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I still have the mixtape that transformed me, at 14, from a casual consumer of whatever music my Friends liked into a zealous partisan of punk rock. It’s an odd little cassette: 60 minutes of music, cohesive enough to suggest that punk rock was a thing, but variegated enough to suggest that could be just about anything. There was, apparently, a whole ocean of music more or less like this stuff. All I had to do was dive in.
Punk rock is, perhaps, an unusually fractious genre: for decades, punks argued about what – and who – was or wasn’t punk. They drew lines, divided subgenres into sub-subgenres, and sometimes performed rituals of excommunication. (Green Day, probably the most popular punk group of all time, were banned from their local club, and denounced as enemies of the movement by Maximum Rocknroll, the definitive American punk fanzine.) For a while, punk rock was all I cared about, but in the years that followed I was pleased to discover that punk wasn’t quite as unusual as I first thought: every musical genre is in some sense a community of musicians and listeners, which means that every genre is also a tribe, defined by tribal rules of inclusion and exclusion.
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