Punk's not dead, it's evolving: Aussie pub-punk

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The Chats performing live (Image via Youtube)

Max Larkin reminisces about the classic Aussie pub-punk scene and considers how new bands are keeping the fire alive.

AUSSIE PUNK HAS never really died, though it has needed a defibrillator every now and again.

The idea of punk – with dive bars, worn down warehouses, basement shows and wild hair – has given rise to a new wave of traditional/pub-punk. Most songs in this new sub-genre are either about beer, cigarettes, the dole, or drugs.

The Smith Street Band, Violent Soho and The Bennies are very popular in the current pop-punk-grunge scene, but punk's not punk without that underground magnetism and that "Who cares?" philosophy.

The sound quality on punk tracks is typically low, either to sound as original and old school as possible, or because they just can't afford good quality — or both.

For Aussie pub-punks The Chats, they admitted in our online interview that it wasn't a conscious decision, they just “couldn't afford a studio at the time”.

But the fans don't give a damn, they love it. The Chats are – both figuratively and literally – Aussie punk rock's most recent jump-starters.

After their release of an official music video for single 'Smoko', their popularity has skyrocketed and the band are about to embark on a tour with the coveted Cosmic Psychos. The Chats “love the freedom of punk and the DIY ethic that comes with it”.

In all good punk music, there is always some social commentary and with their saucy political undertone, the Chats have not missed this mark. Songs like 'Nazi March' and 'Casualty' are about their distaste for war, while 'Nambored' and 'Bus Money' are a modern comment on rural Queensland's lack of infrastructure and prosperity.

Of course, not all modern pub-punk rock is political and Keggin is a band that embraces this — they're “all about a party, more than anything".

Gearing up for an East Coast tour, I sat down with Melbourne-based Keggin for a chat. The closest thing these guys have to any political or social commentary is “to include everybody and have a f**kin sick time”.

We also got to talking about the influence of early punk and how it plays a huge role on their playing style:

"The music itself is quite similar but the message in the lyrics is more about inclusiveness and fun times rather than fighting something."

Often seen as almost farcical, the pub-punk genre takes the mickey out of typical Australian culture while, at the same time, also celebrating it.

A member of pub-thrash group C.O.F.F.I.N told me he had noticed a rise in popularity of this sound over the last few years. The band is still producing music and has an album coming out soon with "Suburban Boy" Dave Warner — an Aussie Icon that Bob Dylan once gave props to.

These fellas never play a set without an amped-up cover of a classic punk song, paying homage to the greats before them. This music has that really raw feeling and is played as hard and fast as original punk legends like The Saints, or Radio Birdman.

Most veteran punk rockers are happy with the new music.

Diehard '70s punk rocker Jamie Simpson made this point on Facebook:

'Brisbane/Gold Coast has some killer bands, sometimes there are only 20-30 people at a gig but the scene and bands are like a small community, we can rally together and help each other out.'

It seems as long as mateship and community are involved, many of the punk rockers have never truly cared about the differences or similarities in music, but more about the people in the scene itself, as Jamie continues:

'True punk is being able to express yourself without trying to please others, not trying to compete with trends, this attitude to me draws people to them.'

A punk rocker from the now retired band Societies Joke pitched in, telling me that “the scene feels more diverse and it's evolving nicely in the right directions".

Pub-punk bands aren't far and few between, you just need to ask a punk and they will rattle off names like no tomorrow.

The underground movement of punk rock is – and always will be – huge. This new style of music is just another rung in the ladder of punk rock's development.

Max Larkin is a politically engaged young freelance writer from Perth. You can find Max on Facebook here and read his blog here.

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