Bands in DC: an overview of Damaged City Fest and the DC Hardcore Scene

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Coke Bust at DCF 2016 (photo by Farrah Skeiky)

[Part of a recurring series Anna and I are doing, focusing on certain scenes in various parts of the country – let us know if you want to take part and share your scene’s stories]

All photos courtesy Farrah Skeiky.

DC has always kind of been a mecca for hardcore – I mean, Minor Threat, Void, Bad Brains, Government Issue, and tons more sprung from this scene in the 80s. The label started by Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye, Dischord Records, became an extremely prolific and pivotal aspect of DC hardcore and is still maintained today.  Now, DC is still producing copious amounts of punk bands, including but not limited to bands like Stand Off, Protester, Red Death, and Genocide Pact (3 of which include Connor Donegan, who somehow manages to be everywhere at once, and his resume includes Last Words, Double Negative, Line Of Sight, Soft Grip, Abuse., and probably a million others I’m forgetting. Like damn dude where do you get all this time?). The scene is definitely worth looking into, and one of the gems of DC is Damaged City Fest.

DCF has been an ongoing festival, based in Washington, DC, since 2013, run by Chris Moore and NickTape from Coke Bust. Some of the headliners include Negative Approach, Infest, Los Crudos, Culo, and other seminal bands. There’s also always an incredible lineup of smaller DIY bands that cover nearly every subgenre of punk and hardcore from all corners of the US [and even Europe and Japan] making it an extremely inclusive event. Bands like SHIT (Canada), Pure Disgust (DC), Chain Rank (Boston), Holder’s Scar (NC) and Youth Avoiders (France) have been some of my favorite I’ve seen in my two years of attendance. The lineup is also incredibly inclusive and is one of very few festivals that have such a strong female fronted (or female members) and queer band presence.When I first went to DCF in 2015, the headliners were Government Warning (a band I thought I’d never see, and I needed an inhaler after being front row for their set), The Mob, and Career Suicide. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced – it was one of the first times I’d ever felt welcomed at a punk show. Kenny from Government Warning even flung me on his shoulders when they played “Arrested” and he saw the crowd drop me after a fleeting attempt at crowd surfing. This year was no different, and it was incredible to scream along to songs by legends like Zero Boys and The Avengers, as well as see all my friends from all over the country. Chris and Nick are incredible dudes, and Chris allowed me to ask some questions about the festival for our website.

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Government Warning at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

What made you want to do a festival like Damaged City Fest?
Playing and going to a bunch of different punk festivals and realizing DC didn’t have anything like that. It was an excuse to bring bands to DC that don’t normally come to DC. Honestly, 5 years ago, no one wanted to fucking go there. I had to beg bands to come there. They’d be like, “we’re playing Baltimore and Richmond, we don’t have time to go there.” The punk scene in DC sucked for a really long time. I was like, maybe if we do this big thing, we can show people that DC has a lot of cool punk bands and it’s a cool place  to play.

Is there a lot of community support?
For sure. A ton. There’s 15-20 punk kids from DC who help with various aspects of the fest. It’s a huge community effort. Aside from the punk kids, the people who let us use the churches and the bars. People at copy shops. People seem stoked on it. It’s cool. It seems to me that it’s a pretty positive thing.

Is there a core group of people behind the fest?
It’s mainly me and Nick who sings for Coke Bust, but there’s probably maybe 4 or 5 other people that do a lot of important things that make sure it runs smoothly.

What are your favorite DC bands?
Right now? Kombat is fucking great. Stuck Pigs. Those are newer bands. I really dig this band a lot people don’t talk about, they’re not necessarily hardcore. they’re called
Puff Pieces. When I first heard them I was like, this sounds like Big Boys meets early Talking Heads. They’re awesome and just put out an LP that’s totally sick. There are so many good DC punk bands. Sem Hastro, Iron Cages, Unknown Threat, Priests I fucking love. Gauche. Flasher. There’s so many good bands in DC and there’s an influx of younger kids.

That’s a great thing about DC – the support from younger kids. I don’t think New York has a ton of younger kids coming to shows.
It’s hard when you don’t have a lot of all ages venues. That’s a weird concept, but when I think of New York, I don’t think a lot of young kids come to punk shows up here so it
doesn’t feel needed. I think there would be more if it was more accessible.

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Stand Off at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

What bands are you in?
Tonight, I’m playing in the Rememberables. I play drums in Coke Bust, Sick Fix, DOC and Repulsion.

What bands would you like to have in the future?
Every year I ask the Marked Men and Limp Wrist so I’ll probably try and ask them again next year regardless of what they say. I really really wanted The Kids to play this year. We were pretty close but they got into some immigration trouble on their last tour, which wasn’t their fault. If we could figure that out I  would love to get them. Repulsion
played Ieperfest and there were some bands that canceled and The Kids got added. but it couldn’t be [The Kids], because there were a lot of hardcore bands playing, but I guess didn’t really make sense for Repulsion either. But then these old dudes get onstage, don’t say a word. Just play. It was song, song, song. No stopping, Ramones style. Quick break, song, song, break. And then it was 20-25 minuets and they were done. And it was so sick.

What band would you have play that isn’t necessarily around? Like, for a dream lineup.
Gauze, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen.

I think Van Halen still play.
They do. They did a tour last year. When they first got back together with David Lee Roth I went to see them with my mom.

What’s your favorite set you’ve seen at DCF?
I don’t know what my favorite was, but the most intense feeling I got watching a band was the first year and watching Negative Approach play. They were the last band of the
fest. I was so stressed out the whole time, I was like, “I hope people come, I hope the church doesn’t get destroyed, I hope Negative Approach aren’t bummed.” And so they start to play, and I got chills down my back. I was like, cool, there’s a lot of people here, they’re fucking sick, it’s going well.

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Dame at DCF 2016 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

So would you say the stress is the biggest challenge?
Yeah, I think that’s something I struggle with every year. I always think I’m one step ahead of the game, that things aren’t gonna slip through the cracks. But then the shit
this year, with the dude who came on the stage, when you’re playing a DIY show in a borrowed space you’re at the mercy of that space and the legalities of what you’re doing. At any moment, the fire marshall could come, and be like, “hey you don’t have a permit for this or that.”

That situation was diffused, right?
Yeah, but he called the cops every hour for the rest of the day so I was outside a bunch of times talking to the cops. It was even more frustrating because he was so hysterical
and inconsolable but when the cops came, the neighbor was being really nice and I was like, “fuck you man.” He was so fucking two faced. He had that “I’m not doing anything wrong” face.

What do you think helps DC retain its cohesion?
I think DC has a good energy to it. I think when it’s bad, its really bad, but that makes you want to do something cool, makes you wanna be productive. And then when it’s
good, it’s really fucking good, and even more driving. You’re like, “oh fuck, all my friends are doing cool productive things, I wanna do that too.” And it’s like, even though
it’s like a major city, the punk scene is very bare bones. We don’t have any consistencies. We’re constantly losing spaces and trying to find a new restaurant to convince that they’ll get more business if they do shows there, however true it may be. In a way it’s frustrating but it keeps things exciting. People being relatively approachable and supportive of each other makes you wanna continue to do things.

What’s the most rewarding part of the fest for you?
Just hearing people say that they had a good time. Even it’s just one person. But alternately, the most gut wrenching thing is someone saying they didn’t have a good time, even if it’s just one person. It’s stupid because even if you do a regular show there’s no way everyone is gonna be pumped. but it’s something I’m struggling with, trying to
realize I can’t make everyone happy.

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Pure Disgust at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

Word Attack: Interview with Steve & Tony from The Adolescents

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I ran into Steve Soto from The Adolescents by chance when my band opened up for Channel  3 in Brooklyn last week. The Adolescents had posted the article Anna and I wrote, and not only had he read it, he praised it incredibly highly. He also agreed to let me interview him, and was one of the most genuine, down to earth people I’ve ever spoken with. The Adolescents fucking blew me away when I saw them that night at Black and Blue Bowl as well – playing all of the greatest songs off their self titled record along with some newer ones. Highly recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance, because they still fucking have it. Anyway…

How often do you get the joke “when are you going to grow up?”
All the time. We always say, people make comments about that all the time, but does anyone ever ask the Circle Jerks when they’re gonna stop jerking off?

