In 1978, Steve Ignorant with his corrosive speech and sardonic lyrics proclaimed that, in fact, punk was dead. He believed that systems, movements, and all other organizations would invariably dig their meat hooks into the spirit of the music and use it as a means to exploit and market an ideology. In an ironic twist of fate, his band Crass (along with bands such as Subhumans, Conflict, Zounds, and Rudimentary Peni) would receive mainstream attention as pioneers of anarcho-punk, also regarded as peace punk, leaving many of their British contemporaries in the shadows of their subsequent success.
Groups like The System, Omega Tribe, Lost Cherrees, Lack of Knowledge, Blyth Power, and The Mob were amongst those that had fallen into darkness. Many others were even signed to Crass Records (see their A-Sides compilations) and/or had opened for them at their shows but just never caught on. They had moved away from the cacophony that typically defined the genre, gravitating toward melodic chants and stripped-down folk instrumentation. This distinct sound wasn’t nearly as abrasive or confrontational in form but lyrically and poetically there was much still in common including a strong political undercurrent.
Flash forward twenty plus years in the future to the Pacific northwest where a group of subversives have been resurrecting the once echoed calls of those unsung UK artists. PDX is both the revival and re-imagining of that forgotten sect. Based out of Portland, Oregon, the scene incorporates components of post-punk, crust, d-beat, goth, new-wave, and industrial to create an emotional outpouring while staking and laying claim to new ground.
Moral Hex at Dunes (Portland) by Johannah Jørgensen
One of the most interesting aspects of PDX is that it can’t be pinned to any particular formula. Having no parameters, the sound stretches out over a spectrum of vastly different styles. Arctic Flowers (check out the post we did on them), aptly named for a song by political punk veterans Rubella Ballet, and the now defunct Funeral Parade have a more modern depressive punk feel while others like Moral Hex and The Bellicose Minds capture the dance discordance of 70’s/80’s post-punk. Lebenden Toten and Bog People play noisier, raw, and more chaotic punk characterized by wailing vocals and crashing cymbals.
A good portion of these bands are really hitting the nail on the head, releasing their material exclusively on tape, as it embodies the cassette culture that had become so integral to the D.I.Y. aesthetic of the period. Although accessibility is limited, the output is there for you to find. If you’re into it, I recommend heading over to Blackwater Records for their newest releases or contacting the bands directly. And if that isn’t enough for you Sweating Tapes just dropped an essential compilation of another aspect of the current Portland scene. Goinghand in hand with the deathrock and anarcho crust tendencies of the bands mentioned above, A Compilation Vol. 1: Portland is a wonderful companion peice fueled more by pitchy synth-driven lamentations of post-punk. You’ll find everything from crusty deathrock to minimal synth all swirl together by a group of bands until that point had never heard of before.
PDX punk is a constant warzone. The dirty dirges demand anarchy and freedom in a complacent, desensitized world. It’s also proving to be a fertile breeding ground over the past few years for a fantastic new music scene deserving for larger national and worldwide attention.- Casper