When it comes to greek punk in the 80s there is no fun. Things are dead serious. In contrast to the famous scenes of britain and usa, greek punk encompasses everything that punk was supposed to be in the first place. Indeed the early greek punk scene is characterised by all the integrity and sense of purpose that punk stands for. That scene (early 80s) can only be related to the anarcho punk scene in Britain and the Dead Kennedys in the USA. While young british and americans were busy criticising Thatcher and Reagan, young greeks who had just come out of a seven year old dictatorhip and were returning into a corrupt democracy, infested with the same elites that always ruled that place, and had not only no idea on how to help this place but clearly no intention whatsoever.
If there exists a theory whereby the image of popular culture is indicative of the social condition of a country, then if we examine three punk scenes, the greek – the british – the californian, we can make the following observations and, accordingly, come to the following conclusions. In greece, all punk bands are miserable, disappointed of everything, hateful. In britain, there are some bands that are similar to the greek bands (crass,conflict, subhumans, a huge underground scene), many punk bands which occasionally have some social concerns (the clash, stiff little fingers, adverts,…) and many bands which are drunken wrecks (GBH, anti-nowhere league, exploited, …). In california, there are no bands in the first category, except maybe Bad Religion who have thoughtful lyrics and express genuine social dysphoria, or Agent Orange. All other bands live in their own personal world of suburbia whose main problem are their parents, who don’t know what to do with their money and argue with their children because of their low grades. Occasionaly some express some social concerns but mainly they talk about skates and bad parents (see, D.I. “no moms”, Descendents “parents”). From the above one could come to the conclusion that greek society is the most shitty of all.
> In greece, we are talking about a deeply depressed and alienated society. Since democracy has been established, greece leaped from being poor and miserable to being somewhat rich and miserable. It suddenly espoused the american way of life, without being prepared to do that. When you present the potential for fast wealth to a country that have always been deprived, it will grab it and put everything else aside. When you are starving you envy what your neighbour has. When you have been backstabbed so many times from friends and enemies (indigenous and foreign) in the past, you do not have trust. When you are used in having nothing and the chance appears to have everything , you have no feelings of altruism. This is the face of Greece today: rich on consumer products, stupid, untrustful, selfish, corrupt. Alienated. However, the period this started to materialise was the early 80s. Greece had all the criteria to become what it is today (all the forementioned) when it fully entered the capitalist world.
In this context the first punk groups emerged. I am not familiar with the whole punk history of greece, since I was a kid during that period, so I will just refer to some of the most important bands. Genia tou Haous (chaos generation), Adiexodo (dead end), EX-Humans, Stress, Anti, Trypes (holes).
Genia tou Haous has been the most important band in Greece, because it had an original sound that distanced it from all other bands. They were born in 1982 and died in 1989. In this period they released two extraordinarily perfect albums and a split with Adiexodo. I also have some demos of the band but I do not know whether they were officially released. Even though in their first appearances their influences have been crystal clear (the song “mpastardokratia” (bastardocracy) has the exact same riff and rhythm as Adicts’ “Easy way out”), their first eponymous album is more musical than any other punk album of the time. Each song is dressed in intricate orchestrations and a pessimistic atmosphere. The song lyrics refer to desolation, desperation, drug adiction and alienation. Out of their demos, the song “isovia monoi” (isolated for life) is a beautiful poem about the loneliness experienced by people who comprehend the vanity and ugliness of the world as it is and refuse to conform with it. The first album is one of the best albums in punk ever. Of course, since lyrics are in greek it is unknown to the rest of the world. Songs like “psihres toxines” and “ta parasima tou paradisou” are some of the most important songs ever written. Songs, not punk songs. Their second and final album (Requiem) contains more simplistic but, nevertheless, shattering compositions. In a recent interview, one of the band’s members T. Iliakopoulos believes that their break up in 1989 was a decent thing to do inside an indiferent scene and sees the recent revival of punk as a well-orchestrated farce of multinational corporations (read interview here) and a new attempt to turn punk into a trend and “steal its sting” as CRASS would say!
