When did punk rock become so safe???

Epitaph (2004). NOFX Track – Separation of Church and Skate. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYLqvfckh-U [Accessed 30 Oct. 2018].


Whilst compiling my research and looking at the world of punk rock as we know it to be now, this song popped in my head and has created some thought provoking material. It probably helps that this is one of my favourite NOFX songs and my ringtone.

The reason I have chosen to include it within my research is due to the lyrical content and the songs message.

NOFX are a California punk rock band with a somewhat notorious reputation. A self confessed crappy punk bad that started out in 1983 they have stood the test of time and remain one of the best US punk rock bands. Still with their original line up and despite marriages and children the group periodically have continued to release great material and maintain their following. Lead vocalist and bass player ‘Fat Mike’ Burkett even runs record label Fat Wreck Chords which has its own cult following.

Their most recent outburst being one that has seen them banned from playing any dates in the US and being dropped from their tour company and sponsors due to insensitive comments they made onstage following the Las Vegas shootings in October 2017.

Pitchfork article explaining the events.

I certainly do not condone the things that were said by the band, however I am fully aware having seen the band live they make everything a joke and are renowned for their inappropriate patter.

One thing I found very interesting that is stated in the article is that Fat Mikes apology through social media was followed by the statement #whendidpunkrockbecomesosafe. One of the lines from the song above this is a question which links to my project.

These are the lyrics to the song;

Lost in a sea of combat boots, 
Flush the bouncers with wasted youth
When did punk rock become so safe?
When did the scene become a joke?
The kids who used to live for beer and speed 
Now want their fries and coke
Cursing and flipping birds are not allowed, 
In fact let’s keep noise levels down

Must separate the church and skate!

Why don’t we put pads on the kids? 
Helmets, head gear and mouth pieces!
Then we could pad the floor and walls, 
Put cameras inside bathroom stalls
We make sure only nice bands play, 
Make every show a matinee
Teach kids to be all they can be, 
And we could sing my country tis of thee 
Sweet land of liberty

When did punk rock become so safe?
I know it wasn’t Duane or Fletcher, 
Who put up the barricades
Like a stake in the heart, 
Somehow we got driven apart


I want conflict! I want dissent!
I want the scene to represent
Our hatred of authority, 
Our fight against complacency
Stop singing songs ’bout girls and love!
You killed the owl! You freed the dove!
Confrontation and politics
Replaced with harmonies and shticks
When did punk rock become so tame?
These fucking bands all sound the same
We want our fights we want our thugs!
We want our burns we want our drugs!
Where is the violent apathy?!
These fucking records are rated G!

When did punk rock become so safe?!

Here Burkett is making reference to the changes within the punk rock scene over the last 20 years or so. In the 1990’s the genre of punk rock hit the ground running and became the scene everyone wanted to be a part of. A mixture of anarchistic temperament infused with the style and ethos of traditional punk mixed with skate board culture and working class roots this was the genre of music which really opened up my eyes to punk. 

It wasn’t long before this genre headed towards the mainstream and the release of the iconic Green Day album ‘Dookie’ in 1994 changed everything. This pinnicle moment within the scene is probably around the point in which Burkett refers to as a change within the music and its ethics,

Stop singing songs ’bout girls and love! You killed the owl! You freed the dove!” .

Green day became the seminal band of the punk rock movement. This however has come with much criticism in the years following. From playing local halls and punk house venues to 2.5 hour long shows on stadium tours with a somewhat theatrical display they are now seen as commercial sell outs and disowned by many such as Burkett for leaving their true punk rock identity.

This brings up a whole counterargument in itself which I will not venture not at this point. My main consideration of this song stems to a title, the title of;

“When did punk rock become so safe?”

I feel this is an appropriate title, particularly for this portfolio production as I am exploring the inclusion of punk rock in homes and family life and how musicians/artists still follow the movement without the mohawks, party life and anarchistic lifestyle. I want to know if true punk lies within image, style or ethos and if punk is a means of expression, a lifestyle choice and who makes the rules in a society where rules and barriers are made to be broken?