In which Keith Rosson finally, permanently, and succinctly ends the debate of what is or is not punk. Thank goodness. Really, you should be grateful, but you probably won’t be.

You know what? Fuck it. We’ve wrung the last drops of blood from the rag of 2018, and we’re running headlong into another year of hot takes penned by people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about as far as punk goes. Another year of watching you flail around, saying what it is, what it isn’t. What it should be, what it was. Personally, I’ve grown deathly tired of all this endless debate. It’s been done into the ground, and most of the time all y’all’s takes are tepid and dull and, more importantly, wrong. So here we go. Finally, at long last, the following is a definitive, irrefutable, rock-solid list of what is and is not punk.

Take it to your graves. There’s no point arguing, even though you probably will.

  • Pen and ink drawings of skulls on record covers are punk. Think Marc Rude, Pushead, Nick Lant. Shit’s cool. Even crappy drawings of skulls – like, skeletons skating a bowl with a flipped-brim baseball hat – are punk.
  • Gratuitous, graphic photos on record covers of actual war-ravaged dead, photos of corpses, photos of men being shot and murdered and beheaded, images of which almost all are culled from third world countries that the US has been fucking over for years, is not punk. The cover of Crucifix’s Dehumanization is striking and jarring and entirely successful in conveying the horrors of war. Some dipshit grindcore band showing some child soldier holding a man’s severed head aloft isn’t getting the job done. It’s weak, played out shit. 
  • Photos of singers holding the mic and pointing into the pit while a bunch of sweaty fools point back is punk. You know, like, pretty much every Youth Of Today record.
  • Drawings, particularly poorly airbrushed drawings, of singers holding the mic and rocking out in the pit, is not punk. Not gonna name names here, but it rhymes with Blegative Skapproach.
  • Illustrations of cartoonish, half-naked women portrayed as monsters, or lashed down to train tracks or hospital beds right on the cusp of being abused, or drawn as sexy nurses holding up big hypodermics, or what-the-fuck-ever your fourteen year-old cousin doodled on his journal that looks like it would be a cool record cover is not punk. It’s dumb.
  • However, illustrations of the Accused’s beloved mascot, Martha Splatterhead - an undead prostitute who graphically murders rapists and sexual predators – will always be punk.
  • Photos of brick walls on record covers aren’t punk anymore. Sorry. (Except for the Ramones, of course, but this is due only to their seminalism or seminatility or being seminal or whatever. Any photos of brick walls after 1980 no longer falls under the banner.)
  • Drawings of brick walls on record covers, the shittier the better, like where the lines of bricks don’t even match up, are super punk.
  • For Christ’s sake, and this is from someone who likes tapes, cassingles are not punk. Stop making them. It’s a waste. 60-minute blank tapes fare marginally better. 90-minute blank tapes are the punkest of them all. =PUNK.
  • 10”s, 7”s and 12”s are hereby the only punk vinyl formats. Everything else – 8” records, 6” records, records shaped like Wisconsin or a pair of testicles or whatever, only cultivate obscurest fetishism, which punk is already suffering a near-terminal case of, and thusly should be considered not punk Keep it simple, dum dum.
  • Using the term “vinyls” is not punk.
  • Cultivating the term “giving this hot steaming platter a whirl” is not only punk, but encouraged.
  • Four songs is the correct length of a 7”. Three is also acceptable in special circumstances.
  • Ticket presales are not punk.
  • Ducking a frustrated show promoter as they pass a dented coffee can around the basement, eking out a few gallons of gas money for a band that drove sixteen hours from their last shitty basement show in another state, and watching you  hem and haw about dropping a five into the can because you spent all your money on booze before the show isn’t punk either.
  • Paying at the door and buying merch if you can swing it is punk.
  • Floorpunching isn’t punk, but Nazi-punching is.
  • CDs are not punk, I’m sorry to say, and thusly you should send me a list of your punk CDs and sell them to me for a dollar apiece. (Reverse psychology is punk.)
  • Hand-stamped letters, transfer letters, or even computer-generated fonts that have been intentionally distressed and fucked up are punk.
  • Computer-generated fonts that are made to look all messy and hand-done but are, in fact, clearly a computer-generated font, using characters that showcase the same exact stresses and damage in the same exact spots, are not punk. Have some freaking dignity. Make it by hand if you have to. Do something with intention, poser.
  • The term “poser” is punk.
  • The term “poseur” is fancy, bourgeoisie, and decidedly not punk.
  • Colored vinyl variants are not punk. I mean, it’s punk in the sense that said variants, and the fans/collector nerds who purchase them, are in many cases the only things keeping a small label afloat and able to put out releases as a whole, but I’m sure we can all agree that there’s really not a lot that’s punk about brazen and unabashed consumerism, especially considering that you shitnecks buying five copies of the same Menzingers LP are probably just gonna hoard ‘em and flip ‘em and just listen to the digital download, right?
  • Bands releasing acoustic versions of long-beloved albums is not punk.
  • Bootlegging shirts of active bands, or bands that still have channels to receive a cut of the money, is not punk.
  • Let it forthwith be known that any future band names include the following words shall not be considered punk: Wolf, Murder, Victim, Society, Witch, Hate, Die, Black, Low, Neon, Christ, Girls, Blood, Bad, Disorder.
  • However, I will hereby deemed it acceptable to use two or more of these names together. Therefore, names such as Witch Victim, Low Blood, or Bad Wolf Disorder can now be considered punk. You’re welcome. 
  • For now, the word “the” will still be considered punk..
  • Record Store Day isn’t punk.
  • (Stating something as broad and definitive as the above statement, while also refusing to acknowledge the complexities of capitalism, streaming music, pirating, running an independent label, running an independent record store, and the challenges that arise with the near-stranglehold major labels have on pressing plants, how reliant many of those selfsame record stores are on RSD, refusing to acknowledge that shit is complicated, and that, for all intents and purposes, Record Store Day is a vital component to maintaining economic viability for a lot of people involved in music, be it bands, label folks, or record store staff and employees, isn’t very punk either, is it?)
  • Randomly – the Jerry’s Kids cover of La Peste’s “Spymaster” by La Peste is way better than the original, and that’s a good song to begin with.
  • Having that near-perfect 2:45 crystalline blast of a song be your introduction to Jerry’s Kids at fifteen years old, and forevermore be just a little disappointed with the rest of their output – including Is This My World – probably isn’t very punk, but there we fucking are.
  • The belief that the Detonators were better than Poison Idea is punk.
  • Punkest band named after a weapon: AK-47, from Canada, who have been around forever.
  • Shitting on a Proud Boy’s pillow is punk.
  • The Dead Boys, Dead Moon, and Dead Kennedys remain the only acceptable punk bands with “dead” in the title.
  • Seriously, and all kidding aside – I’m glad we made it through another year. This year felt like ten shitty years stacked and screaming on top of each other, and a lot of people got hurt. Thank you to all the folks that made music, that put words one in front of the other, that fought back, that marched, that ceaselessly called out fascists and their ilk with every tool they had available. Physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, however we do it, it’s up to us to put ourselves between the growing tide of fascist, racist, misogynist dickholes and the marginalized people they want to commit violence upon. Stopping that shit – daily, creatively, willfully, relentlessly – is the punkest shit you can do. For those of you that did, in the myriad of ways that you did it, thank you. Happy New Year.  

cassingles crucifix dead boys dead kennedys dead moon detonators floorpunching grindcore happy new year jerry's kids