Adieksodo is another great band from the early eighties with a singer the punk scene has never seen before. The sound is more typical punk sound and I can trace influences from bands like TSOL, Social Distortion or other american bands (in songs like “Diprosopa Sistimata” and especially “Exakrivosi Stihion”). The band’s sound is extremely raw and violent and certainly more brutal than any other band of the time, not only in greece. They were formed in 1983 and broke up in 1986 after the release of their masterpiece “38 hiliosta” (38 milimeters). Musically they are raw and angry with no melody at all. Lyrically they are about police violence, they attack institutions like family and church, criticism on partisanship and youth especially against communist youth. The song “38 hiliosta” is a devastating song which could only be writen by a greek band and talks about the murder ot anarchists by the police and the the orchestrated hypocrisy of the media and the greek justice system. Other impressive songs are “diprosopa systimata” (two-faced systems), “kommatiko mantri”, “Vyzantino”…
Stress was the last of the three greater athenian greek bands. Formed in 1981 they released their one and only album, “O ihos tis anasfalias” (the sound of insecurity) in 1985. Their sound, compared to Genia tou haous and Adieksodo, is a more typical punk sound. They have more high-pitched vocals, more prime sound and are considerably faster. However, like all other greek punk bands, influences from british bands like “the adicts” are ubiguitus. The song “1984 (para kati)” is again extremely similar to “Easy way out”. Their most famous song is “Leros“, which is about the aegean island’s mental institution were human rights violation was the eveyday routine. Some of the members moved on to form Panx Romana after the band broke up.
EX-Humans was a band with a more straight forward hardcore-punk sound. Their album “Anofeli epiviosi” (futile survival, 1984), has in my opinion some of the best music in the old punk scene. However, the vocals sound lifeless on some tracks and tend to overshadow the brilliance of this album (this is a personal observation, however, and anyway punk was never meant to be about beauty). Now that I come to think of it it is pretty “punk” that the vocals sound the way they do. Here one of the hymns in greek punk music is included, the song “pote xana” (never again). The alteration in the end of “Se ida na klais”(I saw you cry), a fantastic song, is phenomenal and I don’t think I have heard similar in my life! Songs deal with war, enlistment and despair but also hope (in songs like “to dihty” (the net) and “ex-humans”).
ANTI is the strangest of all greek punk bands because instead of guitars they have keyboards and instead of drums a drum-machine. The band had definetely the most ironic and sarcastic lyrics ever written. Their sole official release came many years after their formation, in 1990. The band has its own personality which was, nevertheless, influenced by the punk and new wave scene. Many songs are tragic and sound like recurring nightmares. Other songs sound like a guilty conscience. All of the songs are critical of the state power. Both lyrically and musically Anti were ahed of their time. Every single song has a remarkable structure with one briliant melody being succeeded by another even better, and so on. The lyrics in every single song, especially in their 1990 album, are sociological diatribes. A unique band indeed.
Trypes was a briliant band with a post-punk sound. In contrast to the forementioned bands, trypes enjoyed mainstream success and their career lasted until 1999. This can be attributed firstly, to employing a less offensive and threatening attitude towards the state and secondly, to the fact that their sound was more conventional and easy listening. That said, I do not imply that they were less aware of the abjection of greek society or that they were less critical, just that they did not do it in an overt way. Musically, especially in their eponymous album, they sound like early ‘Gang of Four’ (e.g. compare “taxidiara psihi” with “damaged goods”). Gradually they shaped their own style and all their susequent records are among the best albums of greek rock music. They released the eponymous album in 1985, “Party ston 13o orofo” (party at the 13th floor) in 1987, “ston paradiso“ (in paradise” in 1990, “9 pliromena tragoudia” (9 paid songs) in 1993, “kefali gemato hrysafi” (head full of gold) in 1996 and “mes’ti nyhta ton allon” (into the night of others) in 1999, one better than the other. Their lyrics have always been mostly poetic and deal with love, loneliness, death, the downfall of greek society and art and established institutions. Their guitarist (Babis Papadopoulos) and Bassist (Giorgos Karras) have decorated each song with the most clever and beautiful orchestrations. The singer (Giannis Aggelakas) has one of the most distinct voices and singing styles ever. Every record deserves a separate reference. Maybe some other time.
I finish this post with some lyrics from Genia tou Haous first album, which summarise the concerns of a whole scene. Those speaking greek will appreciate them more. The translation, admittedly, fails to capture the quality and desperation of the original:
“Ίσως να μην είναι μόνο ο μπάτσος ο εχθρός,
ίσως οχι η εξουσία, η ανεργία, τα σχολεία ίσως οχι ο στρατός…
ίσως, ο μεγαλύτερος εχθρός,
να ‘ναι η φρικτή ασημαντότητα, που χαρακώνει τη ζωή σου,
να ‘ναι η φρικτή ασημαντότητα, στην αποξένωση της μεγαλούπολης…” (Γενιά του Χαους)
(translation) Maybe the cop is not the only enemy, maybe not the authority, the unemployment, the schools, maybe not the army…maybe, the greatest enemy, is the horrible insignificance, that scars your life, the horrible insignificance, in the alienation of the city. (Chaos Generation)