Girls put punk back into rock
From Johnny Cash through the Beatles to Public Enemy, a sense of rebellion seems as intrinsic to the job description of being a musician as being able to hold a tune. Painters, writers and actors might adopt the stance of the agitator, but little can land a shocking punch to the psyche so immediately or so viscerally as a blast of music can.
Punk music particularly, following the three-chord principle of the Ramones, prided itself on putting blunt truth and attitude before technical accomplishment.
But despite plenty of two-finger salutes to the Establishment, most pop stars in the West have found it pretty hard to get arrested for their music. Run-ins with the law have most often related to narcotic predilections followed by liaisons with guns or under-age girls.
The Sex Pistols were banned by the BBC for the song God Save the Queen, but avoided arrest after their Silver Jubilee boat prank in 1977.
Madonna, who has been trying her hardest to bait everyone from the Roman Catholic Church to the Israeli authorities, with little effect on anyone but the French right wing politician Marine Le Pen, has vaguely upset the Russian Orthodox Church. At a recent concert she donned the trademark balaclava worn by the punk band to demand that Russia free the three Pussy Riot members. The Russian Orthodox Church has called for her to be banned in Russia.
The current trial of three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot for a guerrilla performance in an Orthodox church, with the threat of a jail sentence, makes Madonna's posturing seem rather tame.
While rap and folk music have been the underground soundtrack to the Arab uprisings, the all-female collective has turned to the full-throttle attack of 1970s skinhead Oi! bands and the feminist DIY politics and imagery of 1990s Riot Grrrl groups like Bikini Kill.
Arguably, that kind of brutal racket is never going to sell as many records as Madonna or Lady Gaga, who might argue that their popularity is subversive, reaching repressive nations around the globe with their mantras of sexual liberation.
But Pussy Riot's unambiguous blast of defiance is having a much more unsettling effect on Russian society, directly exposing the kind of authoritarianism they were railing against. Perhaps Pussy Riot are proving there is still some power left in just three chords and a rebel yell. - ©The Daily Telegraph