January 23, 2009
While seemingly worlds apart, the genres of country and punk have become an incestuous pair in recent years. Maybe the whole outlaw mentality of good country music is sympathetic with the social isolation often associated with punk music. Whatever the motivation, some damn good music has spawned from this awkward love affair. The following is a short list of some bands that successfully incorporate ideals from both genres. Check them out if you are a fan of one or both types of music, or if you just like to get drunk.
“Bloody knuckles and a broken nose, all of that before I ever got home/I fought in bars, fought in the streets, four more years of fighting ’til they’re done with me.”
The drunkest band in Memphis is quite a title to earn, but these boys are probably more deserving than most. Notorious for playing until they literally cannot stand anymore, Lucero bring an unprecedented punk energy to country rock. Quitting their respective punk bands to form a country band, Ben Nichols and the guys have played their asses off for years to finally earn a bit of comfort and respect. Recently signing a deal with Warner Brothers, Lucero is certainly trying their damnedest to break the stereotypes placed on them from the beginning. In truth, Nichols and company have indeed straightened up a bit. They do their best to finish shows in a respectable fashion (i.e. not falling into the crowd from intoxication), and have evolved their sound into a unique brand of Springsteen-esque rowdy rock and roll.
“I’m thirty-seven, and I don’t feel old/Still listening to punk rock, still like my beers cold.”
No genre (or combination of genres) is immune to tragedy. Boston-based Lenny & The Piss Poor Boys are a testament to this unfortunate circumstance. After releasing an absolutely stellar debut album, the band lost their bassist Jon Johnson in a vehicle accident. Heartbreak and misfortune aside, we can at least focus on the amazing music that the band was able to make in its short-lived prime. Lenny & The Piss Poor Boys is an almost perfect album in every way. Full of smokey sing-along choruses and sharp pedal steel, no album so seamlessly meshes country and punk. Within you will find stark imagery of bar fights, substance abuse, and even a heart-wrenching elegy in the form of a Ramones tribute song.
“If no one’s on your canvas, I’m achin’ to be.”
By definition, The Replacements were neither alt-country nor punk, but you’ll hear their name come up in many a discussion regarding both genres. Spending most of the 80’s playing their asses off to punk crowds, The Replacements quickly earned their famous “play loud, play drunk” reputation. Paul Westerberg used to make fun of the fact that The Replacements thought they were a punk band for a while (see debut Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash). The truth was that The Replacements were nothing more than a great rock band that acted like punks. But, as so many educated books and films will tell you, punk is as much an attitude as it is a musical style. So where does the country influence some into play you ask? Well, in the band’s later years, on album’s like Don’t Tell A Soul, songs like “Achin’ To Be” with its steel guitar sweetness sound like they could easily fit in on a Whiskeytown record. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Westerberg even joked about the later years: “By the end, they wanted us to play punk rock, because it was coming back in style, but I was more interested in upright basses and steel guitars. We never were in stride with what was hip at the moment.”
I’ll probably add some more to this as I think of more bands.