10 Punk Albums to Listen to Before You Die

10 Punk Albums to Listen to Before You Die

Coming up with 10 punk albums to listen to before you die is a lot harder than you'd think. For starters, it's a morbid thought, which makes you start asking yourself why in the hell you're thinking about punk albums when you're only gonna die, so who cares?

Second, the best material of many (if not most) punk bands is featured on singles, not full-length records. That's why you won't see Minor Threat on this list because even though they are punk rock royalty, their sole album (1982's Out of Step) isn't as good as their EPs. Or, on the flipside, you got a band like Red Cross, whose first EP is
unfuckwithable, but EPs aren't albums and therefore not included in this list.


That said, there are still plenty of full-length punk records that everyone should most definitely hear and more than likely own.

Here, in no particular order, are 10.

10. Bad Brains, S/T

You can not, I repeat, can not, fuck with the

Bad Brains

self-titled record. The uneducated music fan thinks punk is synonymous with shitty playing, but singer

H.R.

, drummer

Earl Hudson

, bassist

Darryl Jenifer

and guitarist

Gary "Dr. Know" Miller

shred that misconception to oblivion. From the opening lines of "Sailin' On," you know you've never heard a voice like HR's. He's melodic like an opera singer but he's more pissed than

Johnny Rotten

. That's not fair to other punk singers, but this is the Bad Brains we're talking about. Next on the record is "Don't Need It," a track that is faster than it should be yet sound totally comfortable at its breakneck pace. How is that possible? The Bad Brains rule, that's how. From there the album includes "Attitude," "The Regulator," "Fearless Vampire Killers," "Supertouch/Shitfit," "I," "Big Takeover" and "Right Brigade." Simply put, these songs are amazing and feature musicianship far beyond what anyone associates with punk rock. The breakdown on "Right Brigade?" Forget about it. Oh yeah...did I mention that the album also includes three reggae tracks that prove the Bad Brains could have been a full-time dub group if they wanted to be? Well, it does and they could have been if they weren't too busy completely destroying hardcore for anyone who followed. In fact, fuck this list. I'm going to stop writing and go listen to this instead because I sure as hell don't want to get hit by a bus tomorrow and not have heard this one final time.

9. Sex Pistols, Nevermind the Bullocks Here's the Sex Pistols

Just how essential is this record to punk? Well, the

Sex Pistols

' Wikipedia page has 237 footnotes.That's 168 more than

The Doors

. But don't let Wikipedia tell you how good this album us. Just listen to the damn thing and you'll understand that the Sex Pistols were more than a traveling freak show. Lyrically,

Johnny Rotten

attacks authority on "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the U.K.," bashes a former record label on "E.M.I." and deals with angst and boredom on "Pretty Vacant." That's enough to make this a classic record, but what makes Bullocks so great is the Pistols' acumen for the basics of rock 'n' roll. Whereas later British punk bands thought they were picking up where the Pistols left off, the only thing those latter groups did was spike their hair and play way too fast. The Pistols, however, took the groove created by the likes of

Chuck Berry

and twisted it into their own demented sound.

 

8. Ramones, S/T

Similar to the Sex Pistols, the inclusion of the

Ramones

' first album could come off as cliched due to the fact that this entire genre was founded on these 14 songs. Historical significance is enough reason to have this record, but

Ramones

isn't some museum piece that sounds dated. In fact, the more time that passes between 1976 (the year this was released) and now, the songs just keep getting better. Sure, we've all heard album opener "Blitzkrieg Bop," but stand-out tracks "Judy Is a Punk," "Havana Affair" and "53rd & 3rd" make this an absolute must-have. The downstrumming barrage of guitarist

Johnny Ramone

and bassist

Dee Dee Ramone

still hasn't been topped while drummer

Tommy Ramone

lays down the most perfect rock 'n' roll backbeat ever (yeah, that's right, I said ever). Then there's singer

Joey Ramone

, who can get super melodic on "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and then belts out "Loudmouth" like he's in an insane asylum. Some might argue the band got better over the course of their next three records and those people might be right. However, those records wouldn't exist with

Ramones

. This album is so essential that if you can buy only one entry from this list, Ramones is it. Seriously. Own this. Today. The only bummer about this record is its reminder that Dee Dee, Johnny and Joey aren't here anymore.

7. Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

On 1981's

In God We Trust, Inc.