What did you take from the other bands you’ve been in for The Adolescents?
I didn’t really take anything from Agent Orange into the Adolescents. I’d say, when I was in Agent Orange, the Adolescents was what I wanted, not what I was doing in Agent Orange. I did it with people on the same page as me. I love Mike [Palm] and Mike’s a great writer. Mike didn’t want any other input but his own as far as writing. It works and it’s great, I love their band, and I still think they’re amazing. But at some point I wanted to be in a band with two guitar players, I was listening to Give Em Enough Rope by the Clash, I was like, “I have to have two guitar players.” That was another record you mentioned, to me that’s the best Clash record. So there were things like that went into [The Adolescents], I definitely wanted two guitar players, that was the main thing I wanted when the Adolescents started. I wanted to be in a band with Tony. We had met when we were kids, we met at a show. I had tried to get Rikk [Agnew] to start a band with him when I was still in Agent Orange. Someone needed to start a band with him. Then I was like, “fuck it, I’m gonna do it.” That’s how we started.

What other bands were you in?
I play in Manic Hispanic and CJ Ramone’s band. I play in Punk Rock Karaoke with the illustrious Stan Lee [of the Dickies], Greg Hetson of Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks. Me and Jonny [Wickersham] from Social Distortion have a band called The Black Diamond Riders that’s all 60s soul covers, the other guys from his old band The Cadillac Tramps are in that band. I do solo stuff, I just released a solo record that’s more American stuff. I just did a European tour with Kevin Seconds. Kevin and I are about to do a record together, acoustic stuff, we had a blast going on that tour. We played together, not like solo. That’s what I got going on right now. I think that’s it.

You were in Legal Weapon, too, right?
Yeah a long time ago. Just for a year or so.

How did your contemporaries influence you?
My contemporaries? They were more like, we were watching each other. I don’t think there was a lot of influence. That’s the great thing about Southern California punk rock back then, we didn’t sound like the Circle Jerks, TSOL didn’t sound like us, Agent Orange didn’t sound like anything. There wasn’t a distinct sound. There was a running thread, but none of those bands sound alike.

So it was more of a support system?
Exactly. We were all friends, we all saw each others’ bands, we all loved each others’ bands, but I don’t think we all sounded like each other.

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me and the two coolest dudes.

 

What’s the best show you’ve ever seen?
I saw The Cramps, and it was supposed to be Redd Kross. I went mostly to see Redd Kross, because I love those guys and we were all friends, we were all really young. There were all these great LA bands but the ones in our age group…Agent Orange met Red Kross early on, we were all teenagers and there were other bands in their 20s. But I saw The Cramps at the Whisky and they were so good. I’d heard the records and I liked them, but it was such an amazing show I just walked out floored. It was 1978, or maybe the beginning of 79. Tony tried to get onstage and Lux grabbed him by the head, and he’s shoving Tony’s head [into his crotch] and Tony’s fighting to get away. And he rolls away, flops to another part of the side of the stage, and Bryan Gregory didn’t see him, and turned around and stepped right on Tony’s hand. Tony had to get stitches from getting smashed with a stiletto heel. It was crazy but they were so good. I’ve seen so many great shows, but that one always stands out in my head as the best. I’ve seen the Circle Jerks a million times and I’ve loved every show I’ve ever seen. When they filmed them for the Decline of Western Civilization, with Roger in the band, every show was fucking amazing. I saw the Black Flag show where Ron quit, I’ve seen some iconic shows. I saw the Clash which is the one good thing about being old.

Piggybacking on that…my boyfriend told me about Tony acting out at the premiere of The Decline
That wasn’t The Decline premiere. That was the Youth Brigade movie…Another State of Mind.

Remind me to call him out on that. But what happened?
The Stern brothers [of Youth Brigade] rented out a theater in Hollywood. I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard this from a million friends that were…Tony knocked the projector over. Might’ve been on purpose, probably wasn’t, actually it was. He knocked the projector over, a bunch of people swarmed him of course, they were beating him, they were having him arrested and Shawn Stern stopped them from arresting him. And the guys that made the movie were trying to get him in more trouble, but Shawn made it go away because he was looking out for Tony.

What are your favorite records ever?
Ever? Give Em Enough Rope. Quadrophenia, by The Who.

I saw them play that in its entirety.
I haven’t seen them since ’81. Also, Group Sex by the Circle Jerks. First Generation X album. Any of the Replacements albums, I think all the early ones are great, Sorry Ma is Great, I’m a huge Let It Be guy. I mean, Pet Sounds. I could go back and forth between that and punk rock. There’s a record by a band called Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams’ first band. The Strangers Almanac record, I listen to that all the time.

What about newer bands?
Oh, what, you mean like Night Birds? Mean Jeans, I like, Night Birds record I like. There’s a band called The Croissants from Sacramento that’s fucking amazing. Off the top of my head there’s those. The Croissants are my favorite band I’ve seen in the past year, live they’re so much fun.

What sets you apart from other bands from your time? Why do you think kids are still picking up that record?
Because our record didn’t get dated. We weren’t singing about Reagan, we weren’t singing about the 80s. We were singing about being disenfranchised teenagers. That’s still a thing today, all the shit we were singing about, kids are still dealing with today.

Yeah I first heard that record when I was 13.
Yeah. That’s why I think we still like doing it. Because kids come to see us.

Are you working on any new stuff with Adolescents or otherwise?
Adolescents new record is coming out July 8. We put out like 5 records in the past 6 years.

What makes you keep making records?
Besides writing a lot of songs? I just write a lot, Tony writes a lot. We started in mid February, finished the Adolescents record in mid march, I did my solo record end of March, went on tour with Kevin, the day after I got back we did a CJ Ramone record, we just finished that, like…we got on the plane [to NYC] the day after we finished. Three records in eight weeks.

How have the lineup changes over the years impacted your sound?
We’ve had mostly the same lineup for the past three records except for Ian, the new guitar player. He came in almost two years ago. Dan’s been with us for five or six years. He plays a big part. He used to play in a band with Jack from TSOL and that’s when we met when we were younger. Then he got married and had a family and that’s when he stopped playing. We used to play in this joke band, called Flock of Goo Goo with the singer of Cadillac Tramps. We only played in Long Beach on New Year’s Eve. But I was always like, fuck that’s crazy, that’s all he does. So when his kids got older, his business built up and was running on its own, we started being like…come on man. First he was just supposed to go to Brazil with us, our guitar player couldn’t go, and he did three shows and then that was the carrot…we started being like, “how about going on an east coast tour for ten days?” Okay. Then it turned into a 6 week European tour. Here he is now. The Agnew brothers guitar team was amazing, I have nothing but crazy respect to their contributions to the band, especially Rikk’s songwriting which was far beyond anything else at the time.

Do you think you’ve retained the same sound?
I think Dan’s one of those guys who came up listening to Frank and Rikk. He plays as good as Frank. So I think we totally have the same sound. Drumming wise, it’s better, no offense to Casey. He was a great singer for DI, but every time we’d do reunion shows he’d come in and it was like he hadn’t played drums for three years. His drumming on the blue album is classic, he just didn’t keep it up. Mike, our drummer, is sick. We’ve had some others but he’s the best. He plays in Death By Stereo. I think we sound better than ever, mostly because everyone knows what they’re doing.

I was watching a video from 1982 earlier. Excited to see the difference between then and now.
There’s a definite difference. We’ve done a few live records and they’re usually sloppy. It’s not sloppy anymore.

[I was also able to ask Tony a question later, as follows]

Is it fair to say some of the motivation behind songs like “Wrecking Crew” and “Kids of the Black Hole” carried into your work with kids?
Definitely. I’m, for a lot of people, a liaison to getting help. I talk to my kids, my students, we work a lot on friendship, communication, and social skills. Problem solving. I get kids who come to me and I can spot a person with Asperger’s the way people can spot rain clouds. I can tell very quickly anywhere on the spectrum. I can help get them help and support with scripts and routines.

