At the dawn of the 1990s, as the United States celebrated its victory in the Cold War and sole superpower status by waging war on Iraq and proclaiming democratic capitalism as the best possible society, the 1990s underground punk renaissance transformed the punk scene into a site of radical opposition to American empire. Nazi skinheads were ejected from the punk scene; apathetic attitudes were challenged; women, Latino, and LGBTQ participants asserted their identities and perspectives within punk; the scene debated the virtues of maintaining DIY purity versus venturing into the musical mainstream; and punks participated in protest movements from animal rights to stopping the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal to shutting down the 1999 WTO meeting. Punk lyrics offered strident critiques of American empire, from its exploitation of the Third World to its warped social relations. Numerous subgenres of punk proliferated to deliver this critique, such as the blazing hardcore punk of bands like Los Crudos, propagandistic crust-punk/dis-core, grindcore and power violence with tempos over 800 beats per minute, and So-Cal punk with its combination of melody and hardcore. Musical analysis of each of these styles and the expressive efficacy of numerous bands reveals that punk is not merely simplistic three-chord rock music, but a genre that is constantly revolutionizing itself in which nuances of guitar riffs, vocal timbres, drum beats, and song structures are deeply meaningful to its audience, as corroborated by the robust discourse in punk zines.
David Pearson, Adjunct assistant professor in the music department, Lehman College, CUNY David Pearson holds a PhD in musicology from CUNY Graduate Center and is an adjunct assistant professor in the music department at Lehman College. His research focuses on American popular music of recent decades, such as punk and rap. As a saxophonist, David has performed twentieth-century andcontemporary art music, jazz, rock, and various improvised musics, and currently plays in the Afrotronik funk group Digital Diaspora.