Like a lot of people reading this, I didn’t exactly grow up with a lot of good role models or examples of what it’s like to be a positive, healthy, happy person so I spent most of my childhood being a angry, negative and miserable (I learned from the best in that department: my family). As sad as it is, I trusted the bands I listened to for direction more than my family or whatever, and if I had to pick one single band who’s made the biggest impact on my life, there is absolutely no question in my mind that it would be YOUTH OF TODAY (who as you may know essentially created hardcore as we know it today).
What I really love about them is the complete absence of cynicism in their message. It’s so, so easy to just fall into that negative rut where you’re too cool to like anything and too cool to be optimistic about anything and before you know it, you’re too cool to be happy. Yes, YOT’s lyrics and image are super derpy when viewed through the eyes of 2013 internet users, but in all seriousness they made a huge impact on me as a lonely, angry 14 year old. I could easily let those feelings turn me into one of those losers in a METALLICA shirt smoking behind the metal shop after school, but when I heard “Break Down The Walls” it seriously opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at the world– pushing yourself to be the best person you can be and focusing on the good in the world (the polar opposite of my negative, self-destructive family).
In this post, I will share some of my favorite YOT songs, along with what I learned from them– in all seriousness, these are things that have stuck with me for years and made a big difference in my life.
I love when bands have a song that’s called the same thing as their band!! This song pretty much sums YOT’s message, and “Living fast and dying young was a just a fad / for a bunch of losers who didn’t care” is the ultimate dis on every cynical punk rocker who thought they were making some kind of grand artistic statement by living in their own piss and drinking themselves to death.
LESSON: Being a negative, self-destructive loser isn’t cool, it’s fucking stupid
This is a song about how it sucks that nice, quiet people get overlooked sometimes. In the post-internet era where attention whores and loudmouthed aspies dominate the conversation and drive out the normal people who just want to have a chill discussion about stuff, this song has never been more relevant.
LESSON: It’s easy to let the negative assfaces consume your attention, but don’t– focus on the positive people in your life
LESSON: lol there isn’t one rly this video is just super derpy, especially the part where the kid is about to take a bite of the hamburger and Porcell is all “Nah, brah.”
Fun fact: You can also thank YOT for basically defining the entire Real Hardcore aesthetic (the B&W crowd shot, Nikes, jock haircuts, sweatpants, etc)
Before discovering YOT, most of the bands I listened to were 80s punk/hardcore, whose lyrics were essentially just song-length descriptions of various social ills, wars, and other things that bummed me out and made me feel like the world was fucked and there was nothing I could do about it. But then this song came along, which was the first one I’d heard suggesting that you should, you know, actually DO SOMETHING about problems instead of just complaining. Groundbreaking stuff to a 14 year-old who thought DEAD KENNEDYS were the height of political awareness!
Also, the opening line to the first track on “Break Down The Walls” is perhaps the single best example of Ray Cappo’s “angry cat” vocals: “Make a cherrrrrrrrrrraaayyyyarrrrrrrrrange!”
LESSON: Take control of your own happiness– if you’re not happy with something, work tirelessly to change it
“Feeling awkward, afraid / potential friends I could’ve made / why do we keep to ourselves / and not dare to leave our fucking shells”
You ever wonder where all the pop-punk bands got the “this song is about how much my friends mean 2 me” thing? From the 88 youth crew bands, that’s where– with this song being one of the first and best examples.
LESSON: Put yourself out there and make friends with everybody, it will make your life way more awesome
“so let’s forget the past and the grudges that we hold / if you don’t do it soon you know it will explode”
As I’ve said before, my mom makes incredibly stupid life choices but somehow manages to give something incredibly insightful advice (which, of course, she herself does not follow). One of the best things she ever told me was “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? It’s a choice.” Meaning, when you are mad at someone over some perceived wrong or arguing with your girl or whatever, it’s usually smarter to just let go and reach a compromise rather than relentlessly trying to “win the argument.” Because wow, you won the argument, here trophy– but your girl is still making you sleep on the couch tonight because she hates you.
LESSON: It’s not worth it. Let it go.
The main thing I take away from YOT is this: it’s way easier to be the cynical, negative guy who is too cool to like anything or anyone. It’s easier to just sit on the sidelines sneering at everything and putting everything down, but that’s for people who are weak and insecure– people who are scared to open themselves up to criticism by committing to a position or creating anything. That’s not a very good gameplan for being a happy person, because when your whole approach to life is “I don’t like thing,” how can you be happy? Sure, when you’re positive you have to put up with the bullshit thrown at you by negative dickfaces, but you’re way better off dealing with the attacks of negative assholes than you are being one yourself.