[For reference, this is the video I mentioned]

Just A Bunch of Important Punk Records

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UPDATE 5/11 10:20 AM: wow, thanks to everyone for sharing and reading! Didn’t expect this kind of response. A little disclaimer: we are aware there are some records left off. That was done purposely either because of our own preferences, or because RS already listed them. Yeah, bands like The Exploited, Sex Pistols, etc are extremely important to punk in general, but this is more of a list of our own personal albums. We wrote this list as a counter to Rolling Stone – if you don’t like our list, I suggest you do the same and write your own.

By now, I’m sure y’all have seen the horrendous “top 40 punk albums” Rolling Stone listed. While there are a lot of good ones on there, they left out a bunch of great records. And I mean, to be fair, so did we – it’s impossible to actually list all of the great punk records. I’ll probably decide in a couple of weeks that I left out a band or two and have to revisit it. I don’t even know how many are in this list. Also, keep in mind, none of these are in order. I can’t rank albums. Anyway, my best friend Anna Theodora (AT) and I (AK) decided to put our own list together, because clearly, we know better. And I’m sure y’all do too. This is a “living list” – there’s always going to be more records to add.

The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)

This is the same band that wrote the “song so nice, John Peel played it twice” and ultimately got tattooed across his gravestone (the famous DJ also was lowered to said  grave with the song playing) – “Teenage Kicks.” This is arguably one of the greatest pop songs of all time, but the Undertones self titled album had all the same punk attitude as The Ramones and The Clash. Pop jams like “Here Comes The Summer” and “Get Over You” fit right in with the more punk infused songs like “Male Model” and “Family Entertainment.” This Belfast based band managed to write upbeat, almost “cute” songs even being in the center of the Troubles while bands like Stiff Little Fingers wrote more anti-war protest songs. The album is dripping with harmonies, mod inspired licks, and uplifting verses not found in other punk bands from the time. (AK)

Ramones – Leave Home (1977)

Note: this is for the original release featuring “Carbona Not Glue”

A lot of people would put Ramones or Rocket To Russia here, but with the ultimate huffer jam “Carbona Not Glue” (not to be confused with the OG “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”), impeccable middle finger “Glad To See You Go,” and theme for the mentally ill “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” I can only put the Ramones’ sophomore album here. A little more refined than their self-titled debut, but still a little dirtier than Rocket To Russia, Leave Home is full of the 3 chord Ramones staples everyone knows and loves. Featuring a cover of “California Sun” (Henry Glover) and one of the best Ramones’ love songs of all time, “Oh Oh I Love Her So,” this album stays true to the first record’s 60’s influenced lyrics and snotty teenage attitude. The song “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl” definitely shows a maturity in their songwriting, though, with an intro that almost doesn’t fit with the rest of the song, and an allusion to “Great Big Kiss” by the Shangri-Las. Of course, a Ramones album is incomplete without a song about a punk girl with a two syllable name, and “Suzy Is A Headbanger” covers that. Overall, this is an album to play LOUD and sing along to – and with the repetitive lyrics the Ramones have, that’s not hard. (AK)

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Ramones – Rocket To Russia (1977)

When I was a kid, my parents would play the classic rock station in our car, and when “I Wanna be Sedated” would come on, I’d excitedly bounce in my car seat and squeak along to what I thought were the words, improvising choruses and verses and dancing in place. When I was 11, I loved Green Day. American Idiot had just come out (which I know is dating me), and it was in constant rotation in my little CD player, and I listened with the rapt attention that only a starry-eyed preteen could have. My dad helpfully suggested I should check out the Ramones – “they’re from here, this whole punk thing started right where you live.” I was sold. One sunny Saturday, I collected all of my dimes and quarters and dollar bills I had saved from my allowance, biked to my neighborhood’s music store, grabbed a copy of Rocket to Russia and got on my tip toes to place it on the counter, while painstakingly counting out my small bills and loose change. I murmured an awkward apology to the notoriously grumpy guy manning the register who laughed and said, “don’t apologize! This is punk rock!” I was hooked from then on. 

Nothing in this review has spoken to the musical quality of this album, but the Ramones never were about that. The energy and the passion behind the three chords and the feeling that anyone could do this if they wanted to was what roped me in and held me there, and I know I’m far from speaking for myself. This album opened my eyes and led me to what has absolutely shaped my life and I couldn’t be more thankful that a bunch of dudes from Queens who didn’t like each other all that much decided to get on the stage at CBGBs and count out that “1-2-3-4.” The world is better off for it. (AT)

Minor Threat – Complete Discography (1989)

Yeah, yeah – compilation albums shouldn’t count. However, as one of the most important hardcore bands of all time, it’s impossible to pinpoint just one of Minor Threat’s releases. This compilation includes all of their greatest songs, like “Filler” and the eponymous “Minor Threat” and is peppered with covers by bands like Wire and The Standells. Minor Threat paved the way for the straightedge scene, with their “don’t smoke/don’t drink/don’t fuck” (“Out Of Step”) attitude and seriously contributed to the Washington, DC, hardcore scene. Their own record label, Dischord, released influential bands like Void, Government Issue, and Ian MacKaye’s brother Alec’s band, The Faith. (AK)

Black Flag – Damaged (1981) and My War (1984)

This was a difficult decision for me to make so I said fuck it – both of these albums are incredibly fucking solid, and extremely different for being released so close together. On Damaged, you can tell they’re young kids trying to get the hang of this whole music thing. Black Flag had been around for a couple of years, but this was their first LP. Considering that, some of the best Black Flag songs are on here. It starts off with a ripping guitar intro from Greg Ginn with “Rise Above,” the chorus filled with group chants you have to yell along to. “TV Party” is anthemic of teenagers partying in their parents’ basements, trying to delay boredom by drinking and watching TV. The album also includes songs previously sung by their old singers Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Ron Reyes, and Dez Candena – including “Gimme Gimme Gimme” (one of the best drum songs of all time), “Depression,” and “Police Story,” an anti-cop slammer.

My War begins with one of the greatest punk build ups ever with the title track, with Rollins screeching “MY WAR!” If you’ve ever been betrayed by someone you trusted, you’ve probably screamed along to this song. You can tell that in a short time, the band has matured – less songs about getting fucked up, more songs about mental illness (“Depression” on Damaged is another). That’s one of my favorite things about Black Flag. Their songs get dark, and they aren’t afraid to talk about subjects other bands only lightly touch on. While the Ramones definitely have a lot of references to Joey Ramone’s mental instability, they do it in a more humorous way. Songs like “Can’t Decide” and “Beat My Head Against The Wall” bring up anxiety and depression in a darker, more serious tone. Their maturity also may be due in part to the greatest punk drummer, Bill Stevenson, who played on this record. (AK)

Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

Released by Chiswick Records (The 101’ers, Nipple Erectors, Johnny Moped, Motorhead), this album might have one of the most highly regarded punk love songs – the aptly named “Love Song.” The Damned, with their stage names (Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, Algy Ward), are darker than some of the other bands of their time, even verging a bit on the goth side of punk. “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” is a perfect example of them experimenting with goth rock, with heavy keys and reverb on the vocals. This album includes a cover of “Looking at You” by MC5, but the Damned speed it up, Vanian’s vocals wailing over the guitar and pounding drums, truly making it their own song. It would also be impossible to discuss Machine Gun Etiquette without discussing the masterpiece that is “Smash It Up pts 1 & 2” – part one is an instrumental, beautiful segment and flows perfectly into part two. Part two kicks in and makes you wanna dance, taking it from something pretty to a full on rock n roll song with driving drums. Fuck Rolling Stone magazine for skipping over this treasure of an album. (AK)

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Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material (1979)

