What is Post-Punk?

Post-Punk: Punk's ethos meets diverse sounds, embodying DIY spirit and innovation.

what is post-punk
February 6, 2024

By: Aaron Grey

Exploring the Depths of Post-Punk

Diving into the heart of the underground music scene, "What is Post-Punk?" explores the rich tapestry of a genre that emerged from the shadows of punk rock. This genre, born in the late 1970s, stands out for its stylistic diversity, challenging the punk orthodoxy by embracing a wide array of dynamics, dance beats, electronics, and innovative approaches to pop rock. From the pioneering sounds of Joy Division and The Cure to the genre's resurgence with bands like Interpol and Editors, post-punk has continuously pushed the boundaries of music, culture, and political expression. 

Table of Contents:

The Personal Journey Through Post-Punk and Punk Ethos

The Evolution and Diversity of Post-Punk Music

Post-Punk: A Movement of Musical Innovation and Rebellion

The Resurgence of Post-Punk in the 21st Century

Embracing the Underground: Our Love for Post-Punk's Ongoing Legacy

Starting Your Own Post-Punk Band

Top 20 Post-Punk Books

The Personal Journey Through Post-Punk and Punk Ethos

Erica and I have both been involved in the underground punk and post-punk scenes for more than half of our lives now. I'm pretty confident that I speak for both of us when I say that even among the DIY punk scene, we have felt a little like outsiders. I wanted to write something about what it means to us and why we want to help to perpetuate the genre and the ethics we believe it represents.

The Evolution and Diversity of Post-Punk Music

Post-punk has traditionally been described as a genre to rise out of the first wave of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s. The genre is stylistically diverse; This diversity is due to musicians reexamining and challenging the formal strictures of the punk orthodoxy. Musicians started to explore dynamics, dance beats, electronics, and to push the boundaries of the pop rock of the time.

Outside the norm, this music was initially named “new musick” or “art-punk.” At the very end of 70s, many bands were categorized under “new wave,“ with many music enthusiasts interchanging the words. As time progressed, post-punk’s style became more defined and differentiated from other terms like new wave, new romantic, or gothic rock. 

Some of the early contributors and some of our favorites include such bands as Joy Division, The Chameleons, Gang of Four, Au Pairs, The Slits, The Fall, The Cure, Killing Joke, Wire, or even Pere Ubu.

Post-Punk: A Movement of Musical Innovation and Rebellion

Those same early Sex Pistols shows that inspired bands to grab guitars and start pounding out three-chord punk rock anthems also inspired similar do-it-yourself artists to get weirder and go further. Much like punk, the post-punk movement never really stopped in its pursuit of freedom and high ideals.

This music scene is a place where thoughtful, self-aware artists can thrive. Musicians can write the type of politically informed music that they want. They don’t have to worry about adhering to anyone else's ideas of what the music should sound like.

Taking the word “modernist” in a less specific sense, the post-punk bands were firmly committed to the idea of making modern music. They were totally confident that there were still places to go with rock, a whole new future to invent. For the post-punk vanguard, punk had failed because it attempted to overthrow rock’s status quo using conventional music (fifties rock ’n’ roll, garage punk, mod) that actually predated dinosaur megabands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. The postpunks set forth with the belief that “radical content demands radical form."rip it up and start again --Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, 2005

Post-punk supplied the starting point for other genres like deathrock, gothic rock, industrial music, darkwave, new wave, and even a more eclectic reimagining of the pop band. Without the post-punk movement, we likely wouldn’t have had the alternative rock bands of the 1990s either.

The Resurgence of Post-Punk in the 21st Century

The 21st-century resurgence of post-punk marks a revival and evolution, with bands like Interpol and Editors in the early 2000s revitalizing the genre. They drew on the dark tones and angular riffs of classic post-punk, with albums like "Turn on the Bright Lights" and "The Back Room" modernizing the sound for new audiences. This set the stage for a new generation of post-punk bands.

The decade from 2010 to 2020 witnessed a significant resurgence in the DIY post-punk scene, characterized by a wave of artists and bands who embraced the ethos of self-production and independent distribution. This period saw a proliferation of underground labels, DIY venues, and self-organized tours, reflecting the genre's foundational spirit of autonomy and resistance to mainstream commercialism. Bands like Protomartyr, Idles, and Priests, among others, brought fresh energy and perspectives to post-punk, blending traditional sounds with contemporary issues and experimental approaches. The use of digital platforms for distribution and community building played a crucial role, enabling these artists to reach global audiences and foster a renewed interest in post-punk's raw, emotive, and politically charged music. This era of DIY post-punk not only revitalized the genre but also underscored its enduring appeal and adaptability, cementing its place in the modern musical landscape.

In 2023, the post-punk scene is not just surviving; it's thriving with vibrant energy and innovation, as evidenced by the recognition of bands like Lathe of Heaven and Aurat across leading genre platforms. CVLT Nation's top post-punk and death rock records of the year and Post-Punk.com's best of 2023 lists highlight the continued relevance and evolution of the genre. Lathe of Heaven, with their atmospheric soundscapes and introspective lyrics, and Aurat, known for their unique blend of post-punk aesthetics with cultural nuances, stand out as torchbearers of the modern post-punk movement. These bands, among others, are not only keeping the spirit of post-punk alive but are also pushing its boundaries, proving that the genre remains a fertile ground for artistic exploration and expression in today's music landscape.

