Raise [Another] Toast to Saint Joe Strummer

Hands down, my favorite new band is The Gaslight Anthem. These guys are providing a much-needed service that not a lot of other bands seem interested in doing anymore: playing full-steam ahead, good old-fashioned rock music about growing up in America. The Hold Steady (another favorite, as regular readers of the blog know) do this too, but beyond that it’s hard to think of a whole lot of contemporary bands out there that produce earnest, intelligent, unironic rock music about the problems of real people.

It’s no surprise that both of these bands list Bruce Springsteen as influences, but The Boss’s signature recordings have an unfortunate tendency towards 80’s pop schmaltz (re: Dancing in the Dark) that’s tempered in The Hold Steady and The Gaslight Anthem by a love of no-frills punk rock. For example, here’s a song that’s been on loop on my iPod for the past couple of days:

For those who don’t get the sort of cryptic references, that song’s a tribute to Joe Strummer. Which is A) fucking awesome, and B) a good example of why, as I’ve said before, punk will never die. The last time I tried to make that argument, a friend of mine whose tastes tends more towards the ornate, proggish side of rock music, rolled his eyes and said, “Sure, and neither will disco.” But watch that music video and tell me there’s a band out there that would write a completely earnest song about disco saving their lives. Disco is (well, was), fun dance music, but it was never really meant to be more than that. Good punk, on the other hand, comes from the heart. It can change people’s lives; it changed my life, it changed the lives of those guys in the above music video, and it’ll be consoling a tiny handful of bored, frustrated adolescents long after we’re all dead.

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