This is one of the most important protest records of all time – Bob Dylan, step aside. Stiff Little Fingers are a band born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – a period of civil war within the country between the Catholics and Protestants. This album completely reflects the issues they were accustomed to with songs like “Wasted Life”  and “Suspect Device,” rebelling against the propaganda surrounding them. Even the typical punk love song – “Barbed Wire Love” – is about finding your lover amongst the rubble and fighting hand in hand. “Alternative Ulster” is the ultimate war cry for the youth of Northern Ireland in this time period, about taking back your city.  For a bunch of kids in their early 20s, this is an extremely mature album. This album is a wake up call to reality amongst other records released the same year like The Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette and even Belfast band The Undertones’ self titled album, that focus more on teen angst and love songs. This is the band that gave Northern Ireland a voice and spawned bands like Rudi, Protex, and even The Undertones. (AK)

The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope (1978)

I guess most people would put London Calling here, but I’m not most people. I mean, “Safe European Home”? How can you hear that song and not want to hear the whole album? The record drives all the way through, playing a little with songs with similar chord progressions that are a little more refined than tracks like “Janie Jones” and “White Riot.”  It branches out a little bit from the self titled, which is more punk, I guess, but this album grabs you from the get-go. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ affinity for reggae shines through without being in-your-face like Sandinista! with shoutouts to Jamaica in the first track. It ends with “All The Young Punks,” stays true to the title – Mick Jones screeching “all you YOUNG CUNTS” – and discusses what it’s like to be a struggling punk musician. And of course, there’s “Stay Free,” always a favorite, tattooed on the knuckles of punks everywhere. When I was a kid, my parents used to make me brush my teeth by singing “tooth brushing time” to the tune of “Drug Stabbing Time.” While this is by no means everyone’s go-to Clash album, it rocks the whole way through. It may not be the obvious choice, but, tell me you don’t get chills every time you hear “go easy, step lightly, stay free.” (AK)

The Jam – In The City (1977)

At the same time the Ramones were donning their leather jackets and Sid Vicious was stabbing safety pins through his cheek, Paul Weller and co. were wearing suits n’ ties, looking mod as fuck – which kind of makes it an arguable topic that they’re actually a punk band. However, listening to songs like “Eton Rifles,” “Going Underground,” and “All Mod Cons” might make you re-evaluate your standpoint on this argument. Picking just one Jam record was next to impossible for me – one of my favorite teachers of all time, my world history teacher, would play “This Is The Modern World” when we studied the modern world, and my dad’s favorite is Setting Sons. And I mean, picking Snap would be cheating. But after a serious mental debate, I settled on their debut. This album was like, ‘hey what’s up, hello, we’re The Jam, and we wish we were the Who but we’re too punk, so fuck you.’  Kicking it off with four chords and “ONE TWO THREE GO!” in “Art School,” the Jam immediately make their point. They’re here, they don’t give a fuck. They line themselves right in with bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys with “In The City,” a song which calls out police states, and the anti-gentrification anthem “Bricks and Mortar.” While may not necessarily filling the desire for angry, sloppy punk chords, In The City cannot possibly be described as anything less than a punk record. (AK)

The Heartbreakers – LAMF (1977)

While it may be the only studio album this band released, it influenced so many bands. Comprised with an impeccable lineup including the one and only Johnny Thunders, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, and Jerry Nolan, this album hits the nail on the head. This album immediately cuts to the chase with “Born To Lose,” an unforgettable song with a lazy guitar and drum intro. This album has all the heroin theme songs like “One Track Mind” (I said goddamn) and “Chinese Rocks” (co-written by Richard Hell and Dee Dee Ramone). Thunders’ Chuck Berry-worship guitar solos compliment the dirtiness of Lure’s power chords, and the album goes back and forth with their vocals. This record focuses on the sleaziness of the members – they were all well known junkies that just wanted to be loved. You can hear their upbringing on rock n roll but it’s played through dirty punk licks and blasting drums, courtesy of Nolan (who was in the New York Dolls with Thunders). All of the songs have their own bodies and can stand alone while also flowing perfectly into each other. While all the members bring their own individuality to the table, of course the spotlight is on Thunders – the trashiest, most tragic story of them all. He was born to lose, y’know? (AK)

Radio Birdman – Radios Appear (1978)

Australia doesn’t get enough love. I mean, they had The Saints, The New Christs, Hoodoo Gurus, Lime Spiders – but the shining star? Radio Birdman. Named after a misheard Iggy Pop lyric (actual lyric: “radio burnin’”), they are in your face, loud, and pure rock n’ roll in the form of punk chords, crashing drums, and loud vocals. The influence of Iggy is obvious in that they cover “TV Eye” but also in the overall attitude – they also borrow a lot from fellow Motor City band, MC5. And of course they shout Detroit out in “Murder City Nights,” a ripping song with a killer solo. The novelty surf track, “Aloha Steve and Danno,” rips a riff from the Hawaii Five-O theme, and the Blue Oyster Cult influence is apparent here. Radio Birdman are considered the forerunners of Australian punk and with a release like Radios Appear, it’s easy to see why. (AK)

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Descendents – Milo Goes To College (1982)

God, what a fucking solid album. All the way from the opening bass riff in “Myage” to the melodic guitar in “Jean Is Dead,” this is an album that consistently proves its worth. Milo is sprinkled with songs that somehow to pack a punch in less than a minute and aching heart jerkers like “Bikeage.” “Hope,” the rallying cry of the nice guy, is probably on every single college butthurt dude’s mix tape for the his best female friend who won’t notice his feelings. The album also has its ‘fuck you’s’ – “I’m Not A Loser,” dedicated to rich, ‘arrogant assholes,’ and “Parents,” which I personally blasted in my room my freshman year of high school every time my parents didn’t concede to my every whim. This album also has one of the greatest punk drummers of all time, Bill Stevenson. His blasting drums, under the fast powerchords Frank Navetta slams out, perfectly compliment Milo Aukerman’s angry yells protesting suburbia, drugged out frat dudes, and ex girlfriends. (AK)

Husker Du – New Day Rising (1985)

I guess a lot of people would put Zen Arcade here, right? While the band’s seminal record put them on the map and redefined punk, the third album hurtles in headfirst, demanding the attention of the listener. While it maintains a lot of the noise pop elements the first record had, New Day Rising shows the maturity of the band in less than a year. It is more intensely melodic, with powerful hooks and catchy choruses. Bob Mould and Grant Hart collaborated incredibly, but you can almost hear their headbutting during recording. This is most prominent during the title track, when Mould is wailing “new day rising,” over and over, almost desperately, on top of his heavily distorted guitar and the pounding drums of Hart that are almost competing. This record includes one of the greatest Grant Hart songs, “Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill,” along with the pleading Mould classic “Celebrated Summer,” arguably their finest song. Though often lumped in with hardcore bands because the record was released on SST Records (Dicks, Black Flag), this record completely eclipses the genre. While maintaining the angry, loud, and fast musical elements, they forego the stereotypical politically charged lyrics in favor of arty, bizarre, and romantic themes. (AK)

The Replacements – Let it Be (1984)

Sorry Ma… is the punk album. Pleased to Meet Me is the major label album. Tim is the popular album. And Let it Be is the best album. At least, that is, if you’re asking me. The Replacements’ influence in punk and alternative music is an undeniable force, particularly in their attitude towards writing and playing their absolute hearts out while being a perpetual rock n roll underdog. Let it Be, while being a solidly cohesive album, also marks a transitory period in the band’s history. Straight up rock n roll (“I Will Dare”) meets immature, toilet humor punk songwriting (“Gary’s Got a Boner”) meets heart wrenching ballads (“Unsatisfied” and “Androgynous”) while all still being undeniably replacements. The chemistry between the members of this band ebbed and flowed as they fell in and out of favor with one another, while remaining as explosive and irreplicable as one could ever want. The juxtaposition of the raucous guitars and indomitable spirit with soul-baring lyrics have made this band unrelentingly unforgettable, and this album something that will never not be relevant to generations of misfit kids. (AT)

Dickies – Dawn Of The Dickies (1979)

