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Friday, September 30, 2005

Punk Rock's Shakespeare

Jack Yarber

Its no secret that I think the Oblivians were the freshest band of the 90s. For me, they were the breath of fresh air hearkening back to punk after "grunge" was co-opted by major record labels.

Each member of the Oblivians brought something great to rock n roll. Greg Cartwright, who I think of as rock n roll's version of English Romantic-era poet John Keats, (the guy who brought us the phrase, "beauty is truth; truth beauty") brought his home-grown Memphis soul to punk and garage and the result is possibly the best ever stuff recorded in his bands The Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers, and Reigning Sound. Eric Friedl was the DIY king - the guy who created a label, Goner, to release the band's records as well as those of the bands they like such as Guitar Wolf and the Reatards, who were kids, literally, taking on the ultimate young, loud and snotty approach to rock n roll that the Dead Boys did. Juvenile and rockin!

Today's photo is of Jack Yarber, who I think is the Shakespeare of rock n roll for our time. Shakespeare excelled in elevating the obvious, and in so doing, raised the bar for every genre in which he dabbled. One needs only to read "Romeo & Juliet" or "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to see that. And with this 21st Century punk Shakespeare, lines like, "every time I see you, my heart skips a beat" are made new, fresh, strident and raunchy. Sorta like what Shakespeare did with the age old observations such as "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

And if its not sexy, its not rock n roll. I think the Oblivians greatest contribution to the punk tradition was injecting it with a lotta raunchy sexuality... taking it to places the Dead Boys couldn't take it musically (although they had no problem with that in the real world. See: Stiv Bators throughout this blog.)


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