This is an interesting read.
Not for the first time this made me think of Perfect Pussy in terms of Han Shan, a briefly-existing Californian hardcore group in the early 90s who released an 8-song 7” (so about the same length, if not shorter, than Perfect Pussy’s 4-song demo cassette) of abrasive yet plaintive shouty noise. Beneath the grimy layers of obfuscating under-production, the sludgy hardcore is pierced by eerie, woodwind-like sounds and swirls of guitar distortion, while the vocals convey a barely decipherable (even with the lyric sheet) litany of depression and anger. It’s emphatically not as positive as Perfect Pussy, nor as sonically bright (and by comparison, which is no doubt odious, it really makes the current band stand out as smooth indie-friendly punk rock*) but the energy is similar.
More relevant to the above though, Han Shan took their name (plus design, and perhaps lyrical, aesthetic) from a Chinese poet who I first read about in Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.
(* Bandcamp review: “Think of Japandroids blended with Crystal Castles and Fucked Up. Yep, it’s ultimate punk band of our time.”)
As is suggest in the following caveat, one might be sceptical about the second assertion, and although nothing springs to mind immediately I am obviously most interested in punk-influenced types of rock. Still the ubiquity of influence is almost a reason for ignoring it - punk as the bottleneck of rock’s development before and after the late 70s, or like a glittering disco ball that scattered all the sounds around it. I think it’s an idea that already gets at least lip service from critics and musicians alike - but there’s perhaps too much of an inclination to focus on punk as the ‘idea’ (without going into too much historical or cultural detail on what that idea actually meant) rather than an identifiable sound - other than fast/loud/snotty - because to do so would mean delving into the complexity of influences both before and after, and dismantling the punk myth of meaningful but ultimately empty gestures thrown into the 70s wasteland. Whereas a somewhat more sophisticated reading of it is not that there wasn’t anything interesting happening prior to punk, but rather that the punks-to-be felt completely alienated from what they saw in culture - a point of view that should have relevance today, when even as shared content producers and meme generators we remain alienated from the means of true cultural production in consumption-driven capitalism. That’s why you need DIY, and also why you need flagrant sellouts subverting and exposing the commercial nature of art from underneath its cosy humane gloss.
I still think the ‘post-’ signifiers - punk and hardcore - have value when it comes to describing sounds, if not ideas. To me there is a qualitative difference when a style becomes more sparse, less direct, and incorporating more elements of experimentation. The sonic lines blur just as much if not more than the pure chronological history, of course, but as a local example I always think of the difference between the two albums of Irish band the Radiators (from Space), the more punk-sounding 1977 TV Tube Heart and the more musically eclectic 1979 Ghostown. The latter can easily be described as post-punk, fits chronologically and probably deserves more recognition within that canon, but it’s the same band as on the earlier record. Or the album which I think of as quintessentially post-hardcore, Hoover’s Lurid Traversal of Route 7, has amongst the dubby elongations and twisted emo anguish very appropriate sections of blistering hardcore punk, and is largely sited in that milieu, even though it post-dates and shows clear influences of Fugazi’s better-known breakout. Post-hardcore isn’t as well established as an idea, other than in the negative sense of not being traditional hardcore - it’s simply a ‘progressive’ genre. Post-punk, on the other, being better-known, has more baggage (no one, for comparison, really claims hardcore is dead, although braindead might be the criticism): I still think it’s more of a (loose, eclectic) sound than an idea, but there probably is still a case to be made about the rejection of punk in its original form - as long as its made with care and not relying on a single myth of decline retrospectively applied to consequent diversity.