If the The Ramones are the pioneers of punk as we know it, The Dickies are the OG pop punk band. I mean, there’s poppy hooks, gang vocals, and  ridiculously fast drums. The Dickies were innovative; they took 1977 punk and put their own spin on it to create something weird and almost fucked up. They turned the snotty, angry genre into something humorous. This album starts with the blisteringly upbeat “Where Did His Eye Go,” which is almost Buzzcocks-esque, but seemingly more stereotypically punk than the Shelley sad boy standard. Leonard Graves Phillips’ voice reaches almost whining pitches as he sings over powerchords in “I’ve Got A Splitting Headachi,” a song with a powerful chorus that is impossible not to sing along to. And how could I leave out “Manny, Moe, and Jack”? The song, about an auto repair shop, is reminiscent of a car ride – I mean, it does start with a car starting, and ends with it crashing. It sounds like something you’d wanna listen on a summer day, windows down, playing loud. The Dickies also had incredibly interesting solos – not a standard of punk of their time, which typically leaned on Chuck Berry infused notes. This is all thanks to Stan Lee and Chuck Wagon’s dual guitars, almost competing with each other throughout the songs. The Dickies almost seem like a joke, but their talent shines through the stupidity. (AK)

Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1979)

At this point of time, I doubt this record counts as a compilation. This record is a staple to any punk, an incredibly solid  collection of singles by one of the greatest punk bands of all time. There’s not a single mediocre song on this record, and that’s because The Buzzcocks were not a mediocre band. If you’ve heard any of their John Peel sessions, you’d know this – it’s almost impossible for a band to sound that good on the radio, but they made it. The original punk heartbreak band, The Buzzcocks placed tough guitar riffs against sappy lyrics and somehow made it work. Standout tracks include “Promises,” a bittersweet song about how relationships can change; “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays,” an upbeat track with a trebly guitar hook and slamming chord progressions; and “Orgasmic Addict” which, while sounding upbeat and almost cute, is nearly as crude as a Dead Boys song. And of course, there’s “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” which, while fitting for scorned lovers, also alludes to Pete Shelley’s bisexuality. This is a great, truly romantic album, altogether – riding on the highs of relationships (“Love You More”) and also the lows (“Oh Shit,” “What Do I Get?”) of being in love. Listen to this the next time you go through a breakup – there’s something for everyone. (AK)

Cock Sparrer – Shock Troops (1982)

An incredible, catchy album all the way through, Shock Troops is one of many albums that ends up lumped into the UK 82 and Oi genres. While poppier than other bands in those categories like Blitz and Chaos, their songs about being a working class punk in London have all the same attitude as songs like “Summer of 81” (Violators) and “Murder In The Subway” (Attak). This album features the anthemic “Take ‘Em All” which is a favorite for DJs to play at dirty dives to get the bar to sing along, as well as “We’re Coming Back,” the ultimate BFF theme song. The hook in the first song, “Where Are They Now,” catches you and forces you to keep listening, and there’s not a single song that could potentially bore you (besides maybe “Out On An Island,” but that’s a personal belief). The album coasts on pounding drums, treble filled guitar solos, and gang vocals you’ll learn by the second chorus. (AK)

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X – Los Angeles (1980)

True story: I got pink eye when I went with my parents to see X when I was 13, along with a Germs burn from a very hesitant Billy Zoom (who told me not to tell my mom – and readers, also, don’t tell my mom). Probably my punkest moment. Los Angeles is an incredible record, comprised of surfy and Chuck Berry worshipping licks from Billy Zoom, an incredible rhythm section thanks to John Doe and DJ Bonebrake, and one of the greatest front women of all time, Exene. Her shrill vocals harmonized perfectly with John Doe’s wailing. Kicking in the album with a diss track fit for any break up mix, “Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not,” you can already see the difference between X and most other LA bands of their time period. While a lot of bands at that time were playing sloppy, 3 chord songs over dubbed with incoherent yelling, X immediately proves they have the ability to take punk and refine it with relatable lyrics and rockabilly influenced guitar licks. The second track, “Johnny Hit And Run Paulene,” begins with a throwback to “Johnny B. Goode” and John Doe describes a date rape scenario. After their energy filled cover of “Soul Kitchen” (only fitting as Ray Manzarek played organ and produced the record), one of the best mosh parts of all time overtakes your speakers in “Nausea.” Truly an imitable record, Los Angeles still proves its worth today. Check out their performance in Decline of Western Civilization. (AK)

Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

True story – I once had to get talked out of getting a corndog tatted on my forearm, because I’m a “fucking corndog.” This is probably the longest album on this list, spanning over 40 songs, and arguably the most minimal, while still being complex. I mean, this album changed my life. This album changed a lot of lives. This album is not stereotypically punk, even while being on SST Records. Instead, this album leans heavily on the jazz chords of Mike Watt and D Boon and the unshakeable words their lyrics screamed out over music that may not typically match. “History Lesson Pt II” completely sums up what it’s like to completely surrender yourself to music, even proclaiming their ‘band could be your life,’ if you let them. “Corona” is a plodding track with political overtones, so while it may not sound ‘up there’ with other SST bands like Black Flag and Saccharine Trust, the message is there. Mr. Narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me – this stupid punk band, making fun of themselves; this is what I want to hear. (AK)

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FEAR – The Record (1982)

Have you ever seen the video of Fear from Saturday Night Live, when they got banned? John Belushi said they “looked very frightening, but were really very nice” – before joining Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat), Tesco Vee (The Meatmen), Harley Flanagan and John Joseph (Cro-Mags) and John Brannan (Negative Approach) in the pit. They played “Beef Baloney” amongst a few other songs from The Record and tore apart the stage, getting them banned from the show. Punk as fuck. For a crude group of punks that caused half a million in damage, the album itself is tight as fuck – and Bill Stevenson deserves yet another shout out for mixing it. It kicks off with almost incoherent mumbling in “Let’s Have A War,” and rides off palm muted chords, Spit Stix’s consistent thudding, and Lee Ving’s screams declaring his hatred for the status quo and normies everywhere. The record coasts on an almost painful intensity, never once slowing down or losing its momentum. Take a look at the LA punks and you’d think they were just another group of dirty wastoids, but when you listen to the record you hear they’re actually talented. The album has the sarcastic classics “I Love Livin’ In The City” and “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones,” both about living in disgusting squalor. The ultimate end goal of Fear seems to be that they wanted to piss anyone and everyone off. With a plethora of shit talking and often politcally incorrect lyrics, they easily accomplish that. (AK)

Teengenerate – Get Action! (1995)

Bands like Teengenerate and Guitar Wolf helped put Japan on the map for punk music. With Get Action!, Teengenerate brings poppy elements to garage punk. The combination of Fink’s snarling vocals over crashing drums and Pagans-on-cocaine guitar almost sounds juvenile, but they manipulate their sound into something slightly less than cohesive. The record is raw and the production is subpar, but it’s catchy and danceable. “Dressed In Black,” the single, is full of chanting vocals and galloping drums. This is quickly followed by “Fake Fake Fake,” one of the songs where the Ramones influence is incredibly prevalent. The record careens to a halt with an almost unrecognizable version of “Shake Rattle and Roll” – a hurling tornado that almost touches on hardcore. Teengenerate are an easy gateway drug to more J-punk bands, and it’s definitely worth diving in more with bands like The Stalin, The Blue Hearts, and Gauze. (AK)

Dead Boys – Young, Loud, and Snotty (1977)

The Dead Boys were so far ahead of their time on this album. What a gritty, dirty album. Like, you get an almost slimy feeling when you hear “All This And More” and “I Need Lunch” right? This is one of the best albums to fuck to ever – (‘you got dents in your head that tell me all the beds you’ve been shoved on’). Starting with the classic slammer, “Sonic Reducer” that hooks you immediately with that Jeff Magnum bass riff. I’m not even sure if there’s a more apt title for the album – how snotty is “don’t need no mom and dad”? The song “What Love Is” is a perfect song to pogo and pump your first to, with a catchy chorus to bang your head to. Cheetah Chrome is by no means the greatest punk guitarists of all time, but his sound works perfect for this record. Paired with Stiv Bators’ “don’t give a fuck” attitude, literally spitting the words out at points, they created a masterpiece. On top of the actual bangers this album includes, the story behind it is pretty cool – it was produced by Genya Ravan, who called them out for trying to be cool with their swastikas. Ravan, a Jewish woman who had lost relatives during the Holocaust, completely put them in their place – too bad Chronic Sick didn’t take note. (AK)

