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In the world of Rock and Theology, my interests have hovered around the relationship of underground music cultures, social movements, and religion. In particular, I’ve been interested in the relationship of DIY punk music cultures (broadly defined) and spirituality/religion and have done some writing on this, most recently in an essay in the new Rock and Theology book, Secular Music and Sacred Theology. In my essay on “staying punk” as a theologian, I spend a good deal of time discussing one of the “patron saints” of punk rock, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat, whose distinct voice within the many discussions of “punk ethics” has made me think not only about my own musical practices but about the practice of theology.

In December of last year, MacKaye and his wife Amy Farina released their third album as The Evens. The album, The Odds, is another great batch of MacKaye and Farina’s “quiet,” but still uncompromisingly political, punk rock. As I was preparing final edits to the chapter I submitted for the book, I was also reading the press’ discussion of MacKaye and The Evens, and I realized that, had I had more space, I could have discussed The Evens as great example of the traditioning of punk, of the way punk evolves — “grows up,” even — but stays true to its commitments.

The Evens’ recent string of interviews contain some discussion that might help to push forward some of the ideas I’ve been tossing about on theology and punk rock. (more…)

Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit and Sound
by Brian Peterson
Revelation Records Publishing / $18.00 US (list)
[Amazon] [Revelation Records]

The terms “punk rock” and “hardcore punk” bring to mind a variety of images and stereotypes for “insiders” and “outsiders” alike. Cliches abound when the question of “what punk rock is” or “was” is raised, even in accounts written by those who have been key actors in punk rock. This is problematic because the movement has included countless offshoots and submovements, many of which were and continue to be contradictory and in conflict with one another.

An especially troubling viewpoint parroted in histories of punk and hardcore is the pinpointing of an early, and often arbitrary, “demise” for the genre, usually the early- or mid-1980s. The documentary American Hardcore, is a good example of this tendency. Most of the hardcore “heroes” interviewed in the film place the supposed “death” of punk in the mid-1980s, only to be followed by “pop” punk bands like Green Day and flavor-of-the-month emo bands.

These features of the dominant “punk narrative” obscure the fact that hardcore punk never stopped and in fact became arguably much more interesting, diverse, and contested, especially throughout the 1990s. Brian Peterson’s mammoth book Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound is the first account of this decade in hardcore punk, a decade overlooked or deliberately ignored in most previous accounts.

(more…)