Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Art of Punk - Black Flag

One of the first things that made me feel at home when I moved to the South Bay of this sprawling Metroplex of Los Angeles in 2006 was the widespread love of the band Black Flag. Now, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself the biggest fan, in fact although I love Henry Rollins I'm not all that interested in his years in the band. As a fluke I suppose back in high school a friend of mine whose house our fairly large and obnoxious group occupied on a weekly and often nightly basis for our deeds of debauchery had an older sister who had really turned him onto a lot of old school punk and it was in the center of his lair of debauchery* that I first heard and immediately fell in love with Everything Went Black: Black Flag, The First Four Years. This record was part of the soundtrack to the adventures in that house, along with Fugazi, Sugar, Social Distortion and Slayer.

Anyway, the other obvious distinctive attribute of Black Flag is Raymond Pettibon's art.


* From my unpublished novel The Ghost of Violence Past (copyright 2009 Shawn C. Baker):

"Imagine pulling up to a nice suburban subdivision… wait. It’s 1993 and every house is two stories with a basement, let’s say starting between 100k-300k, including your house.  Now imagine you pulled into your driveway Friday night after a hard week of work only to find that up and down almost every block for as far as the eyes could see there were cars – not just cars but cars that obviously belonged to teenagers. Cars with Misfits and Soundgarden bumper-stickers; the Powell Perelta skateboards’ bird skull logos on Mini Vans; Phuck clothing decals on Taraus’; Broncos and old Buick’s covered in stickers for bands like Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chili Peppers to try and camouflage the fact that they hadn’t had a paint job or any rust work in years. Chevettes, Cavaliers and even a Mustang or two, all draped with images and phrases all mostly unknown to you, unless you too had one of these troubled almost-adults housed under your roof. As a middle-aged suburban parent with the house, spouse and 2.5 kids you would recognize the automobiles for what they were because of course teenagers drive what their parents throw away or replace.

In other words, you’d recognize trouble.

And you would smell it even better when you decided to do a couple laps around the old subdivision and try and pinpoint what was going on and where. You’d circle the streets for a while and then maybe you’d be a little unnerved to see that those cars, those relics that remind you of when you were a no-good punk kid getting fucked up on your dad’s gin and your mom’s pills, were all releasing their cargo of drunken, stoned, up-to-no-good teenagers onto the lawns and sidewalks surrounding and leading up to one house.

That house.

The same house it always is. The same house everyone in the neighborhood fears will one day unleash a horrible perpetration on the rest of the people of the subdivision. The same house everyone who owns one of those overpriced cookie-cutter domiciles has called the police on at least half a dozen times in the last year.

This was Ralph’s on the first Friday after junior year ended and it wasn’t just the stoner social event of the year. It was the punk, grunge, new-wave, raver, whatever social event of the year. Every disparate misfit ‘clique’, every awkward social denomination was out in full force.

Neighbors beware.

We pulled up in Duke’s car around eight. First off there was no place to park anywhere nearby, and really that was probably good because as we made our first pass by the house I knew the police would be patrolling like crazy, probably stopping any car they saw leave to check for intoxicated teenage drivers. A ton of people, none of whom I knew, were standing on the driveway and lawn being anything but subtle while smoking joints, talking shit, whatever. One guy actually stood in the street and attacked Ralph’s mailbox with a pair of nunchuks."

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