Swedish-born, London-based provocateur Oliver Malcolm channels '70s punk on "The Machine." But what does that mean?

Defining, or even describing, punk in 2020 is an exercise in futility, at best. At worst, you run the risk of being a punksplainer, a "Well, aktually…" gatekeeper. Ain't nobody got time for that nonsense, especially not punks…

So what do you say about a style of music that encompasses both the twee lo-fi confessionals of Frankie Cosmos to the steely post-punk of Protomartyr to the screaming meltdown of Japan's Envy? Can you even make a statement about what is or what isn't punk? Should we even try?

We Are: The Guard think so. Otherwise, it's like "playing tennis without a net," as music critic Stanley Crouch once said about electric-era Miles Davis (we contend that electric Miles is quite punk.) Instead, perhaps we turn to another low-brow quote, the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's take on pornography - "you know it when you see it."

At its core, punk is an attitude. It's about grabbing whatever you can get your hands on and making an unearthly rattledinhowl, to spill your guts all over your listeners. It's about ripping up the rulebook, damning the consequences and full speed ahead. It's about protest, and rebellion, and a scathing suspicion about the monoculture in which you live.



All these words, by way of introduction of Oliver Malcolm's "The Machine." We feel it's warranted as, at first listen, "The Machine" doesn't sound particularly punk, with its cheesegrater beats and bubbly synth melody. If anything, it's downright poppy, an earworm for the ages. The punk rock spirit begins to make itself apparent when Malcolm opens his mouth, spitting out ire and scorn in a striking, scornful Cockney sneer. It's perfect for punk - cutting, scathing, acerbic, perfectly fitting Oliver Malcolm's withering takedown of pop music careerism.

"The Machine" is what it might sound like if British EDM/rap like The Streets or Clipping might sound like fronting 70s agitprop like The Clash. It's slick, polished, catchy, and goes off like a molotov cocktail inside the whirling machinery of The Music Industry. Tear it down from within, bruv. 

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J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.