The Sex Pistols meant to bring the edge into view, and they did: when Johnny Rotten rolled his r’s, it sounded as if his teeth had been filed down to points.
Positing boredom as the legacy of rock, and spiritual death as the promise of the welfare state, punk triumphed over its visions of ugliness—mastered them—by acting them out. Insisting on the bizarre and trashing standards of decency, punk shattered the mask of the dominant culture; by its very unnaturalness, punk made the host culture seem like a trick, the result of sadomasochistic economics. With cruelly dyed and slashed hair, mutilated faces, bondage gear (from McLaren’s shelves, of course, which was only fair), wrecked clothes—a lumpen, day-for-night-of-the-living-dead style—punk drew lines, divided the young from the old and the young from the young, forced new loyalties, forged new identities, and, as it announced that all possibilities were closed, opened up possibilities of negation and affirmation that a year before had not existed even as fantasies. This was revolt into style; it was also style into revolt. Centered strictly in London, later spreading directly across the U.K., punk’s claim on the world’s attention was not hedged: musically and politically it announced itself as a harbinger of things to come, of all that was feared and of all that could not even be imagined.Greil Marcus, Punk (1979)
After listening to the YouTube tracklist, write about 300 words on what you think made punk distinctive as a musical and social movement. Try to avoid the obvious, which is that punk was “angry” or “loud” for example, and try instead to pick out specific lyrics, parts of songs and quotes from Please Kill Me to help you make your point. The quotes from Greil Marcus above give you a sense of how one person interpreted the music (you can quote from the Marcus article, also). Things to think about (you don’t have to answer all of these): Was there a vulnerable side to punk? Could their “politics” be taken seriously? How does the expression of pure negativity work as a political position? How did the punk bands relate to earlier bands (The Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls) on the tracklist? Would bands be able to make music like this today and reach the wider public?