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Adolescents – Adolescents (1981)

California’s hardcore scene had already been brewing by the time Adolescents came out. With the seminal release, the band joined the likes of Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, among others in the SoCal scene. This bright blue record branched out from the typical sound while remaining familiar, infusing gnarly, rock n’ roll solos with the typical fast paced drums and snarling vocals. The band lives up to their name, with immature, humorous, and often ironic lyrics. The album itself is full of diversity, with some songs fast and loud, like “Word Attack” and “LA Girl,” while others a little more spaced out (“Amoeba,” “Who is Who”). Then of course, there’s “Kids Of The Black Hole” – hitting the five minute mark, a rarity in hardcore punk from the time. This is definitely the band’s unofficial theme, about a punk house full of angsty teens rebelling against adults and authority. While expansive, the album maintains the same “angry teenager” undertones. This album is one of the most important records from Orange County, right up there with Agent Orange’s Living In Darkness, which actually featured Steve Soto on some tracks. (AK)

Green Day – Dookie (1994)

Yeah, I suppose this is their “sellout” record and, from my personal opinion, not their best (Insomniac or Kerplunk, by the way) – but this album influenced angsty teenagers all over the world to pick up their guitars and start shitty punk bands. This album was and still is a gateway drug for a lot of kids to get into punk, which is why it’s so important and necessary to mention. It features masturbation anthem “Longview” and the self-deprecating “Basket Case,” along with teen angst-driven “Coming Clean.” This album proves you don’t need fifty different instruments to sound good – the trio (who, to be fair, eventually garnered several more members with the release of American Idiot) manages to sound full and powerful with just guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. (AK)

Agent Orange – Living In Darkness (1981)

Another Orange County band, Agent Orange are a little darker (well, obviously, hence the title of the album) than their counterparts. They tamed the wild, fast hardcore of their peers, with surfy guitar riffs (even covering surf classic “Miserlou”) and charged bass and drums. AO essentially created the surf punk genre, or at least outlined it. I mean, some of their solos are ripped straight off a Link Wray album. It’s an extremely diverse, powerful album, almost touching down into post punk with “Living In Darkness.” The lyrics also reflect the overall dark sound, with Mike Palm’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Then, of course, there’s “Bloodstains,” with a consistent, chugging guitar riff overdubbed by Palm’s angry snarl. Arguably one of the greater American punk songs, the surf-soaked solo takes you right back to songs by artists like the Ventures and Dick Dale. (AK)

Avengers – The Avengers (1983)

Black Flag. Minor Threat. Descendents. That’s what everyone said, everywhere I turned, when I decided to get into punk as a pre-teen. All dudes (save Kira Roessler’s stint in Black Flag), and the crowds in all of the photos I could find looked the same. Dude after dude after dude. So it was, to put it lightly, a breath of fresh air when I stumbled onto Avenger’s Pink Album. Blondie and Siouxsie were great and I loved them dearly, but the aggressively feminine sneer of Penelope Houston, backed by fast and unapologetic hardcore was something entirely new to me. I could (and will) argue for “We are the One” as being one of the best punk songs ever written.

I finally got to see Avengers just recently, in a small bar in Brooklyn. The majority of the front row was starry eyed femmes and the band themselves sounded fantastic. Even if there are scores of incredible female-fronted bands out there, we see far less older women fronting hardcore and punk bands than we do older men. However, I left incredibly disappointed. There is a song on the Pink Album that employs the N-word in both title and chorus, and Avengers made the choice it play it in 2016. The song was written in 1979 and it was not, is not, and never will be okay for a white woman to use that slur. Bands mentioned above, Descendents and Minor Threat, have offered auxiliary explanations and apologies for their use of slurs or poor handling of social topics as teens and have distanced themselves from those songs. Avengers, quite brazenly, marked their ignorance and immaturity in their decision to play that song. There are many, many ways to talk about class issues without resorting to using slurs and there are also many, many ways to be accountable for actions you took and words you said as a kid while moving forward and not breathing fire to racism. (AT)

X Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents (1978)

X Ray Spex, in and of themselves, were an innovative bands. They employed a saxophone player, Lora Logic and later Rudi Thomsen, and the shrill vocals of Poly Styrene. They were incredibly underrated during their time, but are a pivotal female fronted band. The album has tinges of goth and post-punk elements with songs like “The Day The Earth Turned Day-Glo,” showing they were ahead of their time. Other songs are more upbeat with the classic punk buzzsaw guitar. The saxophone is by no means necessary but definitely adds a lot more body to the record. Employing sax also sets them apart from other bands of their time. While the LP doesn’t have the sex driven single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” the reissue does. This is one of the few songs with OG sax player Logic featured. Styrene’s wails are raunchy, trashy, at times screeching – a little different from her contemporaries’ snarls and growls. Her lyrics, like her adopted name, focus on the materialistic needs of consumers in her time period. X Ray Spex remain incredibly important, not only musically, but as one of the pioneers of punk feminism.  (AK)

Blitz – Voice of a Generation (1982)

For me, this is the ultimate UK82 album. It’s raw, it’s angry, it’s full of fist-pumping anthems – Blitz were tough. Somehow they manage to take even “Vicious,” by Lou Reed, and turn it into a dirty, thudding street punk song. This album is Oi 101 – necessary for any street punk to have in their collection. Literally, this album is the ‘voice of a generation’ – songs uplifting the working class wearing boots n’ braces (okay, “Razors in the Night” was on the later re-release) and rebelling against hypocrites (’45 revolutions, playing on your stereo/not one revolution/on the street’). The album is peppered with anti-government songs like “Propaganda,” “Nation on Fire” and “Criminal Damage” which question authority and police. The album utilizes relatively intelligent imagery for what most people would disregard as just a few skinheads on the streets of England, and, of course, it has the clever play on words “4Q” (fuck you, obviously). (AK)

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Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980)

This is one of the albums that put California hardcore on the map for hardcore. A politically driven record, Fresh Fruit combines surf-on-cocaine guitar riffs and almost humorous leftist lyrics to create some of the most famous punk songs of all time. Jello Biafra targets conservatives and police states in almost every song without sounding like he’s preaching his own propaganda. Instead of interpreting his beliefs through anger, he almost takes a sarcastic approach to politics with songs like “Kill The Poor” and “Chemical Warfare.” “California Uber Allies” is arguably one of the most famous punk songs to come out of San Francisco, directly calling out the governor at the time for being overbearing and even comparing him to Hitler at points. This is record remains one of the greatest debut records of all time. (AK)

Misfits – Walk Among Us (1982)

While Danzig is more of the butt of a joke these days, and rightly so, the early Misfits albums are something of a perfect storm. It’s punk but it’s spooky and Halloween-themed, it’s bats and zombies and all that horror movie junk the punk kids love, while not necessarily sounding like anything that would come out of the “goth” scene. It’s rockabilly but not as old-school, and its kitschiness is something otherworldly. It’s three-chord, two-minute stuff, but in a good way. Danzig’s at his best on this album, sounding like an Elvis impersonator that was raised on B movies and anger. I’m not really quite sure what to make of later iterations of the Misfits and I try not to think of them too much, but Walk Among Us is frozen in time just like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. (AT)

The Cramps – Bad Music for Bad People (1984)

Shock was the name of the game when it came to The Cramps, who managed to make themselves absolutely synonymous with terms like “horror-punk” and “psychobilly.” The Cramps, similar to the Misfits but with arguably more musical proficiency, invoked the aesthetic of the B movies of the 50’s and 60’s in both their style and musical content. The seedy, bizarre underbelly of the film world stood as a mirror to the seedy, rebellious underbelly of the world of rock n roll at this time. The bass on this album is standout and unique, along with the growling vocals and the subject matter that certainly influenced horror fans and rockabilly punks alike. The Cramps further solidified their place in rockabilly history recently, when they played as Wanda Jackson’s backup band when she reissued a collection of her songs, breathing new life into rock n roll standards. (AT)