Embracing the Underground: Our Love for Post-Punk's Ongoing Legacy

Erica and I cherish that this music has never really left the underground, but it is again springing to new life. We love it and want to be part of it. We love getting to see current bands like Shadow Age, Arcane, Silent Age, Rituel Veil, Lithics, Bambara, Bootblacks, Arctic Flowers, and so many more. 

Check out other new post-punk bands here.

This genre of misfits among misfits is where we fit in. While we understand and appreciate the punk tradition, the post-punk and darkwave scenes are the shadows we call home. We have been propped up and supported by these sounds, and they have given us what we needed to succeed in this world.

It is our goal to nurture this tradition of music and politics and freedom of expression, to foster the idea of self-expression without limitation in a safe, meaningful way. And of course, we always want to help to move more people to dance.

Now go start your own post-punk band!
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Starting Your Own Post-Punk Band

Starting a post-punk band requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Beyond the steps mentioned in the original content, here are some additional tips for starting a post-punk band:

  1. Be authentic: The scene values authenticity, so ensure your band is true to itself. Don't try to sound like another band or copy their image. Be original and true to your own unique sound and style.
  2. DIY attitude: The post-punk scene is all about DIY (Do It Yourself). Don't wait for someone to come and help you. Create your own opportunities by booking your own shows, releasing your own music, and promoting your band.
  3. Practice, practice, practice: Post-punk is known for its energy, but that doesn't mean you can get away with sloppy playing. Practice regularly and aim to improve your skills as musicians.
  4. Have a message: Post-punk is also known for its social and political commentary. Use your music to express your views and ideas about the world around you.
  5. Support your local scene: Attend shows by other local bands, and be supportive of other artists in your community. Building a strong local scene will help your own band grow and thrive.
  6. Be prepared to face challenges: The music industry can be tough, and post-punk is no exception. Be prepared to face rejection, setbacks, and obstacles. But don't let that discourage you. Keep working hard and persevering, and eventually, you'll find success.


To learn more about post-punk...

Top 20 Post-Punk Books

  1. Rip it Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds - A definitive account of post-punk music, from Joy Division to Talking Heads, exploring the movement's creative and cultural impact on society.

  2. Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook - A memoir by the bassist of Joy Division, chronicling the band's history and rise to fame, as well as its tragic end following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.

  3. Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews by Simon Reynolds - A collection of interviews and essays that explore the post-punk movement and its cultural impact, featuring bands such as Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

  4. Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division by Deborah Curtis - A biography of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, written by his wife Deborah Curtis, detailing the band's history, Ian's personal struggles, and his tragic death.

  5. The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall by Steve Hanley - A memoir by the bassist of The Fall, Steve Hanley, chronicling his time in the band and the inner workings of its enigmatic frontman, Mark E. Smith.

  6. This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division: The Oral History by Jon Savage - An oral history of Joy Division, featuring interviews with band members, collaborators, and other key figures in the post-punk movement.

  7. Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr - A memoir by Johnny Marr, guitarist for The Smiths, detailing his early life, his time in the band, and his solo career.

  8. So This is Permanence: Joy Division Lyrics and Notebooks by Ian Curtis - A collection of lyrics and personal writings by Ian Curtis, giving insight into his creative process and personal struggles.

  9. Never Enough: The Story of the Cure by Jeff Apter - A biography of The Cure, exploring the band's history, its creative evolution, and its impact on the post-punk and goth movements.

  10. From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World by Clinton Heylin - A comprehensive history of the pre-punk movement, tracing its roots from the Velvet Underground to the emergence of the punk and post-punk scenes.

  11. Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits by Zoë Street Howe - A biography of The Slits, one of the first all-female punk bands, exploring their history, their impact on the punk scene, and their legacy.

  12. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine - A memoir by Viv Albertine, guitarist for The Slits, chronicling her life and career in the punk scene, and her journey as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

  13. A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths by Tony Fletcher - A comprehensive biography of The Smiths, exploring their history, creative evolution, and cultural impact.

  14. The Fallen: Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall by Dave Simpson - A memoir by Dave Simpson, chronicling his search for former members of The Fall, and exploring the inner workings of the band and its enigmatic frontman, Mark E. Smith.

  15. This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan - A novel set in the post-punk era, exploring the cultural impact of the movement through the eyes of a fictional band, Memorial Device.

  16. Silence is sexy. L'avanguardia degli Einstürzende Neubauten by Giovanni Rossi - An Italian-language biography of Einstürzende Neubauten, exploring the band's history, creative evolution,

Post-punk: Our musical home. We love its raw energy, DIY spirit, & freedom of expression. Discover its evolution, from classics to today's vibrant scene. Join us & celebrate this enduring genre!

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