platform to create meaningful change. Other establishment forces remained in place that were controlled by dollar bills rather than the unadulterated democratic desires of the people. On top of this, political rockers tended to be educated and that education is what enabled them in part to have such radical ideas and strong opinions about change. Despite their loss at the polls however, political rock did prove that change, at least to some, was desperately important and worth fighting for and that musicians can make a tangible difference in the world around them. Had this passionate energy continued after the election, punk rock might still be alive today.

Political rock in the early 2000s was born from a shift in youth collective conscience from general dissatisfaction to action. Third wave feminism, racial disparities, and government apathy specifically about climate change galvanized what remained of the punk rockers into a new era of resolute political rock. Using punk rock as a template, political rockers used simple repetitive rhythms, proven pop formulated lyrical patterns, and used guitar-heavy harmonic accompaniment to create catchy, high energy songs to drive their listeners to the polls with urgency.

This story map explores the action initiatives that political rockers undertook as part of their determination to promote equality and advocate for a better life for all of us. Rockers like Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Serj Tankian, and Mike Burkett took aim at the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, the press’ woeful inability to report without bias, and the danger of climate change. There are tentative hopes among listeners that the current Trump administration will stoke a revival in political rock, and there is justification to support that hope, but it will be a very different political rock than what shook this country in the early 2000s.