To Live Outside the Law, You must be Honest

This is a review of a review, as it were. Last week, Helter Skelter ran an article by Neeharika Palaka on the Bombay punk group, the Riot Peddlers. I haven’t heard them, so I can’t comment on their music, but Ms. Palaka makes a point that’s worth restating as many times as it takes for it to be heard above the clamour of self-congratulation that surrounds anything to do with “local” music in India.

The gist of her argument is that, for a band who bill themselves as “hardcore punk”, the Peddlers tread a path that is depressingly well-worn; in short, they aim for a piece of (according to her) the same cosy five-club niche as every other band in the country, and that’s not very “punk” of them at all.

If this is true, then it’s hardly surprising. Even if Ms. Palaka is wrong about the Peddlers specifically, her broader point stands, that no matter how subversive Indian bands like to paint themselves, they still end up working within the same F&B-ruled network which they believe is the only hand which can feed them, and, therefore, the hand they mustn’t bite.

This reduces rebellion to something that goes with dinner and drinks, of course, but real rebellion requires a level of imagination, commitment, and hardship that is clearly too much to ask of either the bands or their promoters.

It’s easier to pretend instead, and there’s a whole industry that has been built around – at a price – keeping that pretence alive. The howl that went up with Ms. Palaka’s piece is the sound of people plugging their ears with their fingers, hoping their outrage will drown out the unpleasant knocking of reality.

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4 thoughts on “To Live Outside the Law, You must be Honest

  1. Riot Peddlers are definetly not a hardcore band or punk really……more of a metal band, with perhaps some influence from the punk and hardcore scene.

  2. Rachel, Riot Peddlers are most definitely a hardcore band, at least musically. Now whether or not they’re ‘true punk’ is a completely different argument.

    And as for the review, I think the barbs are misplaced. At least two of the people in Riot Peddlers have been around since the days of Razz and have been involved in the ‘get 5 bands to pool in money and set up a fucking gig’ DIY scene for ages. I don’t think they’ve ever played at HRC or Blue Frog and I don’t think they ever intend to. The people involved have been playing music and just plugging away long before corporate sponsorships and pub gigs even happened in Bombay.

    But even if all that was false and the Riot Peddlers were pretend rock, how do you take a review seriously when it includes this line: “instead of feeling anarchically in control of everything like how punk is supposed to make you feel.”

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