My daughter and I have a game that we like to play.
We'll be listening to some music on the tape player in the car—lately it's been the psychedelic garage rock of Ty Segall, the brutal street punk of Belgium's Cheap Drugs or the thrash metal band from Virginia, Iron Reagan—and over the din of the crunching guitars and wailing vocals I'll ask her how she likes it.
Usually, she'll say that it's too loud, but I never actually hear what she says because I cut her off and yell, “What? Turn it up?” and jack the volume up even louder to levels pleasing to my perpetually 15-year-old brain.
This game never gets old, at least not for me.
Of course, it's not really a game. More like a taunt and probably a counter-productive one at that. If the goal is to indoctrinate my daughter to punk rock, this is probably not the best way to go about it.
Right now one of her favorite bands is Imagine Dragons. I'd like to make fun of Imagine Dragons but I don't know anything about them other than their music is everywhere: commercials, video games, the radio, etc. I do know that making fun of Imagine Dragons will only ensure that my daughter doubles down on her devotion to the band, so that's not an option.
My daughter and I have a lot in common. She shares my passion for eating chicken wings, watching pro football and reading books. It's too soon for coffee (she's only 12) but it's the perfect time to introduce her to punk. I've exposed her to a wide and deep variety from the classics to the contemporary, but it doesn't seem to be taking and I'm not sure I understand why.
Perhaps What Is Punk? by Eric Morse and Anny Yi from Black Sheep/Akashic Books can help. What Is Punk? is a picture book for kids that tells the story of punk through rhyming couplets and three-dimensional images of clay figures. Think Wallace and Grommet with liberty spikes and anarchy patches.
Though it's hardly comprehensive, Morse's rhymes touch on the punk scenes in New York, London and Los Angeles, with a few detours along the way:
Out West in sunny LA, they live close to the beach.
Bands like X and Black Flag had a punk gospel to preach.
Catchy right? But it's Anny Yi's figures that steal the show. While the images of Johnny Rotten and Henry Rollins are cute, they're presented as live action dioramas that are adorable, accurate and engaging.
I don't know if What Is Punk? is propaganda for kids or nostalgia for parents, but I'm giving it to my daughter anyway.
But do I really want my daughter to love punk rock? After all, punk rock and substance abuse go hand-in-hand. You could say that about any kind of music scene but I don't think my friends who listen to country (oh wait I don't have any friends who listen to country) or other genres have been to as many funerals as I have. I really don't want my daughter dropping f-bombs and calling me a fascist when I tell her to make her bed.
Punk rock has been one of the most positive influences in my life. Punk didn't just give me an outlet for my anger and aggression; it helped me understand it. Punk taught me that rebelling against the status quo was not only acceptable, but essential. Punk helped undo 12 years of Catholic school mind control and dictatorial discipline. Punk taught me that being out of step with society didn't make me a bad person, it just made me different, and in a school/town/nation full of sheep, different was the only way to be.
Punk rock also gave me skills. Interviewing bands and reviewing records for punk zines taught me how to write for an audience—something that was never discussed during my six years of college. And because I'm collaborating on a book with Black Flag cofounder and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris about his life in punk rock, punk has even contributed to my livelihood. Most importantly, punk has given me my best and oldest friends.
I haven't given up with my daughter. I'll keep beating the drum and if the message doesn't get through I'll just turn it up, but if you see me at an Imagine Dragons concert in the future, please know that I tried.