Drinking Black Coffee, Staring At The Wall.

If you want to impress a music nerd like me, then remember the name Greg Ginn. He's lead guitarist for the early 80s hardcore punk band Black Flag and, in my mind at least, one of the most underrated guitarists of all time. And if you don't believe me, then listen to the "Live '84" album and tell me how many daggers you're pulling out of your ass by the time it's over.

By the way, don't believe the AllMusic.com hype of this album getting 2-stars either, because Black Flag was, is, and forever will be the real fucking deal. Most notably - as far as Ginn's prowess is concerned - are the two instrumental tracks you'll find on Live '84. They're easy to find as they're both the longest and most peculiarly titled tracks on the album:

The Process of Weeding Out - 8:37
I Won't Stick Any of You Unless and Until I Can Stick All of You - 4:20

My advice to you is to buy the best set of headphones known to man, crank your music-playing device up all the way, and simply go deaf listening to these two songs. Believe you me, there are worse ways to relinquish your ability to hear; plus it wouldn't be so bad having these 13 minutes rattling around inside your brain for the rest of your life. Sloppy, messy, abrasive, spine-raping punk guitar at its finest.

Why am I all-of-a-sudden talking to you about the greatest American punk guitarist of all time? Well, for one thing, I've been on a punk-music kick the last few days thanks to the new Schoolyard Heroes track and continuing on through a select 51-song outburst of Jessica & Kon Punk on my iPod. But, mostly because I'm down to the final two episodes of Freaks & Geeks thanks to my watching two episodes last night; and in one of those episodes, Daniel gets his inner punk on to the delightful sounds of Black Flag.

When I say "Punk Music" to you, what do you start thinking about after I punch you in the face for saying Blink 182? You might say Good Charlotte, which results in me throwing you down a flight of stairs. You might say Yellowcard, which results in me reaching through your ribcage and taking a ravenous bite out of your still-beating heart. You might say Green Day, which results in me having second thoughts about bitchslapping you, then lightheartedly chuckling at you, saying, "Kids!"

Eventually, you'd have to start doing your homework, and you'd come up with some proper names. The Ramones. The Clash. The Sex Pistols. The Misfits. The Dead Kennedys. Black Flag. Minor Threat. The Buzzcocks. The Germs. The Damned. The Stooges. MC5. Early Talking Heads. Early Blondie. The New York Dolls. The Dead Boys. Patti Smith. Television. Suicide. X. The Velvet Underground.

I'm taking an abrupt right-turn here, so bear with me.

There are two kinds of music that literally ANYONE can play. I'm not saying that literally anyone can play them well, but there are two kinds of music open for business to any hack who wants to strap on a guitar: Singer/Songwriter/Folk Music and Punk Music.

One is acoustic in nature, one is obviously electric. Both types of music involve majorly simple chord progressions (as a folkie, all you really need to do is know how to strum, and if you don't believe me, go watch an episode of "Friends" where Phoebe sings at Central Perk), needing to know no more than three for any given song. The only major difference is whether or not you can sing. If you can't sing without people being reminded of fingernails on a blackboard, then you belong in a Punk Band. It's that simple.

That's why you see SO MANY shitty folk singers EVERYWHERE! That's why there are about a million and a half fucking knobs who are able to cover the likes of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Paul Simon, James Taylor, and fucking Cat Stevens. Even country artists require more skill and ability musically than a singer/songwriter. And, if you want to go out on your own and write your own songs as a folk artist? Just break up with a girl, that's all there is to it.

Consequently, this is the same reason why there are so many shitty punk bands all over the place. Invading our bars and dive clubs, bleeding our eardrums dry as they destroy amp after amp. Learn three chords, scream a lot, break up with a girl, and make two to three friends. Really, the only difference between a punk singer and a folk singer is the ability to make friends.