Gun Club – Fire Of Love (1981)

When I was sixteen I got my first car, a 1988 Toyota Camry only equipped with a tape deck. I’d peel through my parents’ cassettes, looking for familiarities, finding  gems like X and Minor Threat among mix tapes whose track lists had long since been rubbed off by time and love. Right when I was about to record a shitty mix over one of my mom’s old radio shows, I heard that wild, steady chord progression – “Sex Beat.” I was mesmerized. I spent the rest of the semester blaring that song as I’d roll into the parking lot at 8 AM, windows down, and rewinding it until the poor tape gave up and was only feeble squeals. That song still stands up and I still get the same chills I did when I first heard it. The rest of the album, of course, is also untouchable. “Sex Beat” goes into “Preaching The Blues,” wild and untamed, full of the twangs and licks of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s slide and howling yelps. Then there’s one of the best love songs ever – “She’s Like Heroin To Me.” It’s got a steady, pounding beat, with Pierce’s wailing building up over the repetitive chorus until he yells “she cannot miss a vein.” Fire of Love is a boiling storm of sex and opiate addled rock n roll.  Gun Club are truly like no other, making two genres (blues and punk) that should’ve never made sense together sound powerfully cohesive. Sex beat, go! (AK)

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Wipers – Is This Real? (1980)

In a lot of ways, early punk and new wave blended seamlessly into one another. Talking Heads were playing shows at CBGB at the same time the Dead Boys were, and some bands vacillated between the two sounds – going between the more raw punk sound and the art rock aesthetic of new wave. Sometimes, though, they were in stark opposition, with each scene drawing derision and ire from the other. Then we have the Wipers, who were able to take the best of both genres and make something completely new. Is This Real? is simultaneously a fantastic punk album and a post-punk album, and helped to span the gap between the more radio friendly bands coming out of that era with the potable energy and power chords of the punk bands, without falling victim to the genre’s oft predictability or simplicity. It eludes definition and will defy any category you will try and put it into, which is why it stands out so far ahead. Is This Real? and the Wipers in general are absolutely crucial into understanding the time and place that they came out of, and the burgeoning state of alternative music that they helped to shape. (AT)

999 – Separates (1978)

Riding close on the tails of their eponymous debut, Separates already shows a difference in style than the first record – it’s poppier, but retains the punk energy. Going right in with “Homicide,” the production quality is instantly noticed. While 999 may boast “I’m Alive” and of course “Emergency,” Separates rivals it. The second song on the album, “Tulse Hill Night” continues the driving force of “Homicide” and the energy never wavers. Though released in 1978, 999 already breaches on post punk territory with this album. Elements of the genre begin to appear as the band combines the “fuck you” attitude in songs like “Wolf” with rock n roll riffs and a healthy dose of reverb. It’s like Singles Going Steady rear ended Entertainment. “Subterfuge” and “Action” clearly influenced bands like Gang of Four and Wire in the coming years. 999 is important, but Separates is the true shining star. (AK)

Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts (1978)

One of the finest British punk debuts, Crossing The Red Sea is full of catchy hooks and dark lyrics. This album is a hurtling combination of gang vocals, proto-goth guitar riffs, and pounding drums. It kicks off with the hurricane that is “One Chord Wonders,” with TV Smith’s howls touching down atop Howard Pickup’s melodic licks and Gaye Advert’s thundering bass. Next up is the angsty teen’s anthem “Bored Teenagers” (which went on to be the name of an incredible compilation series, on a side note). The lyrics are reminiscent of “Kids Of The Blackhole” (Adolescents) in that it’s about kids stumbling around cluelessly trying to find meaning in anything. “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” may be the shining star of the record, with thudding drums and a repetitive chorus, though it was left off the initial release. It’s a satirical song about a patient receiving eye transplants from, of course, Gary Gilmore, famed murderer who demanded the death penalty. The album hints at the future of post punk, with songs like “On The Roof” and “Safety in Numbers” being the most progressively Gang Of Four-esque. (AK)

Germs – GI (1979)

I have two Germs burns – one on the outside of my wrist, placed gingerly on my wrist by Billy Zoom when I was 13, and one recent addition by my friend who had received his from one of the many drummers the band had gone through. The Germs are one of the seminal LA punk bands, surrounded by drugs and tragedy. From the moment you first hear Darby Crash’s snarl and Pat Smear’s raucous guitar in “What We Do Is Secret,” you know these kids had it – even if they didn’t know what “it” was. In “Lexicon Devil,” Crash pens himself as some fucked up god – which is kinda how he portrayed himself in real life. He was a train wreck, the Sid Vicious of LA. He based most of the lyrical content around his self destruction. It closes with the almost sludgy “Shut Down,” with Crash’s sneer in full effect. It’s a stark contrast to the overtime opener, helping the album careen to a halt. The album is tinged with bratty energy and declarations of eternal adolescence The album is abrasive and rowdy while maintaining some sort of consistency. Smear’s trained guitar paired with Lorna Doom’s thumping bass isn’t overthrown by the incoherent, snotty words spat out by Crash. But why would it be? Joan Jett herself produced the record, somehow taming the troupe of misfits into something that made sense. (AK)

Crass – The Feeding of the 5000 (1978)

It almost feels weird writing something about a band as ubiquitous as Crass. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I think it might be the band’s omnipresence that garners them a spot on this list as opposed to anything particularly unique about their sound. A million bands have done what they did, that’s undeniable, but Crass stands out in ways a lot of those bands don’t. Anarchy is more of a buzzword than a political ideology when it comes to punk, but Crass is unique in the way that they actually espoused anarchism instead of yelling it while wearing ripped designer clothes and murdering your girlfriend. Crass put forth the idea of a band being actually politically dangerous, and of galvanizing the alread-angry punk youth into channeling that anger. Do Crass belong on this list? Of course they do, of course they do, or course they fucking do. (AT)

Youth Of Today – Break Down The Walls (1986)

Another perfect example of a band far before their time, Youth of Today had an irreparable impact on the New York hardcore and straightedge scenes. Ray Cappo’s anger shines through his screams on top of chugging, fast chords and speeding drums. This is the band that helped create the sound known as “youth crew,” appealing to pissed off, young punks who needed something more than what ’77 had to offer. Even today, I can’t think of a single person I know who plays hardcore that doesn’t cite Youth of Today as an influence. A lot of bands around this time had a song, this band had a message – they backed the straightedge movement and though Cappo sounds pissed as fuck, most of their songs have positive undertones – “Make A Change” is about people needing to treat each other better, “Break Down The Walls” is about challenging stereotypes and being true to yourself. This album is full of sick mosh parts, too – if the breakdown in “Stabbed In The Back” doesn’t make you want to hurl your body across a pit, something’s wrong. (AK)

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Bad Brains – Bad Brains (1982)

The Bad Brains are a seminal band in the DC punk scene, right up there with bands like Minor Threat and Government Issue. HR’s distinctive snarl tops a spiraling tornado of musical talent – Dr. Know’s wailing guitar that’s literally all over the place, Earl Hudson’s blisteringly fast drums, and Daryl Jenifer’s plodding bass. While most contemporary hardcore was angry and socio-politcally driven, the Bad Brains could arguably one of the first “posi-core” bands. I mean, their song “Attitude” was the beginning of “PMA” (positive mental attitude). The record shows their musical range with quick tempo’d tracks like “Sailin’ On,” slower hardcore mosh riffs in “The Regulator,” and dub tracks like “I Love I Jah.” The Clash and ska bands had definitely incorporated elements of reggae into their music by this time, but BThere’s also the hardcore classic “Pay To Come,” one of the most beloved songs to come out of DC. During the verses HR spits out the words over Hudson’s insane blast beats, juxtaposing the reverb heavy chorus. Bad Brains’ still show their influence if you listen to current DCHC and NYHC bands, some of whom rip guitar riffs straight from this record. Even today, this legendary record sounds fresh, with its driving energy and uplifting lyrics. (AK)

Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose (2002)

Literally what the fuck is Against Me! doing on this list? I know, I get it. Bear with me for a second. Maybe it isn’t as punk or as iconic as the other albums on this list, that’s fair. It’s kinda folk punk, but it’s not washboards and banjos. And it’s sort of pop punk, except the breakup songs hit so much harder than your typical “why doesn’t she love me” fare that gets regurgitated ad nauseum by the bands of that genre. Laura Jane Grace has always proven herself to be an excellent songwriter, transforming a song like “I Still Love You Julie” from an monologue delivered with a yelping voice and an acoustic guitar into something deeper and fully developed in its desperate angst and near hopelessness. The album delivers big choruses on songs like “We Laugh at Danger” and “Pints of Guinness” (which is simultaneously a rallying cry and a heartbreaking anecdotal folk song), it delivers songs conveying feelings of disenfranchisement and political disillusionment that don’t seem outdated years later, which has caused other albums of the era to not stand the test of time quite as well. Reinventing’s biggest accomplishment, however, is its lasting impact on the scenes it  had travelled through. It stands head and shoulders above the other efforts coming out of cities like Gainesville at the time, and continues to sound fresh and new and unique even after the band themselves are going through constant musical evolution. It’s an entry point that doesn’t sound entry-level. (AT)

Limp Wrist – Thee Official Discography (2005)

Punk is unapologetic — a statement passed around and regurgitated a million times over. Too often, that becomes synonymous with a certain brand of offensive edginess that far too often simply serves to reify mainstream oppressive ideology. You know, those guys that sound like your racist uncle except with Black Flag bars inked somewhere on their body. Limp Wrist is unapologetic in a radical way. Taking the stage in the shortest of shorts and a leather cap, Martin Sorrendeguy is a masterful and commanding frontman (this goes for his work in Los Crudos as well), and the music itself is pure unrefined chaos. Songs like “I Love Hardcore Boys (I Love Boys Hardcore)” and “Does Your Daddy Know?” are absolutely crucial hardcore anthems, but ones that the gay kids that have always been a part of punk can relate to and unify over. Additionally, the band’s whole discography is up on YouTube — all 35 minutes of it. Brash, aggressive, fast and loud harcore with two middle fingers up to heteronormativity; Limp Wrist is crucial to any hardcore fan, but packs an extra punch for those who feel alienated due to their sexuality. (AT)

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Discharge – Why? (1981)

Some people may argue that Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing is the more penultimate release by Discharge, but I digress. From the pummeling drums in the first 30 seconds of the first track, “Visions of War,” it’s easy to hear how Discharge “invented” d-beat as a genre. The charactaristic drumbeat is prominent throughout the entire EP, clashing with grinding guitar, raw, distorted bass, and the gruff, incoherent growls of Cal Morris. Their lyrics are simple but full of messages of anarchy, anti-war, and rebellion. They’re chaotic but refined, they’re harsh and noisy but there’s still some semblance of a melody hiding in the crashing drums and two-note solos. Discharge are iconic – their influence is cited by tons of bands and walking through any given punk show you’ll see kids decorated in studs, sneers, and Discharge tees. (AK)

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Chronic Sick – Cutest Band In Hardcore (1983)

While definitely not as widely known as other New Jersey punk bands like The Misfits and Adrenalin OD, this record is coveted by collectors. Ignoring the cover, which features the band decked with swastikas and dresses, this album is solid all the way through. This album is full of noisy, raw powerchords and angry lyrics that sometimes venture into politically incorrect, disturbing territories. Favorite songs include the catchy “Dress Code” and the fucked up “Public Suicide.” While Chronic Sick may not seem much different from their other early hardcore counterparts, their energy is what makes them stand apart. Maybe it isn’t PC to have songs about prison rape, but they pull it off. Their album cover clearly depicts them wanting to get a rise out of anyone, and the lyrics solidify that. Isn’t that what punk’s about? (AK)

Bratmobile – Ladies, Women, and Girls (2000)

Quite frankly, I’m sick of women’s historic place in punk being reduced to “riot grrrl” like every and any girl with a guitar and something to say can be so easily pigeonholed and reduced to a two-word phrase. Bratmobile’s first album was a gem of that era, but they have since proven themselves as a force in punk music. Simultaneously snotty and bored, singing “a boy is good for nothing,”  Allison Wolfe asserts herself to the front of the punk rock boys club while expressing her derision for it. The Riot Grrrl era of punk usually gets summed up as an aside, and is usually attributed to Bikini Kill, but Bratmobile surpasses the cliches and consumability of what some bands put forth as “feminist punk rock.” It’s a solid garage-rock album, as smart and snarky as it is fast and catchy. Ladies, Women, and Girls is more refined than earlier efforts, undeniably, but shows that Bratmobile is much more than something cute or easily written off. (AT)

Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic (2003)

Maybe the band’s tragic history is what attracts me to this – all but one member dying in a bus crash, while in talks with a deal with Lookout! Records and Lollapalooza in the future. Or maybe it’s the incredibly elaborate guitar licks that hint at a glam rock influence, overdubbed with almost whining vocals. Regardless of what it is that was the initial draw, Guitar Romantic is one of the most important records in my collection.The lead guitar somehow manages not to overpower the words, filling every empty spot between verses and choruses. When Blink 182 and Green Day were playing generic pop punk, the Exploding Hearts revived the genre, picking up where 70s power pop left off. From the incredible opener, “Modern Kicks,” to the Chuck Berry infused final track “Still Crazy,” this album doesn’t quit. The competing vocals in “Thorns In Roses” draw the listener in and make it impossible to turn the record off. Then, of course, there’s “I’m A Pretender” – written with help from King Louie – spitting a raucously catchy chorus. This breaks out of the teen anthem, instead declaring “21 and it ain’t no fun.”  The band draws influence from every point of history, from the New York Dolls to Buddy Holly to the Ramones, all into one perfectly composed record that’s dripping with both power pop and punk. I’ll never forget the time I saw King Louie and Terry Six (with their current band, Terry & Louie) play almost the entire discography – I spent half the set alternating belting out the words and crying.  (AK)

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Anti Nowhere League – We Are… The League (1982)

I feel like a lot of people write off Anti Nowhere League as being dumb and and immature, and they’re not wrong. They are by no means “special” or anything different from their contempories. They even declare in the title track, “we are The League, and our music’s bad.” They don’t give a shit if you don’t like them. On that note, I consider this album one of the more stupidly crass records of 1982, and for that, I love it. The first song, as previously mentioned, is the band’s self summary of how fucked up they are. It’s simple three chord snotty punk, kicking off with trash hero Animal’s declaration that they are “The League.” The song is essentially a disclaimer, a “parental advisory” sticker for people who are easily offended. “I Hate… People” is another track solidifying the band’s disdain for humanity. “Let’s Break The Law” is one of the highlighting tracks and is their answer to the stereotypical anti-government punk song archetype. One of the most bizarre things about this album may be their sneering cover of Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London,” originally a folk song. The League put their own edge on it, making it less of a sappy folk anthem and more an anti-poverty warcry. The album, overall, is a caricature of the genre’s debauchery. It’s a combination of raunchiness, For a band that sticks with relatively simple riffs, they’re melodic enough to stick with you. And when you question their legitimacy, their response will be “so what, you boring little cunt?” (AK)

Honorable Proto Punk Mentions: MC5 – Kick Out The Jams, Stooges – Stooges, New York Dolls – New York Dolls, Television – Marquee Moon, Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico, Dictators – Go Girl Crazy

Personal Honorable Mentions – Anna Theodora: RVIVR – The Beauty Between, Sleater-Kinney – The Woods, Japanther – Beets, Lime, and Rice

Personal Honorable Mentions – Avalon Kenny: Void – Faith/Void Split (Faith side is sick, but y’all know), Protex – Strange Obsessions, Plimsouls – Everywhere At Oncevoidvoid.jpg