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A guide to post-punk, and other subgenres that might make you sound pretentious by accident

A guide to post-punk, and other subgenres that might make you sound pretentious by accident

A guide to post-punk, and other subgenres that might make you sound pretentious by accident
May 05
12:00 2022

Do you fear being asked what kind of music you like listening to? Do you avoid the question by stating “I listen to a little bit of everything,” to avoid your own self ridicule for dominating a conversation with a ten minute tirade about a couple niche bands that broke up in 2012? 

Let’s talk about post-punk, a genre of rock derived from the late U.K. punk scene, disillusioned with the raw simplicity of punk, yearning for more complex and avant-garde themes. Let’s go from the early days of post-post punk, to the current age and offshoots like art-rock or second wave egg punk.

In the ’60s, punk began to germinate in the sounds of garage musicians. Loud, raw, crude, and violent sounds bore through the hands and voices of musicians with limited skill sets when compared to classically trained musicians. The skills of the musicians didn’t matter – the public was beginning to be captivated. 

In the mid ’70s, New York City began to witness the rise of the first few concrete punk bands through the incomprehensibly historic venue, CBGB. With bands like Talking Heads, Blondie and the Ramones becoming regular featured acts, punk had firmly planted its feet on the consciousness of everyone who was in the know.  

The emergence of British punk in 1976 spread like wildfire, tearing through pubs and suburbs. Intrinsically focused on economic unrest and the feelings of the generation’s anger towards the current political state, the sound of British punk capitalized on the feelings of a dejected generation.

But by 1978, punk’s sensibilities had transformed, and bands began hinting at something new, different and more diverse. Post-punk was born through a group in Manchester. Soon after, sub-genres deriving from post-punk began multiplying through inspirations hailed from those that came before, almost cyclical by decade. 

Here are a few bands to provide a good start.

Joy Division

Often credited as the first band to set the post-punk paradigm, focusing on feelings of isolation and apathy rather than political displeasure. Joy Division was formed in 1976 after watching the Sex Pistols perform. Joy Division was led by vocalist Ian Curtis’ heartbreaking and haunting voice as they captured the public. Curtis’ masterful poetry laid his battle with depression and severe epilepsy over dark basslines, cutting guitars and reverberated drums.

However, two weeks before their first U.S. tour, Curtis would take his own life in his home in 1980 and band members would go on to form new-wave group, New Order. I recommend their 1981 debut album, Movement

Omni

Releasing their debut album “Deluxe” in 2016, Omni is the creative mind of vocalist and bassist Phillip Frobos and former Deerhunter guitarist Frankie Broyles taking care of guitar, drums and everything else. From Atlanta, this pair of creative minds captured post-punk’s attention through balancing the effortlessly busy guitar playing of Broyles with the complimentary basslines and effortless vocals of Frobos. I recommend listening to their singles “Fever Bass / Thesis.”

Parquet Courts

From Denton to Brooklyn, Parquet Courts released their debut album “American Specialties” in 2011. Featuring the shouting monotone voice of Andrew Savage, captivating lyrics and off-canny guitars, the band have left a Texas sized footprint on the post-punk and art-rock circles. I recommend their 2015 release “Content Nausea.”

Women

Forming in Calgary, Alberta in 2007, Women is the creative collective formed between friends Chris Reimer and Mike Wallace, with siblings Pat and Matt Flegel. Often bordering between noise and erratic glittery guitars, Women alternates between emitting some of the most fascinating compositions. Immediately following it is some sonically largest ambient, sporadic and atmospheric noise, then right back into the verse. However, the band exploded into a fight on stage in 2010. I recommend their album “Public Strain.”

Preoccupations

While Women will never return, Matt Flegel would go on to start a new project to further their venture into noise and art rock. With Matt Flegel on bass, Scott Munro and Danny Christiansen on guitars and Mike Wallace back on drums, Preoccupations delivers a sound that is fast, clashing and human. I recommend their 2015 studio debut album, “Viet Cong.”

Unschooling

Well, what goes around eventually comes around. From Normandy, France, Unschooling takes the chaotic, angular and anxiety-inducing aspects from Women, spins their own yarn into the post-punk cloth and fabricates their own pattern. Odd time signatures and unusual guitar tunings provide a unique listening experience from a proper group of art-rock post-punk educators. I recommend their 2021 EP, “Random Acts of Total Control.”

Viagra Boys

Formed in Stockholm, Sweden, Viagra Boys is an onslaught of morphing judgements, like a pulse of electricity ricocheting in your head. Touching on toxic masculinity, a crude joke here and there and thematic tones of disregarding your personal prosperity, this sextet delivers a style of post-punk that balances between the spirit of the American west and the willingness to fight an omnipotent power. I recommend their album “Street Worms.”

Honorable Mentions are The Hecks, Idles, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, C.C.T.V., N0V3L, Shopping, Dry Cleaning, Crack Cloud, Duds, Prison Affair, Uranium Club and the B Boys.

Featured Illustration By Erika Sevilla

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Travis Norton

Travis Norton

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