Because I love challenges and pissing off dudes on the internet, I decided to write another list of influential bands and albums. This article does not overlap with the one originally posted, and if you think I left something out, that’s fine, because I don’t care about you – fuck you. Write your own goddamn list. This article focuses more on scenes and bands that influenced contemporary hardcore, versus just a bunch of albums. This is just the first of an installment that will go on to include other scenes like Boston, New York, and DC (along with some contemporary bands that I think have influenced today’s hardcore).
People tend to argue about where punk really started – maybe it was CBGBs, or a dirty basement in Cleveland – but when it comes to hardcore, most people can agree that California started it all. Black Flag played their first show in 1977, years before releasing their first LP, and bands influenced by their sound seemed to spring up all around them. California’s influence on hardcore became more widespread with labels like SST and Alternative Tentacles, and LA, Orange County, and San Francisco became hot spots for bands. Even with New York’s punk scene in mind, California could easily be considered the first grassroots based DIY punk scene. The genre spawned all sorts of sounds – from the surf influenced Agent Orange to the politically charged Dead Kennedys and the snot dripping Germs. California’s early hardcore bands’ influence still is audible in contemporary bands all over the country. It’s nearly impossible to find a kid who doesn’t love Black Flag, or relates to the Adolescents’ teen angst ridden lyrics.
Bad Religion – Bad Religion (1981, Los Angeles)
Bad Religion have held a steady influence over the hardcore scene for over 30 years. Their first, eponymous EP is raw as fuck. You can hear the influence of LA’s punk scene in their music – this record is almost like a more stripped down X. The record is politcal without ripping off bands like the Dead Kennedys. This record has the kind of energy that makes me wish I had been around in LA to see them in a sweaty, damp basement.
Redd Kross – Born Innocent (1981, Hawthorne)
One of the younger bands in the California hardcore scene, Redd Kross’ snotty attitude combined with their affection for horror films created one of the definitive sounds out of the area. It’s rebellious and unrefined, with Jeff MacDonald’s snotty vocals overdubbing fast paced drums and squealing guitars. You can hear their need to rebel and be different in songs like “White Trash” and “Kill Someone You Hate.” While you can tell they are punks, there’s definitely a lot of homages to proto punk bands like The Stooges and The New York Dolls. They are not subtle in their intent to shock the listener.
TSOL – Dance With Me (1981, Long Beach)
When most bands were playing more surf driven hardcore, TSOL borrowed goth from the Damned and speed from Black Flag. They created a cocktail of bass driven, infectuous punk. Drawing influence from horror films and death idolatry, this record knows no bounds, even touching on necrophilia with “Code Blue.” Their spooky sound veers off from the Misfits, who were writing about similar themes, as California’s influence is especially prominent. In “The Triangle,” another death dripped song, you can almost hear the Dead Kennedys as they just barely hint at surfy guitar tones.
Angry Samoans – Back From Samoa (1982, Los Angeles)
With the longest song clocking in at 2:07 (but most being under a minute), Angry Samoans manage to pack 14 bangers into seventeen and a half minutes. The first track, “Gas Chamber,” grabs you by the balls immediately, and the energy never wavers. Their songs are simplistic without being basic, and rely heavily on blasting drums and catchy vocals. The record has the same rebellious and youthful groundwork as bands like the Adolescents but lean more towards humor than reality.
Battalion of Saints – Second Coming (1983, San Diego)
Battalion of Saints’ sound branched out from the clean vocals and surf licks of other California bands. Second Coming relies heavily on pounding blast beats and screeching vocals. The songs are relentlessly brutal, slamming your ears with ripping chord after chord. The first track, “My Mind’s Diseased,” is an anthem for mental illness, and the title track is raw. “No Time” proves they could easily be one of the fastest bands from that time period, and they were unafraid in their power. This album delivers a cacophony of heavy sounds, and remains one of the best hardcore albums to date.
DI – Horse Bites Dog Cries (1986, OC)
Formed on the heels of the Adolescents’ first breakup, DI combined the snotty sounds of the Germs with an external new wave sound. Horse Bites Dog Cries is backed by pounding drums laced with fast powerchords and screeching solos. The Agnew brothers continued their reign over OC hardcore, utilising similar hooks from their earlier bands. Though the band’s second record was officially released in 1986, it maintained the same sounds and song structures as earlier bands like the Circle Jerks and TSOL. The album is a banger all the way through, but highlights include “Johnny’s Got A Problem,” “Hang Ten In East Berlin,” and the blisteringly fast “Youth In Asia.”
