Post-punk as a term is both vague and misleading. It grew in tandem with the initial punk rock movement of the ‘70s, as opposed to being born out of it. It kept the DIY work ethic but thrived on sonic experimentation and a broader range of influences. If punk rock hit the reset button, post-punk took over from another player at a convenient checkpoint. It is nearly impossible to identify post-punk as its own subculture, jettisoning the naturally brazen style. For some it was synonymous with Goth and new wave, these movements having a much more ornate aesthetic—at least outwardly. Often deliberately esoteric, post-punk married gloomy, dismal soundscapes with no frills fashion—fresh-faced, sullen young men with youthful hairstyles and a utilitarian dress sense.
It’s hard to say, really, when it faded away—if at all—but in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, New York gave birth to post-punk revival. Despite harking back to an older form, it was a welcome breath of fresh air in the realm of alternative and rock music. Nu metal, and the wave of bands following Britpop such as Travis and Coldplay, had saturated the market and airwaves alike. So, from the states came The Strokes, Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, meanwhile the UK offered up Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys. With these offerings, revitalising a form that for years had seemed all but lost. Rock and roll was saved, or so we thought.
The mid-noughties saw a revival of its own—the revival of pop-punk. It was inescapable. The likes of My Chemical Romance, Green Day and Fall Out Boy were all the rage then. While Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes still stand as the go-to summer stadium bands, it’s fair to say that the music they create now bears little resemblance to the garage rock that sent them sprinting out the gates. Interpol continued to play, record and tour, but it’s also fair to say that, until Marauder (2018), they had well and truly lost their groove. R&B and hip-hop also became more prominent in the indie blogosphere, and on Spotify playlists previously populated by indie-disco floor fillers.
In any case, the decline of the post-punk revival scene as we knew it saw a more traditionalist rebirth of the post-punk sound in its original form. In the US there were bands like Women and later Preoccupations, Protomartyr, and Ought, who followed the sonic templates left behind by innovators like Joy Division, Wire and The Fall, all without re-treading their waters. Whether born because of, or in spite of, an increasing right-wing tendency in the Nordic countries, bands like Iceage and Holograms took inspiration from these newer groups. Though barely out of their teens, these impressionable, disaffected young men channelled the boredom of their dull city surroundings—arguably better than the indie veterans who preceded them.
This trend was prominent throughout the 2010s but largely went on unnoticed to the uninitiated. At least until the last couple of years. 2017 saw the release of Idles’ full-length debut Brutalism. This record was well-received critically, and saw the band open for The Maccabees on their farewell tour, the Foo Fighters for their performance at the 10th Birthday show for the London O2, and Future Islands at Donnybrook Stadium. After being a featured attraction on the European summer festival circuit, they began work on their second album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, released in 2018. It was this album that posited them as the reluctant figureheads of the movement. They were nominated for Best Breakthrough Act at the BRIT and Kerrang! Awards, their sell-out tour dates growing from The Button Factory to Vicar Street to Iveagh Gardens over the space of 12 months.
Of course, they are not alone. They have taken Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. on tour, who themselves have seen an unprecedented upward trajectory since the release of their 2019 debut LP Dogrel—appearing on Soccer AM, The Jimmy Kimmel Show and, like Idles, receiving a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Prize. Fellow Irishmen The Murder Capital have also opened for Idles, and joined Fontaines D.C. in opening for their UK counterparts Shame at an unintended showcase for this new youth music movement, just as the Tivoli was preparing to open and close its doors for the last time.
These isles have provided an ample backdrop to such an austere sound—Idles have been less than timid about their socio-political convictions and seem more important now than ever, given the recent guarantee of five more years of neoliberalism and austerity under Tory rule. Not to mention the impending doom of Brexit looming over the nation’s head. Meanwhile, on our own soil, the purging of Georgian houses and the loss of once beloved venues in favour of the installation of an inordinate amount of hotels continues. All while the issue of homelessness, and the lack of mental health and drug treatment facilities alike, persists, unchecked by our own centrist government. It’s small wonder there’s been a resurgence of such visceral sounds.
A Timeline of the Post Punk Revival
Women – Public Strain
LoneLady – Nerve Up
Iceage – New Brigade
S.C.U.M. – Again Into Eyes
Holograms – Holograms
Merchandise – Children of Desire
Savages – Silence Yourself
Iceage – You’re Nothing
Merchandise – Totale Nite
Iceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love
Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right
Eagulls – Eagulls
Total Control – Typical System
Algiers – Algiers
Ought – Sun Coming Down
The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie (Comeback album. First album since 1980.)
Preoccupations – Viet Cong (Released as Viet Cong.)
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
Preoccupations – Preoccupations
Savages – Adore Life
Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent
Idles – Brutalism
Algiers – The Underside of Power
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Omni – Multi-Task
Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Protomartyr – Consolation (EP)
Iceage – Beyondless
Interpol – Marauder
Goat Girl – Goat Girl
Viagra Boys – Street Worms
Flasher – Constant Image
Preoccupations – New Material
Ought – Room Inside the World
Shame – Songs of Praise
Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive
Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
The Twilight Sad – It Won/T Be Like This All the Time
The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears