Punk Goes Pop?

Long before the “Big Freeze”, I spoke to Orange front man Joe Dexter about stereotypes, pop music, and his mother.

Joe Dexter. Image: Fernando Guererro

I’ve long held suspicions that the world of music is becoming a bit of a joke. In the rebellious, anti- X Factor times we find ourselves in, musical stereotypes have become that little bit more exaggerated, steeped in unintentional irony.

We’ve all come to acknowledge the tirades of Topman-clad “Indie kids”, and we all appreciate the irony that, in causing a stir, they have driven their beloved “underground” sound distinctly above ground. But what happens if we move a little further down the pecking order, say, to punk?

Sawyers, in Kettering; the archetypal punk venue. Upon crossing the threshold into the pub, you’re hit with an overwhelming sense of apprehension, as if you shouldn’t really be there. As your eyes survey the environment, you find yourself confronted with a patchwork décor of posters, A4 legacies of past frivolities. The stage, a mere segregation of the crowd area, retains its exclusivity thanks to a cold, metal parking barrier. What band would brave such a baron playground? California band Orange, that’s who.

“It was pretty cool to be playing in the town where I was born.” Says singer and bassist Joe Dexter, “ My Mum used to work in that pub when she was 16… though I’m sure it didn’t have so many dicks drawn on it back then…”

With that pretty image at the front of your mind, take a sideward glance at the sparsely packed crowd. Chances are you’ll need sunglasses, to subdue the glare from all the stereotypes; mohawks, bright hair, “ironic” attire, tartan aplenty, it’s a veritable who’s-who of underground clichés. All this for a band, who, by their own admission, don’t quite fit the bill.

“You know it’s funny, I never saw us as a punk band.” Dexter explains,” I still don’t. We were just marketed that way but we are so much more pop than how punk is supposed to be these days. As amazing as it was touring with bands like The Misfits and The Adicts and US Bombs, no one ever bought our shit at the shows. Then we started doing tours with bands like Zebrahead, and things made much more sense.”

“Punk going pop?” Although many dare not utter such a phrase in a place like Sawyers, I can’t help but get the feeling that, from an insider’s perspective, this isn’t quite the atrocity mosh pits would have you believe. The question is asked if a successful punk act would ever be seen to have betrayed their roots. Dexter’s answer, frank but honest, is food for thought.

“In my opinion think there is NO such thing as betraying your genre. No one gets into music hoping to fail at it. If they tell you that, they are lying, and just want to sound cool. If a punk band blows up and gets a deal with a major label then power to them! That is an accomplishment to be proud of. “

So, does punk even exist anymore? Does Indie? From my vantage point, the increasing need for music to be labeled is eroding the very point of having a genre. If you believe Joe Dexter, then all bands want to make the transition into ‘pop’, but what ridicule shall follow? Are we witnessing the final days of “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll”?

We may speculate, but I’ve decided an update is in order, and who better than the trusty Dexter to bring in a new slogan for his art? Here goes…

“MAGIC, CONFETTI and CONDOMS!”

Um…

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