Much like poetry and literature, music is best interpreted as an expression of its time. All art ends up being categorized this way: usually in periods. Impressionistic, Romantic, Enlightenment, Baroque, Post- Modern. One of the things I enjoyed the most about teaching English, was weaving into the history that produced it, and then connecting that history to why it still had modern relevance.
If you followed my social media posts this last couple of weeks, it is obvious that Post Punk music had a major effect on me growing up. It was my go to for a form of artistic expression that mirrored what I was feeling. But it would take years to dig deep enough to finally kind of get to the heart of the real question: why? What was it about those albums, beyond feeling like a loner, an outcast, a misfit – you know the common why are kids Goth stereotypes, that spoke to me? Twenty plus years later, with the invention of YouTube, I finally got the best answer that I think has ever been concisely put together, and it took me right back into the basis of how I taught poetry.
The first three minutes describe a scene. A dark, industrialized jungle of concrete. At 3:00 Bernard Sumner (Joy Division/ New Order) says, “You were always looking for beauty cause it was such an ugly place. I mean I don’t think I even saw a tree until I was about nine. I was surrounded by factories…” at at this moment you see old video footage of children playing in the streets and on broken down vehicles as their local playground. Bleak. Gray. Stephen Morris (Joy Division/ New Order) continues describing seeing rows of houses with no porches. Rows of them, opening onto the street, and then going back to that neighborhood and seeing nothing but piles of rubble and then, new concrete and steel construction everywhere. “By the time you were in your teens, it was just this fortress, quite futuristic actually.” Sounds like Tempe. But what this first three minutes of the film does is sets up the environment which creates art, or rather, the artist. And then it shows what their art is reacting to.
When the documentary brings in Peter Hook (Joy Division/ New Order/ Monocco/ The Light) at about 4:45, he describes the feeling that if you were from Suffolk, you never really considered yourself as going anywhere in the world. You were just kinda wasting your time, until it was your turn to enter the factory. On a personal note, this is very similar growing up in an Arizona mining town. In San Manuel, where I grew up, there were days that smelter smoke kept us inside for PE and recess. And trying to be a kid who was aiming at college, in a world where most of your peers just planned on going straight to the mine after graduation, was a lonely place. Interesting.
But for me… the quote that brings everything home, the quote that really, finally, and definitively, defines the Post-Punk movement is at 19:40. “Punk enabled you to say Fuck You, but somehow it couldn’t go any further; it was just a single, venomous, two syllable phrase of anger. Which was necessary to reignite rock n roll, but sooner or later someone was going to want to say more than Fuck You; someone was going to want to say I’m Fucked. And it was Joy Division who were the first band to do that.”
Has that sense of our current place in the world ended? Climate. Economy. Global Trust. Never ending Wars. Corporate Greed. Private Prisons. Intellectual Disparity. Our world is in upheaval in ways that were only really discussed hitherto-fore now in science fiction novels. When a person looks at that environment, and the art it produces as a reflection, I would submit that Post Punk… has never ended. Rather, it has intensified… but somehow, as is evident in Paper Foxes… it is still looking for something beautiful.
It turns out, Gerald Schoenherr (Funerelles) would agree:
While Punk Rock was about rebellion, it still used the musical vocabulary of rock and roll (power chords & blues scales). British bands like Joy Division, the Cure, Gang of Four, Bauhaus, etc took that rebellion a step farther by abandoning American styles of guitar playing and song structure. There was also a bit more despair in lyrical content. Perhaps because of the economic conditions in the UK and perhaps because the kids who were punks a few years earlier had matured into adulthood and had come to the realization of what it’s like to be on your own in a harsh world. Even as the 80s progressed and squeaky clean acts like Wham! began to dominate the airwaves, the darker stuff was still tucked away in the corner to be rediscovered by another generation. When things get tough and people (especially young people) look for art and music that they can relate to, Post Punk is there. The internet has made finding this music even easier. In the 80s no one played guitar like Robert Smith and no one played bass like Peter Hook. They invented new vocabularies. Something that young people today might not appreciate. Yet, their playing still resonates. It’s immediate and visceral.
Arizona Rock n Roll Rogues Gallery Spotlight: Funerelles
The idea of these eight questions is to give just a bit of a look into the featured band. Some are completely just for fun!
1. What three local bands in town are people not paying enough attention to besides yours?
Gerald Schoenherr (Funerelles): I feel like this is a bit of a minefield. Do I talk about my friends bands just to try to promote them? What if I forget to mention someone?
- Band I wish played out more: US Grave
- Band that I’m glad is local again: Spiritual Warfare & the Greasy Shadows
- Favorite band that is beginning to break out: Lana Del Rabies
2. Where do you shop for stage clothes?
Gerald: My stage clothes are just a specific outfit of my normal wardrobe. A lot of which comes from Antique Sugar. But, I shop for vintage clothes all over. I’ve found some great things in Bisbee, as well as (of course) L.A.
3. Have you ever met Bubba? Explain.
Gerald: I can’t explain.
This answer… just alone… is hilarious. LOL
4. What other bands do you play in around town, if any?
- Gerald – used to be known as El Sonida De Reposa
- Nicole Laurenne – The Darts
- Aaron Hjalmarson – Hot House Orchids, The Freeze, and more
- David Marquez – P.A.O., Lhasa Apso, and more
- Erik Teichman – 8 Bit Mammoth, Sans Pagaie
5. What is your go-to cover song?
Gerald: “Funnel of Love” by Wanda Jackson as covered by SQURL
6. Besides being musicians, do you have day jobs, and if so what do you do?
Gerald: I teach audio engineering at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Science full time.
7. Ninja or Samurai?
Gerald: Nina Simone
8. As a band what are three of your favorite venues that you play around town?
- The Lost Leaf – for the intimacy.
- The Crescent Ballroom – for the sound and the green room.
- Valley Bar – for the cocktail and the low ceiling basement vibe.
Keep the Greasy Side Down, my Friends.