Been listening to/buying a lot of punk rock lately. And when I listen to punk, I want to talk about punk. So…
Following is a list of names you should be aware of, should you choose to be a punk rock fan. I’m not saying they’re all great. I’m not saying I own music by each of these bands. And most of all, I’m not claiming that this is a definitive list. I’m just saying that if you want to talk about punk, you should probably have a working knowledge of these acts. (I’ll elaborate on my favorites or on the ones I feel I need to.) This post also gets a little sweary…but it’s about PUNK. You should expect some swearing.
A Punk Rock Primer:
- RAMONES – Godfathers of Punk, who kind of started it all.
- Sex Pistols – Britain’s answer to the RAMONES. The Pistols perfected it.
- Black Flag – Particularly in the era when Dez was in the band.
- Henry Rollins – Sprung out of Black Flag and in his solo career took punk into a more complex direction that kind of bridged the gap between punk and metal. (Many refuse to call his solo career punk at all, in fact. But I maintain that there’s a case for it.)
- Iggy Pop/Iggy and the Stooges – Iggy’s the Forefather of Punk, and “Raw Power” is one of the definitive punk records.
- Descendents/ALL – Same band, different singer. All good.
- The Clash – They stopped being punk at some point…but the first record is especially a must.
- Headstones – Canadian act. More important to ME than to history.
- Billy Talent – See above.
- Dropkick Murphys – Probably the most successful of the acts that marry punk to traditional Irish music.
- Flogging Molly – Probably the BEST act that marries punk to traditional Irish. (Think Pogues, but heavier.)
- Wayne/Jayne County = Punk’s first transsexual. No kidding.
- Lars Frederiksen & the Bastards
- Bad Religion
- The Damned – And you should also have a working knowledge of who Captain Sensible is…
- Husker Du – Responsible for punk becoming pop-punk. And also check out Bob Mould’s solo career–his new record “Silver Age” is great.
- DOA – There’s a man in the band named Joey Shithead. What’s not to love?
- Agnostic Front
- Germs – Long-standing dream of mine and my brother’s to invent a dance called the Darby Crash, in reference to their lead singer. Some day…some day… (And if you love the Foo Fighters, it might interest you to know that Foos guitarist Pat Smear came from here. And Belinda Carlisle played drums for them under the name “Dottie Danger.”)
- Circle Jerks
- FEAR – Most notable for their one SNL appearance where they caused $20,000 in damage to the set. Also “I Love Living in the City” is a great song.
- Minor Threat
- MC5 – Just barely punk…kind of on the ROAD to punk… They somehow bridged the gap making it okay for Doors fans to like the Stooges.
- Richard Hell and the Voidoids
- Velvet Underground – Again…they just barely count. Considered the GRAND-fathers of punk, but I’ve never been clear on why so many people credit them with inventing it. They created some of the idealism and the lyrical debauchery, I guess…but not the sound. A punk fan hears them and thinks, “What’s this hippie, stoner bullshit?” Then they listen to them again in their mid 20s and get why it’s brilliant.
- Suicidal Tendencies
- Sonic Youth
- Rise Against
- Dead Milkmen
- Social Distortion
- Off – A new add. Made the list to make it an even 50, but also because their old-school production warmed my heart when I heard it.
- Stiff Little Fingers – Irish act. Pick up “Inflammable Material” and enjoy. “Alternative Ulster” and “Wasted Life” are staples. So is their version of “Johnny Was,” even though I hate Bob Marley.
- Misfits – Horror movies and fun. They invented thrash/hardcore by accident. Also the starting point of Glenn Danzig…but nobody’s perfect.
- Bad Brains – THESE assholes are responsible for that rasta-punk bullshit…but the first couple albums were good.
- Minor Threat
- Dead Kennedys
- Green Day – Controversial… They were really only punk up through “Insomniac,” and they kept pretending they weren’t. And now they’re definitely not, but they say they are. They’re basically a bunch of sellout fucks and I hate them and always have (never even owned “Dookie” in the 90s)…and Billy Joe should stop pretending to be British when he sings…but they were important…so here they are.
- MXPX – Pretty much the only GOOD Christian punk act. You wouldn’t necessarily even KNOW they were a Christian act unless someone told you, which is probably why it works. I have a particular fondness for the “Life in General” record.
- Legendary Shack Shakers – Col. JD is the last great living frontman. They’re kind of in the cow-punk variety, but live it’s so hard to notice the country influence that you’d forget it. They also have some Christian elementsto their act, what with the bass player having formerly worked with Rich Mullins and being a member of the on-again-off-again (and excellent) “This Train.” But, for my money, they’re at their best live among the drunk, ugly rock fans.
- Reverend Horton Heat – More rock-a-billy leaning into country… Definite cow punk…but there’s a real hard edge there, and some awesome mosh-pits. They’re the country act it’s okay for the punkers to love.
- Supersuckers – Or the Supersuckers…the Supersuckers are also the country act it’s okay for the punkers to love. Even though I only lean into thinking they’re okay. My brother’s a big fan, but personally I wish their lyrics weren’t always so damn silly. But I think I’m just not quite getting the joke and fun of it. Probably need to see them live. “Pretty Fucked Up” is a good song, anyway.
- Buzzcocks – If you claim to love punk, but haven’t heard “What Do I Get?,” “Ever Fallen in Love,” and/or “Orgasm Addict,” you’re lying to yourself and others.
- GG Allin – Painful to think about, honestly. The music was awful…the guy frequently went for days without bathing or wiping his ass (not joking) and defecation was a regular part of his stage show. It’s more important to know the legend than to actually LIKE him…because he didn’t seem to want to be liked. Just a really screwed up dude who was a complete train wreck… But that’s what a train wreck is. It’s hard to want to look at, but hard to look away from. I definitely wouldn’t recommend checking him out…but he belongs in the lexicon, all the same.
So there you go… Turn it up loud, if you turn it up at all.
(Notable omissions – The Get Up Kids, who basically started Emo. Nirvana, who were important to Grunge and AREN’T Punk, but are often mistaken for it. And there are those who credit Motorhead with being a good transitional act between punk and metal.)