As a result, it's difficult to get noticed as either. A good punk band is hard to find! Since it's nearly impossible to distinguish one punk band from the next (visit one of the non-main lower-tier stages at the Warped Tour if you don't believe me), I have a real hard time picking out ones that I like. And, I won't just like a punk band simply because they're popular.

I hate Rancid. They're fucking awful. I hate just about any punk band that uses horns (which means I hate every Ska band who has ever graced this planet). I'm not a big fan of NoFX, though that may require me to go in for a closer look.

I like MxPx though. The Suicide Machines are pretty sweet. And, even though I give them a lot of shit, I enjoy my share of Blink 182 (though, not necessarily their newer stuff, and not necessarily their spin-off stuff). As far as some of the lesser-known newer-punk bands, I'm a big fan of the band Pain, even though they no longer exist. They showed up on a few of those punk rock compilations and their songs are pretty great. I like the Vandals. I like Tsunami Bomb. One of the non-main lower-tier stage bands I DID happen to distinguish as a stand-out was Arkham. There's a so-Cal band by the name of Wax that was around in the mid-90s. I'm completely oblivious to any good punk music that's actually around today though. Names are always bandied about, but I just haven't a clue.

Because for me, it all goes back to Black Flag. If I was stuck with one punk band, it'd have to be them. Not just for Ginn's guitar playing, but for the fact that they have one of the greatest personalities to ever get behind a mic: Mr. Henry Rollins.

You know why I love Henry Rollins? Well, for a multitude of reasons. He was a fucking madman when he fronted Black Flag. Then, when they broke up, he started a band, called it Rollins Band. And do you know the greatest aspect of Rollins Band? Since Henry Rollins has absolutely no ability to sing whatsoever, when he "sings", he either talks, or he yells as loud as he can. And, he's got this great weathered voice now, so when he yells he doesn't sound like some of these girly punk bands of Warped Tour fame. He's got this low, deep-throated, hearty yell that bellows out of a deep, dark cave in the wilderness. And, it's either one or the other, all the time. It's fucking awesome.

Plus, Rollins goes on these Spoken-Word tours where he gets up on stage and raps with the audience. He's not a stand-up comedian, nor does he promote himself as one. He's simply one of the finest oral story tellers of our generation. Of course, I'm saying that knowing full well that I don't listen to NPR enough, and that NPR has story tellers on all the time. But, Rollins is on tour all the time, and he packs the fuckin' house, and he has more than a dozen albums devoted specifically to the Spoken-Word. He's got this insight for life that just fascinates me, because he's lived and done so much more than I ever will. He's been around the world and back, he's done the struggling punk rocker life, he's done the rock superstar life, he's acted in movies, he's written books, he's hosted TV shows and radio programs. I can't vouch for his love life, though I'm almost positive he's in his 40s and still not married. Which leads me to believe he's gotten his share. And yet, when you listen to his Spoken-Word albums, he's not talking about the music or the shows or the movies - at least, that's not what dominates the discussion. No, he's talking about how he used to work for these scientists who would test things on rats and he'd have to clean their cages. He's talking about how he had to kill dozens and dozens of rats after it had been discovered that they'd been contaminated with some disease. He's talking about America's fucked-up politics. He's a voice of reason and I feel privileged that I continue to be one of the minority who knows about him.

And I'll finish with his charitable work. Has anyone heard of the West Memphis Three? Well, it's a long fucking story (there have been two notable documentaries on the subject, shown on HBO, both entitled "Paradise Lost" ... yes, there necessitated a sequal), but at its core are three teenagers who were wrongfully accused, tried, and convicted of killing three small children. One is on Death Row, the other two are in for life. If you look into the case, you'll see the rampant and eggregious examples of police mishandling the case, the evidence, and other counts of incompetency. Anyway, Rollins has an acute interest in this case and all of the injustice therein, and he compiled a tribute album that devoted funds to the re-opening of the case of the West Memphis Three. I'm still pretty sure they're locked away, but at least he's tryin'.

All of that, and I didn't even bring Wikipedia into this like I was gonna ...