When you think midwestern punk, most people go straight to the Twin Cities, and rightfully so. Minneapolis has obviously been a key fixture in punk, with bands like the Replacements and Hüsker Dü perhaps the most influential. However, expanding beyond that, you realize just how prolific the midwest was in the eighties, and even today. Bands like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun popped up in Chicago (which later was home to Latino hardcore pioneers Los Crudos), inspired by the DC and California hardcore scenes. As those bands gained influence, so did bands from Michigan like the Crucifucks and the Meatmen. The midwest soon gained notoriety just as DC and California had, and continues its hold today. Nowadays, we have Tenement – a band driven by complex riffs and poppy hooks, encompassing several genres – and bands like the Coneheads (Devo played at 45RPM), Big Zit (Bad Brains on steroids), and CCTV (think sped up Minutemen) who all draw influence from 80s hardcore and hold the torch for the bands that came before them. Everything Is Not Okay (OKC) showcases bands from all over the country, with a heavy focus on the bands that keep the scene alive in the midwest.
The Fix – Vengeance/In This Town (1981, Michigan)
One of the earliest hardcore bands in the Midwest, the Fix were absolutely savage. Without the Fix, hardcore might not have reached the tempo it did. The Fix, with their scathingly sped up punk were pioneers in not only the midwest, but hardcore in general. They were one of the earliest releases by Tesco Vee’s Touch and Go Records, which is important in and of itself, but their power was untouchable. The Vengeance 7″ is no exception – at under 3 minutes, the record is furious. Somehow they manage to fit in amphetamine laced guitar riffs, blast beats, and rage backed lyrics in two short songs.
Zero Boys – Vicious Circle (1982, Indiana)
By the time Vicious Circle was released, the Zero Boys had already shown their worth with their EP Livin’ in the 80s. The LP shows a definite progression of their talent, musically and lyrically. It’s more refined, soundwise, as it was professionally recorded – but maintains the snarling rebellious attitude that was the requirement in punk. The band had pop hooks on speed, and all the riled up rage of their peers. While distinct in their own sound, it’s easy to draw comparisons in subject matter (teen angst, political corruption) to bands like The Adolescents and Dead Kennedys. Vicious Circle punches you in the face almost immediately with the hectic title track. Following that is “Amphetamine Addiction” – a blistering song about drug culture that grabs you with a squealing pick slide before going into a standard chord progression. Other highlights include the politically driven “Civilization’s Dying” and the gang vocal backed “Drug Free Youth,” but the whole album is filled with stellar tracks laced with pounding drums and fast paced solos. This album should be the prize of Indianapolis.
Koro – 700 Club (1983, Tennessee – yes, TN is a stretch)
In just over six minutes, Koro slams you with 8 chaotic, raw hardcore numbers. The songs are stripped down, yet refined – a blast of urgent, youthful anger. They were far ahead of their time. When their peers were playing songs with more pop hooks, Koro took their teen angst and projected it into a heavy rhythm section with ear splitting, chainsaw-esque guitar riffs. The album, as short as it is, seamlessly flows without the songs sounding indistinct. Unfortunately, Koro were short lived, but they were recently repressed by Sorry State Records (NC).
Negative Approach – Tied Down (1983, Michigan)
Tied Down is the only full length record released by Negative Approach, but they remain one of the most influential bands of the midwest – if not the country. The record is full of rage, with Jon Brannon’s hoarse grunts combined with cutting drums and shredding guitar. Like other hardcore bands of the time, the lyrics encompass the frustrations of growing up and chaos of being a teenager. Like Koro, their music was extreme, and more brash than bands found at the same time in California. Negative Approach’s influence is obviously present in contemporary bands, and they’re still touring.
While Ohio is technically part of the midwest, Ohio stood very separate from bands like Negative Approach and Articles of Faith. Ohio was home to the snarling, spitting Dead Boys and the proto punk influencers Devo, but also hardcore bands like Toxic Reasons and Necros. Today, bands like the New Bomb Turks, with their wild garage licks, and Nervosas, a goth tinged post punk band, are the shining stars in Ohio. However, arguably the most influential band could be considered as The Pagans.
Pagans – Street Where Nobody Lives/What’s This Shit Called Love (1978, Cleveland)
The Pagans took back the streets that the Dead Boys abandoned. They paved the way for the future of punk in not only Cleveland, but Ohio as a whole. Mike Hudson’s snotty, slightly off key vocals over Stooges-esque riffs and steady drums laid the groundwork for a sound that would find its way into bands like the New Bomb Turks. “What’s This Shit Called Love” has an interlude with thumping bass, before Hudson begins wailing the title over screeching guitars. The Pagans were underappreciated to say the least, but prove their worth in just two short tracks.
Poison Idea – Pick Your King (1983, Portland)
The northwest is typically associated as the birthplace of grunge. Bands like Nirvana obviously come to mind, but it was also home to bands like The Wipers, Final Warning, and of course, Poison Idea. Pick Your King is potentially one of the most influential hardcore releases of all time, and manages to do this without being viewed as overrated. Poison Idea truly set the standards for hardcore, with blisteringly fast songs clocking in at an average of one minute. The record is peppered with bangers, from the first track, “Pure Hate” culminating with the thunderous “Think Fast.” Jerry A’s rage coupled with Pig Champion’s ridiculously fast guitar help them rival even Mick/Keith.