So, let’s talk about PWR BTTM and why what’s happened the last few weeks sucks. I realize that as cisgender male with no real connection to the LGBTQ community I’m apart from a lot of this business, but as a fan I can’t help but feel disappointed.The duo has come under serious allegation, with Ben Hopkins accused of “sexual assault and predatory advances on multiple occasions.”.With one witness claiming “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘no’s’ and without warning or consent,” Adding that they had also been told that Hopkins made “unwanted advances on minors despite knowing their age.”
First off, no one should ever treat anyone that way, end of discussion. But to be a punk band whose work is heavily inspired by queer culture and openly advocates for queer rights and act like this within the LGBTQ community is not only immoral it’s also hypocritical. It’s the equivalent of Joe Strummer moonlighting as a union buster or if Rise Against owned a factory farm. Punk is the genre of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, to go back on your word is punk rock heresy, no one comes back from it and for PWR BTTM that’s a shame.
They’re an amazing band. From the first time I heard the punchy Low Fi hook of Ugly Cherries, a light snapped on in my brain. They somehow infused punk with a sense of musicality, opting to experiment on basic rhythms and chords instead of the over-saturated four chord Pop Punk that has ruled the stage for so long. Adding to that are their lyrics, which express wells of emotion through surprisingly casual language, take this excerpt from West Texas for example “You left New York for West Texas/To avoid all of your exes/How ironic but that is your thing.” Add to that their glam rock aesthetic which proudly defies gender norms that gives them the perfect edge and the wheels begin to turn about just how big this band could have been. Their songs are intoxicating, equal parts hypnotic melody, and escalating vocals creating exquisitely aggressive overtones. I was genuinely excited to hear what the duo would do with their new album Pageant.
So as a fan, what do you do now? Their music remains the same as it was before the allegations and there has yet to be any real proof behind the allegations leveled at Ben Hopkins. But something has been lost; the band was dropped by their label, management, and even opening acts. They’ve canceled their international tour and a lot of other tour dates, all of which were in support of Pageant which is now unavailable on services such as ITunes and Spotify. For better or worse, it seems like PWR BTTM is on their way out, at least for now. It’s sad to see a band that was heralded as the next big rock group, the light at the end of the ever-elongating tunnel that is this drought of rock music, leaving only a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. There are many dialogues to be had about PWR BTTM going forward. Is it still morally acceptable to listen to their music? Was this the best way to handle allegations with little proof behind them? How do you separate the artist and their work? But for now, I think it’s OK to do a little grieving.