Very thoughtful discussion going on here which I was tending to avoid adding anything to, because I’ve been around in circles on the topic too many times before (although I agree with the last riposte here), but this point caught my eye:
“This isn’t to say that there isn’t still some good within “punktimism,” which is elitist but isn’t just elitist. For all its rigidity, punktimism is Media Criticism 101, and it’s hard to imagine a balanced critical viewpoint that doesn’t incorporate a basic understanding of cultural products as, well, products, whose place in our lives is complicated to various extents by the fact that they exist to make someone (or, in most cases, several someones, many of whom have very little to do with making art) money. Ultimately, I believe — and here I’m softening my initial stance — that poptimism and punktimism are lenses we should always be looking through simultaneously, because they cover each other’s blind spots. The problem is, punktimism tends to refuse to coexist in this way. It simplistically conflates a certain prescribed musical style and/or underground status and/or way of living your life or making a community with political righteousness, and that’s why I say it narrows the conversation while poptimism widens it.”
I think the question is whether ‘poptimism’ and ‘punktimism’ are really that different from each other (and the latter, much more even than the former, is a thing constructed primarily for the purposes of this discussion): if they’re not, they should naturally overlap; but if they are, and oppose each other, then the proper response is not to triangulate between them as if they were two equally valid but different viewpoints (a process that usually means the more culturally powerful side decides the point of compromise) but to form a new synthesis that replaces them both. Hegelian Dialectics 101.
What I’ve always had a block about understanding in the concept of poptimism is that while supposedly about upholding the genuine quality of music, freed from snobbery and ‘elitism’, by its nature it revolves around whatever music is ‘popular’. So assuming one agrees that artistic merit isn’t actually decided by democracy, or that the commercial process by which that is supposed to happen (VOTE NOW! BUY!) is definitely flawed, what it really ought to be about is critically appreciating the communal experience of music. Which is what punk - or ‘punktimism’ - is about as well, only its communal experience is focused on a particular movement in the political arts (of course there is apolitical punk as well as political pop, but each movement has its general directed oriented in a certain way).
Punks follow the crowd too, although it is a smaller one and they at least tend to feel it has a different purpose. Pop (or mainstream, or mass) culture vs. counter-culture isn’t an entirely bad way of separating the two: despite the well-rehearsed arguments against a ‘counter-culture’ not having a valid existence, I at least think it’s a valuable concept to maintain so as it has a chance to make a more concrete impact. So that’s what I, and others, don’t want to give up about punk - that idea and inspiration of rebellion and rejection - and don’t want to see it subsumed into a pop-optimism that is inherently less confrontational about the culture industry and the various demands of capitalism on social life.*
However, I don’t think that critical side of punk has to be inevitably associated with rockism or elitism: punk has always been a movement that has consciously struggled with -isms both within and without, with varying degrees of success, but those particular descriptions probably apply the least to those creating at the margins of what is traditionally regarded as the ‘punk’ movement, who may not take the label but embody the principles the most (or, to be frank: is it elitist not to command a mass following?) There should be a way of combining counter-cultural principles with cultural openness, and indeed this is what made some of the most creative punk music after the initial anti-everything statements of ‘77. And today, self-identified punk fans embody some of the principles of poptimism within their own genre: the appropriation of the language of tough-guy hardcore for the semi-ironic, semi-sincere ‘Defend Pop-Punk’ slogan, or the burgeoning re-appreciation for 00s pop-punk and post-hardcore that the commercial machine spewed out and then rendered ‘uncool’ in the pursuit of pop novelty. I would call that ’punktimism’, rather than assuming the term refers to a reactionary foil of poptimism’s ostensibly unique progressiveness.
* There’s a way to narrow the conversation when it comes to the type of music people listen to, but there’s also a way to narrow it when it comes to considering that music in a wider economic and political context. We should be avoiding the former, not the latter. Oh, and when it comes to types of music it’s probably best to admit that just as some people don’t like the ‘sound’ of (typical) punk, some don’t like the ‘sound’ of typical pop - and it doesn’t make them bad people, just people with particular backgrounds and tastes.
Hell yeah, punktimism!
I was reminded of the existence of Hybrid Theory a couple of weeks ago when someone in my Twitter feed posted a link to the Record Store Day release of it on vinyl, then cued it up on Spotify and listened to it for the first time in the best part of a decade - I can’t even remember exactly but I think it may have been the very first CD I ever bought, at around that age. I was surprised at how basically emo the vocals sounded, while the music itself was exactly the mixture of post-hardcore, Refused-like punk and alternative rock one would expect from that time.
It makes sense that Wounds would share that reference, since they are I guess about the same age as me and thus grew up with the same exports of American bands. There’s something about the way Die Young pulls together various strands of contemporary punk and hardcore with a don’t-give-a-fuck artistic attitude that really resonates with the way I view the world and music currently. Their new video for ‘Dead Dead Fucking Dead’ is very good, you should really watch it - I intend writing something about it soon, but mainly it just reminds me of how cool the song sounds.
I could think up some kneejerk reasons to oppose this - historicity not necessarily being a bad thing, for one - but at a glance the idea kinda appeals to me. There are always new names for new genres and movements (I think “seapunk” was the latest) but it’d be cool to have a new banner for a ‘fuck you’ to societal conventions and expectations that don’t serve their useful, human purpose. The kind of things that rile up Grimes or The Knife, but that don’t have to be expressed through rock music or indeed any particular kind of music. Part of the problem is, I suppose, that we don’t know quite what ‘punk’ meant back then, or what that translates to now: if we’re opposed to, say, neoliberalism, what if the original punk attitude contained the germ of it? Words, and everything constructed from them, are always imperfect, however…