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Pop-Punk Penance

A cool kid seeks heavenly redemption

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

How long has it been since your last confession?

Uh, what's today? Let me see…I guess that makes it…two…divide by three…carry the four…uh, it's been about 24 years, six months, 25 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes and 16 seconds.

Salvation lies within. Or, if you're possessed by Simple 
Plan, these cuddly men of the cloth can exorcise your 
demons.
Salvation lies within. Or, if you're possessed by Simple Plan, these cuddly men of the cloth can exorcise your demons.

I've seen worse. Tell me, child, what sins do you have to repent before God?

Well, there was the dead hooker in Reno and the Girl Scout troop I ran over after taking blotter acid, stealing a riding lawn mower and joy-riding through a Piggly Wiggly. But none of that is why I'm here. I'm here because I have a burden on my soul that I can't hold anymore.

What brought on this sudden bout of internal conflict?

I…I…have a weakness.

Pray tell, what is this weakness, dear boy?

Um…I don't mind pop-punk.

You'll have to speak up. There is no reason for shame in the house of the Lord.

[Cough.] I don't mind pop-punk.

I see. And how long has this devilish deficiency leached on your soul?

It started with Green Day. I was 14 and had hardly been kissed…at least where I wanted to be. That's when Dookie came out and took a big, steaming shit on my Def Leppard and Skid Row tapes. I could relate to "Longview" and "Welcome to Paradise." I sang "Basket Case" sitting on the bench during the 1994 La Pine High School basketball season -- goooooo, Hawks! Watching the tube but nothing's on, wrestling Rosy Palmer until masturbation lost its fun -- those were topics that struck a chord.

You do realize that "jerking the rosary" is a filthy habit of Satan and a mortal sin?

I was, um, speaking metaphorically.

Just kidding. I choke the chicken at least thrice daily. Sorry I interrupted. Go ahead.

Anyway, I know I'm supposed to turn up my nose at Green Day and Blink-182 and every other pop-punk band. They are sellouts, corporate pawns, boy bands. I'm not supposed to like Bad Religion or NOFX, either. But of course I do. I'm supposed to worship the Stooges and the Sex Pistols and hundreds of "real" punk bands nobody's heard of. I'm sure they're all jim-dandy, but how the fuck is an Oregon farmboy or a Conroe short-order cook supposed to really relate to "God Save the Queen"?

I can appreciate the music and the theme of battling institutional oppression. And I even know the answer to "Historical Significance" for $500, Alex, but do you see any bangers and mash around here? Nobody actually thinks Mr. Bean is funny. Would I ever pick up the phone if London were calling? Not unless Ginger Spice was on the other end. Jesus Christ, Sid Vicious died before I was even born.

There's no reason to drag the Big Guy's kid into this. Besides, JC would have loved "Anarchy in the U.K." and "I Wanna Be Your Dog," because the music spoke to the outcasts of society, who were his people.

Maybe that's the problem. Sure, I hated third-period algebra, too, but I was never compelled to smoke Camels during wood shop. I didn't get picked on much. I didn't own a torn jean jacket, let alone any Misfits patches to sew onto it. I couldn't skateboard. I didn't have a Mohawk. I was the co-captain of the football team. Student body president. I even dated a cheerleader.

Preppie little bitch.

I'm sorry, what?

Just clearing my throat. You have clearly strayed from the righteous path. Perhaps if you walked a mile in the leper's shoes or consorted with prostitutes, as the Messiah did, you could appreciate pop-punk for what it is: fodder for the Philistines.

I disagree. You don't have to be suicidal to feel Elliott Smith's pain. You don't have to be a carnie to enjoy the Scorpions. Besides, isn't every band merely piecing together fragments of all those that came before? Wouldn't everyone influenced by the Ramones and the Rolling Stones have elements of pop and punk in their music? Sure, I like London Calling and Never Mind the Bollocks, but you don't have a soul if you can't shout along with the Dropkick Murphys or hum that "Swing, Swing" song by the All-American Rejects.

Well, actually, I'm more of a Dashboard Confessional fan myself. Chris Carrabba has the face of a wee angel, the voice of a heavenly choir and the ass of a 12-year-old boy. I mean, pop-punk is sweet and tantalizing and appealing, but so were the apples in the Garden of Eden. Good Charlotte and New Found Glory going on the Honda Civic tour is not punk rock. Selling Adidas is not punk rock. Appearing onTRL without head-butting somebody or breaking a bottle or spitting on the audience is not punk rock. Punk is about flipping proper society on its butt, then kicking it while it's down.

Point well taken. Do I respect artists with principles? Hellfuckingyeah. But who am I and who are you to be so self-righteous? All of us who aren't either Republicans or vegan eco-terrorists are the Middle America we scorn. You drive a Civic. You own some Adidas, you eat at McDonald's, you watch Steven Seagal movies, your ironic T- shirt was made by sweatshop workers in Senegal and, yes, Che Guevara, you know the words to "Ice Ice Baby" just like the rest of us.

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