I Don’t Like Punk Rock Music

There, I said it.

Keith R. Higgons
etc. Magazine
5 min readJul 30, 2023

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I know, I know, as a purveyor of music, perhaps I should like it. Maybe I’m supposed to like it. If you’re of a certain demographic it’s damn near blasphemy to say such a thing.

But the truth is, I like melody, I like a hook, and I like structure. I mean one of the first songs I recall falling in love with was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by The Captain and Tennille. Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was a close second.

I’m not sure if this says more about my musical taste or my love life.

In any event, I’ve tried to like punk rock over the years. I don’t. To me, the music is mostly noise. And I get that the noise is often the point but punk music didn’t speak to me at 12 and it doesn’t speak to me now… and get off my lawn.

“But you love The Replacements — aren’t they a punk band?”

I dunno, we could debate that. For me, they’re a rock band. The first song on their first album is “Takin’ A Ride” — a guitar-blasting punky song about Midwestern boredom, that’s rich in irony. And the last song on their last album is “The Last” — a piano-driven plea about love… or the love of drink… or both. Sandwiched in between are loads of songs that blend, bend, and define genres, and even a few generation-defining songs.

The Replacements are certainly a punk band ideologically, but musically?

Paul Westerberg is a smart and savvy songwriter, and even if we label the ‘mats as a punk band, those early “punk” songs like “Takin’ A Ride,” and “Customer” are smarter, and more palatable, than the entire Velvet Underground catalog.

“Are you insane? What about The Ramones? Or The Clash — blah, blah, blah.”

Both are amazing bands. “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Beat on the Brat,” “Rock and Roll High School,” and a slew of other songs and albums in their canon are indeed great. But be honest, the band owes more to the Brill Building than The MC5.

The Ramones absolutely knew what they were doing, and worked hard to achieve it. Lest we forget that the Wall of Sound architect Phil Spector produced End of the Century.

The first two albums by The Clash, and Combat Rock, are ok. I’ll pick and choose what songs to listen to. I’ve never listened to Sandanista! — but respect the hell out of the idea behind it. That being said, I will drop the needle on The Clash’s seminal London Calling at any time, any day, at any location, and listen to it straight the fuck through.

Maybe it’s me, but “Train in Vain” leans more towards “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” than it does to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges.

Come to think of it, why am I not listening to London Calling right now?

And yes, I like The Descendents. And The Minutemen. And The Talking Heads. And The New York Dolls.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Those are ALL punk bands.”

Eh, are they though? Let’s not forget the first Tom Petty album was initially marketed as a “punk” record… and that had “Breakdown” and “American Girl” on it.

Lumping a band or an artist into something so specific and narrow as a genre is hubristic, subjective, and short-sighted. Those three things built the recording industry… and are the chief ingredients of its implosion.

Genre is a marketing tool.

As far as I’m concerned, and as reductive as it sounds, there are two genres — good & bad. And both are wickedly subjective. And can we stop going so granular with genre-defining? Please? I’m not sure this is a thing, but it might be, “Southwestern Cow Punk” — dear Christ, who has the time?

To be fair, I don’t hate punk rock music. I don’t like it. I don’t get it, that’s all. I have a lot of respect for most punk artists and recognize the music and ideology for their importance and their impact on culture. But the music is a bit troublesome for me.

And because our culture has slipped into a baseline application of universality, please allow me to state emphatically that my dislike is NOT 100% applicable. I’m sure there is a song, or band, somewhere, that is defined as “punk” that I like.

Now THIS may blow a few gaskets out there, but is there anyone more punk than Dolly Parton?

  • Her theme park, Dollywood, employs 11,000 and will cover 100% of tuition, fees, and books for its 11,000 employees who choose to pursue further education from over 100 diploma, degree, and certificate programs.
  • When Elvis Presley wanted to cover “I Will Always Love You,” she gave his manager Col. Tom Parker a firm “No” when told she would have to split songwriting royalties 50/50 with them.
  • She’s been married to the same man for over 50 years!

Dolly Parton does whatever the hell she wants to do, and isn’t that the very basic tenant of punk rock?

Do I like her music? Not particularly, but if she needed a kidney, I’d give her one.

I like melody, I like a hook, I like lyrics, and some punk has those things (let’s bypass the sub-genres shall we — see above), but a lot of it does not. And while I can recognize the energy and emotional elements of the music, I can’t relate to it.

My musical tastes are a lot like my culinary tastes.

I’m a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. If you want me to try something different, you’re better off telling me it’s chicken; if you tell me it’s Seabass with a port reduction over a bed of cous cous, I’ll probably poo-poo it. But if you tell me it’s chicken with a port reduction over a bed of cous cous, I’ll probably love it.

That being said, punk as an ethos? I am 100% committed to it.

If you don’t see it, create it.
If you don’t hear it, make it.
If you can’t read it, write it.

  • Don’t wait for the right time, make the time.
  • Don’t wait for the money, it may never come.
  • Don’t wait for someone, do it yourself.
  • Don’t wait. Create.

It doesn’t mean it will be seen, heard, or read. It doesn’t mean it will be any good. But if you must create — create.

It IS that simple.

And if that creation is punk music, awesome, I wanna hear it, send it to me… just label it as a cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

I’ll get back to you.

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