Punk rock is characterized by fast tempos, loud and distorted riffs, simple songs, frequent use of power chords, and shouted vocals. Many groups feature variations on these characteristics, but most early groups retained them. The genre takes heavy influence from Rock & Roll, Garage Rock, and Surf Rock with lesser influence from plenty of other genres. Punk rock lyrics are typically very aggressive and confrontational, and deal with topics considered taboo in mainstream music. Anti-establishment attitudes are a large part of punk lyrics. Although many groups frequently include light-hearted or comedic lyrics, the anger experienced by many punks is the main focus. While the punk aesthetic is stereotyped by mohawks, piercings, leather jackets, and jeans, it is actually extremely diverse and ranges from the minimalistic look of skinheads to the androgynous Patti Smith, and to the aforementioned stereotypical look.
Ever since the beginning of punk rock, the genre has morphed into several different sub-genres and movements as diverse as Oi!, Psychobilly, and Riot Grrrl. The most notable sub-genre would probably be Hardcore Punk, which is a much more primal, violent, and aggressive genre that has an entire movement of its own, which later evolved into Post-Hardcore among many other sub-genres. A revival of Pop Punk in the 1990s with groups such as Green Day, The Offspring, and Blink-182 finally brought mainstream success of punk music to America, and punk rock has remained a strong commercial force since. The punk scene also had a large influence on genres and movements such as Post-Punk and New Wave. The vast array of punk genres, movements, and cultures prove that it is an important genre that still has relevance today.
Cowpunk, or Country Punk, is a type of Punk Rock music that mixes together Country, Rockabilly, and Contemporary Folk music with the familiar punk rock sound. The genre has its roots in the late 1970s in the United Kingdom with bands like The Mekons, and gained momentum in the 1980s, especially in Los Angeles, with bands such as The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, Green on Red, and X (who, although not Cowpunk, have influenced the sound with their rockabilly and country mix of punk).
Famous artists in the genre include Meat Puppets, Jason & The Scorchers, Rank & File and Hank Williams, III.
Crust Punk is a form of Hardcore Punk that was born out of the English Anarchopunk movement in the mid-1980s with the bands Amebix and Antisect. In its original form, Crust Punk (or simply Crust) is very metallic, with strong elements of Speed Metal (Motörhead's style is noticeably present) and, more recently, extreme metal styles such as Black Metal and Death Metal. Another variant of the genre, known as Crustcore, is less (or not at all) metallic and closer to Grindcore, and it's pretty much based in Hardcore Punk, especially in the Thrashcore and D-Beat styles (Japanese Hardcore and Swedish Thrashcore being the most notable influences). Examples of Crustcore are genre pioneers Extreme Noise Terror and Doom, and more modern bands such as Disrupt and Dropdead. Common lyrical themes in Crust Punk include critiques of government, dystopian futures, anti-fascism and anti-war, and in some cases veganism. While the genre was predicted by early Anarchopunk/D-Beat bands such as Discharge and G.I.S.M., Crust Punk didn't come into its own until 1985, with the albums Arise! and Out From the Void by Amebix and Antisect respectively.
Hardcore Punk (often referred to as simply Hardcore) is a derivation of Punk Rock that appeared during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hardcore initially borrowed much from Punk's original music framework and energy and made it faster, heavier and more aggressive, while retaining Punk's anti-establishment image and DIY ethics/practices. Other common characteristics include an extensive use of yelling and/or screaming, a stripped-down style of production (also inherited from many earlier Punk acts) and the prevalence of short-length songs.
Hardcore Punk has been associated with the releases of independently-run record labels such as Dischord Records, SST Records, and Alternative Tentacles, and acts such as Adolescents, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Fear, The Germs, Minor Threat, and Scream. While in its beginnings the genre was mainly a phenomenon rooted in the American underground music circuit, the term has also been applied to the works of non-U.S. bands from this era. These include D.O.A. from Canada; Discharge, G.B.H. and Rudimentary Peni from the United Kingdom and a Japanese Hardcore scene represented by groups like G.I.S.M. and The Stalin.
The genre would eventually splinter into other subgenres and derivative forms in a similar manner as Punk Rock did, some of which still remain rooted in the original Hardcore style. The interest of several Hardcore Punk musicians in various Metal genres played an important role in the creation of various new styles, exemplified by Crossover Thrash, Crust Punk, Grindcore, Metalcore, and New York Hardcore. The dissatisfaction of various Hardcore-rooted and associated musicians by the constraints of the genre and their growing attention for diverse forms of music (including Jazz, Experimental Rock, Dub, Funk and Post-Punk) derived in the creation of Post-Hardcore, which sought to experiment with the Hardcore template and dynamics. The focus given by some bands to melodic exploration would result in Melodic Hardcore. Beatdown Hardcore would be the result of much more slower tempos and increased breakdowns.
Although Hardcore Punk has mantained cult status for most of its existence, it has been seminal for the development of several other (and more popular) genres, many of them outside of Punk Rock.
Oi! is a working class street-level subgenre of punk rock that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The genre featured somewhat crummy sound, loud and audible bass lines, energetic and simple drumming and electric guitars USUALLY are NOT down-tuned but also Oi! songs are usually short and often feature guitar solos usually sounding a little bluesy and often the genre is influenced by punk rock and folk.
Notable Oi acts include The Gonads, Sham 69 and Cock Sparrer.
Psychobilly is a genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and other genres. It is often characterized by lyrical references to science fiction, horror and exploitation films, violence, lurid sexuality, and other topics generally considered taboo, though often presented in a comedic or tongue-in-cheek fashion. Psychobilly music is often played with an upright double bass instead of the electric bass more common in modern rock music.
Notable Psychobilly acts include The Cramps, Link Wray and The Meteors.
Riot Grrrl began as an underground punk movement in the early 90's. At its core, Riot Grrrl is a musical feminist movement. While there is little separating the sound from most other punk bands of the time, Riot Grrrl focused on female empowerment, tackling controversial issues such as domestic violence, discrimination, and rape. More than just a style of music, Riot Grrrl spawned a lifestyle, which included political activism and a DIY culture.
Notable Riot Grrrl acts include Bikini Kill and Bratmobile.
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