Punk rock, in theory, should make for an ideal music video. You usually have a fast band playing fast songs to enthusiastic crowds of people. So that should scream “live video,” right?
Unfortunately, it’s been the case more often than not that punk music videos generally suck ass. Whether it be due to a lack of funding or the fact that some bands are just plain unphotogenic, punks just don’t know how to make a good music video. Let’s look at the evidence.
Snapcase – “Coagulate”
The “Bad Experience With Shrooms” Video
At one point, Snapcase was probably the biggest hardcore band playing music, influencing both punk bands and the “post-hardcore” scene that popped up in the early 2000s, and they released several solid albums. Despite all of that, the band just never managed to make a good music video, and it wasn’t for lack of trying—the band released at least five music videos during their career, ranging from “grainy VHS footage at a Buffalo hardcore show” (“Cognition”) to “Is this fucking Kings of Leon?” (“Synthesis of Classic Forms”), but the worst, by far, is “Coagulate.”
“Coagulate” starts out with the pleasant visual of going 90 MPH around the bends in a parking garage, which is my own personal version of hell. Once the song kicks in, the members of Snapcase are copied and pasted into the background of the parking garage, and the video directors speed up and slow down their motions because why the fuck not, while a woman runs across a bunch of roofs and against a cloudy landscape she has also been pasted into. Then the breakdown kicks in and she jumps off of the roof. Then she lands on her feet. Then, our plastered-on heroine walks into another seemingly drug-fueled animated landscape while the singer of Snapcase yells triumphantly, “HOO CHA HOO CHA TO BREAK THA BLOOD CLOT” for the final time.
NOFX – “Franco UnAmerican”
The “Jibjab” Video
The 2004 presidential election was, to say the least, not funny. But even less funny than the debates about the direction of the US economy or the ongoing War on Terror was that fucking JibJab video. It was an animated video that used “This Land Is Your Land” to have the candidates make fun of each other in the dumbest, hokiest way possible.
While the rest of us were rolling our eyes at this bullshit, NoFX decided that their video for “Franco UnAmerican” off of The War on Errorism (or Rock Against Bush Harder) would be based on this goofy animated bullshit that also served as a precursor to lyric videos that bands do now. By the way, bands: stop doing lyric videos.
Transit – “Long Lost Friends”
The “No One Knows The Words, Guys” Video
Transit had the right idea with this one—they’re a punk band that played a lot of local shows in Massachusetts, so why not just get a bunch of friends in a room and play a show, and make a music video out of that, right?
The problem is that Transit became a completely different band right before this record dropped, and as a result, they had a bunch of pop punk and hardcore kids crowdsurfing and doing crucial finger points while watching this band play twinkly emo. It’s like if you got a bunch of middle-aged weirdos in a room together to watch Kenny G and then his new band Fishbone came out and started playing ska, but they still tried to act like they knew the notes, or horn notes, or whatever.
Also, I’m pretty sure a ton of people in the audience for this are wearing either nametags or tour laminates. Don’t ask me why.
Guttermouth – “Whiskey”
The “Taint of the 90s” Video
The 90s were pretty cool for the most part. There were good cartoons, the economy wasn’t completely ass up, and for punk rock, the 90s were the decade where it exploded into the mainstream, from Nirvana to Green Day to Blink-182.
There was a dark side to the 90s, however. And that’s that every time a punk band tried to do a music video with some sort of plot, it was the same exact plot (see: the “Dammit” video). And that plot fucking sucked. But when the main antagonist of this video is a shirtless rich white dude who approaches a delicate situation with, “Yo, she doesn’t love you anymore”, it’s clear that Guttermouth took this trend and absolutely made it their own. The only positive to this is that Guttermouth dude doesn’t “get the girl back” at the end like at the end of every other storyline during this goofy decade.
Bad Religion – “Incomplete”
The “You’re Going To Have A Seizure and Like It, You Little Shit” Video
Punk rock luminaries Bad Religion did that thing in 1994 where they released a major label record. Stranger Than Fiction was actually a pretty awesome album, and this is one of its strongest tracks, but fuck, the beginning of this video is a lesson in epilepsy, and then does literally a million other things throughout the entirety of the song, including putting eight different camera angles on Greg Graffin, show a bunch of crowd shots at an unknown festival, some live footage, some kids skateboarding, and then back to seizure-inducing lights and a bunch of kids push-pitting at the aforementioned festival. Just stick to one or two things and turn down the strobe lights, homies. This was 90s MTV alternative music condensed into a single video.
Pennywise – “Homesick”
The “Political Statement, Bro” Video
Everything about this video is really, really bad. The video quality; the flashing gun death totals in different countries; the storyline where a kid shaves his hair, gets a gun, and kills someone; Jim Lindberg periodically showing up by himself in a black-and-white closeup; and the slow fade-in of gun death totals for the United States at the end that’s going for the “THIS WILL BLOW UR MIND” effect. If Upworthy was a bad punk video, it’d be this bad punk video.
Social Distortion – “Machine Gun Blues”
The “HOLY FUCK WHAT DID I WATCH” Video
Do yourself a favor, open a new tab, and search Wikipedia for the entry on Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, the Social Distortion album that was released in 2010. Then look at the “History” section. I’ll wait to see if anyone can tell me if there’s any sort of particular theme across this album that justifies making a goddamn short film starring Mike Ness as a bank robber with a cheek tattoo in the 30s. I love everything about this video, in a Troll 2 way. The sound effects are amazing, especially when they hit the cop with the crowbar. The way Mike Ness reacts when he realizes he killed a woman, which is the most unconvincing head shake of all time. The agonizing death of “Sick Boy” (his chosen name for this work of art), who apparently is the worst shot with his gun of choice to have ever lived as a moderately successful bank robber. My only regret is that I wish Epitaph would have made it into a three-hour odyssey starting all of the exact same actors.
Paul Blest is on Twitter, responding to music video casting calls - @danozzi
Also check out: