Punk rock, in its most recognizable forms, is, of course, as dead as it can be. The punk scene is now so caught up in the “sceneness” of itselfand its own worthiness and effectiveness, that it has completely ceased asking about what it’s fighting for and against whom the battle is being waged.
Rather, it would seem, the main focus of the throngs of closely shorn Maximum Rock and Roll readers is only to disparage bands that veer away from the irreproachable punk rock standards maintained by that fine magazine. Any band that dares change the formula that, please note, was codified over 15 years ago, is a sellout that is compromising the integrity of punks the world over. And when, pray tell, political issues do arise as topics of debate, the issues become so diluted and harmfully generalized that they amount to nothing more than party-line rants that are as PC as anything out of the mouth ofany given college student. Anyone that would try to inect individualism into a genre that, supposedly, speaks for the individual, would then be outcast and considered a threat. Bands are routinely held up for haunting McCarthy-esque trials where their “punkness” is decided in a forum of letters written by 13-year-olds who, surely, realize what the spirit of punk is all about.
It was this worthy forum that decided that Bay Area punk band Green Day was, in bass player Mike Dirnt’s words, “a girl band.”
“Yeah,” he laughs. “The MRR crowd never really took to us. They always thought of us as a girl band because we don’t write political songs. And, up until recently, we’ve always been received better everywhere else around the U.S. than we were here at home.
“But the thing about our songs,” he says, referring to the perception held by the Gillman St. Star Chamber, “is that people have a tendency to group a lot of songs that aren’t about girls together with the ones that are. I mean, on the first record it was maybe 60 percent about girls. But on the new album, there’s only like two or three. What about a
song like ‘Havin’ A Blast?’ That’s about walking into a room, duct-taping explosives to your spine and blowing up everybody…it’s hardly a love song.”
Of course, another aspect of Green Day’s career that set the underground’s collective head spinning was, after releasing two stellar albums on the very indie Lookout! label (albums that, by the way, sold pretty damn well) the band’s signing to the massive Reprise/Warner Bros. conglomerate.
The move, of course, prompted cries of sellout and whatever, but with their third album and major label debut Dookie, Green Day have pretty much settled any remaining arguments on the validity of signing to a major…at the right time.
“There’s really no such thing as selling out,” insists Dirnt. “Unless you already had a contract and you didn’t want to lose it, so you end up playing a different kind of music under the same name.
“But the jump to a major didn’t really seem obvious until it got to the point that our shows couldn’t be put on by 16-year-old kids anymore without them being shut down. And any time we dealt with any kind of promoter, we would usually get robbed because we didn’t have any legal assistance. And, we really couldn’t help that we were becoming popular, but we really didn’t want to bring that kind of element into the punk scene. So it was either quit what we’ve been doing since we were 11 years old or keep moving on by signing to a major.
“I really think we made a pretty good decision.”
Green Day appears at Masquerade, 695 North Avenue, Sunday, March 13. Tickets are $7.50 in advance. Doors open at 8, show at 9 p.m. Tilt and Blindside open. For more info, call 577-8178.