, San Francisco's

Dead Kennedys

proved themselves as a top-notch hardcore band, but a year prior on

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

, the group showed that it could have been a damn good pop band if singer

Jello Biafra

, guitarist

East BayRay

, bassist

Klaus Flouride

and drummer

Ted

really wanted to be. Album opener "Kill the Poor," "Let's Lynch the Landlord" and "Your Emotions" would have been perfect for radio if the quarter aspired to be another throwaway mainstream act. Instead, these songs are sped up a tad and feature vitriol-filled lyrics that no program director would ever get near. To balance these pop tunes, the Dead Kennedys add hardcore elements into their unique blend of punk, surf, pop and psychedelia


(imagine Dick Dale dropping acid and joining the Ramones and you've got East Bay Ray) on tunes such as "Drug Me," "California Uber Alles," "Holiday in Cambodia" and "Chemical Warfare."

6. The Damned, Damned Damned Damned

What many consider to be the first full-length UK punk album is also considered to be one of the best. Similar to

Nevermind the Bullocks

,

Damned Damned Damned

sounds like a sped up version of traditional rock 'n' roll. As the band progressed, its sound incorporated a more ethereal, gothic style, but tracks such as "New Rose," "Stab Your Back," "So Messed Up" and "I Fall" would have been the definitive sound of

Sun Records

had the famed Memphis label existed in England during the late 1970s.

5. Descendents, Milo Goes to College

The 15 songs on

Milo Goes to College

set the foundation for the pop-punk genre, but we won't hold that against these four South Bay misfits. Instead, we'll scream along with the teenage angst found on "Parents," pretend to beat up jocks while listening to "I'm Not a Loser" and flip the bird to fashion punks after proclaiming "I'm Not a Punk." There's not a clunker on this record, but the final four songs ("Marriage," "Hope," "Bikeage" and "Jean is Dead") prove that you can be into punk without being the shirtless dude who wants to start the pit. You don't believe me? Go see the band and watch what happens when they play "Hope." Seriously, there's not a better girl-disses-boy song on the planet.

4. Flipper, Album Generic Flipper

Your band can't cover any of the nine songs on this album because the only person on the planet who can play these wild guitar parts is

Flipper

guitarist

Ted Falconi

. What you can do, however, is get super high on drugs, put these songs on late at night and just stare (and I mean that in the best possible way). You won't hear many (any?) punk cliches such as power chords, super fast drumming or songs about

Reagan

on this one. Instead, Flipper brings punk into a psychedelic nightmare where

Bruce Loose

and

Will Shatter

trade hypnotic vocals and drummer

Steve DePace

bashes away with what sounds like baseball bats for sticks. Album closer "Sex Bomb" is the "hit," but if you wanna get really spacey, start with "(I Saw You) Shine."

 

3. Black Flag, My War

What's that? You think punk bands are never supposed to change their sound? That they should write one good song and then re-write it for twenty years? Well,

My War

says you're wrong. The album opens with the brutal title-track before getting into two of the best

Black Flag

tunes ever, "Can't Decide" and "Beat My Head Against the Wall." These two songs feature a distinct groove not often found in punk, but lest anyone think the band has gone soft, singer

Henry Rollins

serves as the perfect lunactic for guitarist/songwriter

Greg Ginn

's visceral lyrics. Side A ends with "The Swinging Man," which borrows more from Ornette Coleman than the Ramones. It's the type of song that only Black Flag — and only Black Flag during this era — could have pulled off. Then there's Side B, which features three songs — "Nothing Left Inside," "Three Night" and "Scream." Each is heavy, slow and goddamn powerful in a way that makes you want to put your first through a wall. Some claim the B Side to

My War

is the blueprint to grunge. Maybe. Whatever the case, both sides to

My War

fucking rule not only because the band successfully proved that the term "punk band" wasn't synonymous with "one-trick pony" but also because the songs are some of the visceral in the group's catalog.

2. The Misfits, Walk Among Us

Being melodic never sounded so creepy, which is probably why the

Misfits

are one of the few punk bands that has transcended the genre. Singer

Glenn Danzig

's harmonious baritone/tenor makes every day Halloween on tracks such as "I Turned Into a Martian," "All Hells Breaks Loose," "Vampira," "Hatebreeders," "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight," "Astro Zombies" and "Night of the Living Dead." What's even crazier about this record than a lyric such as "Killed a girl on lover's lane/I kept her toes and teeth/Every night I stalk around until I find my keep/I'll bring back a souvenir /For it's my mommy's dream" is that these aren't even the best version of most of these songs. For those, check out the Misfits' four-disc box set.

1. The Dwarves, Blood, Guts & Pussy

Song titles include "Back Seat of My Car," "Let's Fuck," "Skin Poppin' Slut," "Insect Whore" and "Flesh Tantrum." If that isn't enough to make you want to hear this before you die, I don't know what is. Awesome titles aside, the 12 songs on this record fucking slay. The longest is one minute and thirty-four seconds long, but this album lacks nothing.




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