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Punk Redux

What part of Nomeansno don’t you understand?


When traversing the history of any musical genre, it is concrete fact that events unfold in a linear fashion, chronologically and factually occurring and then being recorded. It is, however, inevitable that modern musical history, especially in the case of punk rock, is personal history. That is, unless you are a walking copy of the Trouser Press Record Guide, most of us relate to our own particular versions of punk rock; our own introductions, our own rebellions, our own energy and our own bands.

When I was 14, it seemed like every new band I discovered was “my band.” I developed a personal relationship with every tape, 7-inch and scratched LP that came into my possession. So where the hell in my sphere of punk rock was Nomeansno? My 14-year-old self would have kicked my current ass for ignorantly depriving him of growing up listening to Nomeansno. OK, so I admit it, I didn’t listen to Nomeansno in high school, I was too busy narrowing my musical sights to local East Coast hardcore and the inevitable metal phases.

But Nomeansno blew and continues to blow away its contemporaries on many levels. Let’s face it, what is Bad Religion doing now? Mike Watt has backed into his ivory tower of eccentricity. Mark Mothersbaugh is a prime-time Danny Elfman, and Henry Rollins has a Hollywood bankroll as thick as his neck. Punk has grown up, gotten day jobs and is probably wishing it still had the cajones of Nomeansno. Still recording, releasing records and touring, they get the Strom Thurmond career longevity award. This is not to say that they are decrepit relics or throwbacks by any means. Nomeansno’s newest record, and ninth to date, No One, is as technically proficient, compositionally sound and lyrically savvy as any in their discography, which began with Fear, Betrayal, Anger, Hatred in 1981.

No One is a testament to the methodical development of Nomeansno’s sonic niche, opening up with one of their hardest driving numbers in recent history and includes a daring cover of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew.” Now, just by pure virtue of the fact that a punk band even attempted to approach a Miles Davis composition, one would think that they are either stupid or crazy. However, Nomeansno is certainly one of the more technically capable bands of their genre, and they do produce an interesting interpretation. The record wraps up by slowing the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” to a sludge-heavy dirge.

Nomeansno has managed to reinterpret and reinvent themselves again and again over their 19-year career, touching on and experimenting with an eclectic array of sounds from quirky, aggressive hardcore to tongue-in-cheek silliness. They have allowed themselves to grow by leaps and bounds, yet still retain the biting social critique that defined one of the first generations of North American punk. And they did this on their own veteran wit and talent, bypassing today’s candy-coated, wallet-chained marketing machine, to stand as a monument to the firm-rooted continuity of purist punk rock.
Nomeansno plays Buck’s Club this Saturday, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. Cover $8.

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