Punk music in its purest form projects an element of danger and disruption, rage and revolt. It is music with the power to jolt the listener awake. Maybe 2013 will be the year British post-punk wakes people up. 'Silence Yourself' by Savages is earning the same kind of buzz as Nirvana's 'Bleach' did in 1989. Savages had a piece on their website where they asked audience members not to use their phones to capture videos and take pictures of the band, to not be distracted by technology, but instead to be immersed in the show. In our distracted world, that's good advice for a great many things.
Savages are one of many bands signaling the next stage of punk music -- and picking up on the restlessness of youthful disillusionment and the reverberations of Occupy Movements and Pussy Riots. Early last year, Cloud Nothings 'Attack on Memory' followed soon after by The Men's 'Open Your Heart', and both were met with high critical acclaim.
It's not that the all-female Savages have developed a completely unique sound, they've just assembled all the best elements of the post-punk era, picking up where Carrie Brownstein and Sleater-Kinney left off. In fact, their second manifesto says they aren't giving listeners something they don't already have.
In 2002, radio was smitten with the heavily-hyped return of garage rock led by The Strokes, then hailed as the saviors of rock music. The White Stripes arrived soon after, giving an electric bluesy-roots injection to music, and offering a type of edginess that had been absent from rock. And yet, something was still missing. On the punk side of the spectrum, music felt less dangerous, and it lacked the punk attitude of early 90s bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Nine Inch Nails. In Early 2000s/Post-9/11 culture, maybe bands didn't feel safe making angry statements about government policies, or the accelerating weight of technological change, and what we've lost by living in surveillance societies.
Now, in the struggling economically recovering 2010s, anger is finding a voice in rock music once more. American super-bands Vampire Weekend and The National released stellar recordings in May. With intricate lyrics and delicate melodies, they've captured the free-floating, bottomless uncertainty that's permeated the land. Maybe a return to mellow is the name of the game in America, where hope has been replaced with simply moving forward. But across the pond, in desperately underemployed Europe, a storm is brewing.
The rise of the underground Seattle music scene that spawned grunge in the pre-Internet era, where personal discovery was a huge part of what made the grunge movement so alluring. It's been two decades since Nirvana climbed to the top of the Billboard charts and a flannel-draped Eddie Vedder scribbled "pro-choice" on his forearm during a live MTV performance. In the media overloaded 2010s, the process of personal and community discovery has been made possible again through social media. Savages seem to be media savvy enough to use social media to their advantage, while trying to redefine what social media could mean to people. In a web over-saturated with corporate-driven content, discovering small bands just beginning to make a noise can feel like a personal discovery. A band that feels like it was formed just for you appears from out of nowhere on a Facebook wall or your Twitter feed. Music only comes to life when it connects. Time will tell if Savages are the next big thing, but musical movements and breakthroughs seem to arrive every 20 years or so, and it's time to shake things up again.