There's no shortage of cynics who would love to have you believe that punk is dead. But we'll have you know that if those people would dig the earwax out and pay attention, they'd know that today's punk bands are still creating volatile, relevant, inspired songs year after year. Of course 2014 was no different. Several generations of punk's finest made their mark on the genre this year with all the guts and grit we've come to expect and maybe a little extra. Here is our list of the Best Punk Albums of 2014.
See also: The 10 Best Punk Christmas Songs
11.Rancid, …Honor is All We Know
The godfathers of the '90s punk scene showed a solid return to form back in October with their eighth studio album …Honor is All We Know. They reclaim their vitality from the very first note of aptly-titled opener "Back Where I Belong," with Matt Freeman's punchy bass playing, guitarist-vocalist Tim Armstrong's raspy sneer, catchy harmonies led by Lars Frederiksen, and the crushing drums of Branden Steineckert. Even though it's tough to match the genius of their golden-era albums, most of what we hear on the 14-track album would still stand out in any Rancid setlist and definitely packs more punch that anything on 2009's lukewarm release Let the Dominoes Fall. We're glad to see that this year, Rancid manages to keep roaring ahead instead of phoning it in.
10.Mad Caddies, Dirty Rice
Though its style is as eclectic and full of different flavors as its title suggests, Mad Caddies' spring release Dirty Rice is a quality offering from the ska-tinged punks. And considering it's their first album in seven years, it really shows that the Santa Barbara seven piece still has fire in their belly. Songs like "Bring it Down," one of the truly punk tracks on the album, gives you that taste of distorted guitar played at the break-neck speed you need, which is balanced well by some pop sensibility and the reggae tinged "Cali Song." Is it a purebred punk record? No. But it does bring together all the right elements of the scene they helped popularize in the late '90s while offering diverse flavors in the mix.
9.Buzzcocks, The Way
The Buzzcocks aren't out to reinvent the wheel. The UK band did enough of that as one of the original acts to come out of the first wave punk movement. But even as they settle into old age, Buzzcocks' principle duo–Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle–haven't been forced to trade wisdom for vitality. The Way, their ninth studio album since their reunion in 1989, shows a deft hand with melodies and lyrics that younger bands can still learn from. After kicking down the door with album opener "Keep On Believing," The Way goes in some amazing directions on cerebral, socially conscious songs like "Virtually Real," and upbeat gems "Out of the Blue," and "Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times," that add some levity to their album. After all these years, the band still remain true to their origins, even if that means being incompatible with the times we're living in.
8.Stiff Little Fingers, No Going Back
We find it a bit ironic that Stiff Little Fingers' 10th album No Going Back is able to recapture their classic '70s sound as boldly as it does. Infused with youthful rebellion, the band's first album in more than a decade seems to be an ode to their younger years spent heavily involved in the punk scene at the height of 'the troubles' in Ireland. Even though there's a heavy rock element in the new record, the punk DNA is alive and kicking in songs like "Full Steam Backwards," "I Just Care About Me," and "Since Yesterday Was Here." It's good to hear singer Jake Burns deliver his irreverent, Irish wail once again.
7.White Lung, Deep Fantasy
Call it bold, violent, or irreverent–just don't call it Riot Grrl. Canadian punk troupe White Lung–spearheaded by wild front woman Mish Way–often draws incorrect comparisons to the '90s all-female bands of the Olympia scene. What more people are realizing with the release of their album Deep Fantasy is that Way is cutting her own path in punk rock and is easily becoming one of the most interesting singers (of any gender) to watch out for in 2015. The band's third LP includes 10 songs and clocks in at a breathless 22 minutes, wasting little time with filler and harnesses plenty of fire on tracks like "Face Down." Though there's plenty of old school grit and passion in this band, the outcome of the album is obviously a statement on punk rock's new generation.
6.OFF!, Wasted Years
As lifers of the West Coast punk rock scene, the all-star lineup of OFF! continue to pay homage to their roots one extremely short, angry song at a time. Despite the title of their third full length Wasted Years, the band fronted by Keith Morris wastes very little time getting to the point as they blitz through most of their songs (typically under two minutes each). There are a few exceptions in the 19-song offering though– "Legion of Evil" incorporates Sabbath-like metal breakdowns, and the next track "No Easy Escape" has tempo shifts all over the place. Stand out tracks like "Void You Out", "Time's Not on Your Side", and "Hypnotized" remind us that raw power in various forms is still the band's stock-in-trade.
5. 7 Seconds, Leave a Light On
After 30 years together and 16 albums, Reno's favorite hardcore punks 7 Seconds came correct once again with Leave a Light On. The melodic punk album fits the style they have been playing their entire music career. Complex power chords and Chuck Berry-esque solos abound as the rapid fire drums pound away. And stand out tracks like "Slogan On a Shirt," and "30 Years (And Still Going Wrong)" give a nod to the band's punk ethos by writing lyrics about two things they know well: themselves and their scene. And the band did a great job getting backing vocals to compliment Kevin Seconds' lead vocals. The album's energy lasts just long enough to make it solid all the way through.
4.Dwarves, The Dwarves Invented Rock and Roll
Fans of the Dwarves are no strangers to the Id that drives their loveably crass aesthetic. Blag Dahlia and company indulge themselves again with the record they released over the summer that combines their depraved, relentless skate punk with homages to various rock heroes like Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Van Halen, and the Beatles. Still, the energy and short attention span of the lyrics avoid making it resemble a concept album, which is just fine by us. Favoring balls and guts over organized thought has always the Dwarves M.O. and on this record, the continue to accomplish that.
3.Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
For those out of the loop when it comes to Florida punk band Against Me!, the past few years have been interesting to say the least. With a few line up changes and a very important sexual identity change on the part of transgendered power house Laura Jane Grace (formerly Thomas Gabel), the band's new album was already enough of a struggle. Add to that the back and forth between different studios re-recording the entire thing and you've got something that could either be as solid as a diamond or a total clusterfuck. ThankfullyTransgender Dysphoria Blues became the former. While the band had plenty to live up to with classic albums like As the Eternal Cowboy, Searching for a Former Clarity and 2011's White Crosses, the band proved up to the task, delivering 10 tracks of brazen, anthemic punk tunes that carry the weight of Grace's reflection on her major life decision to live as a woman. While it sounds like most punk fans could never have the ability to understand what she's gone through, jams like the title track and "True Trans Soul Rebel" make it stunningly raw, honest and relatable from the start thanks to howling grit and barreling guitars.
Though it's been nearly a decade since 2005's Resolve, Lagwagon's status as one of the pillar punk rock bands in Fat Wreck Chords arsenal remained intact with Hang. After all these years, their songs are still as blistering and melodic as ever with catchy riffs aplenty that shine on tracks like "Cog in the Machine."Most fans will note that it comes off as a heavier record that is unafraid to celebrate the breakdown on songs like "Western Settlements." Their mini opus, "Obsolete Absolute," clocks in just over six minutes, with varying melodies and tempos that show that the band is more than comfortable with their sound these days. There's no doubt that this record was a much needed, well-timed effort from the band a nice step forward that has us convinced that there's a lot more powerful punk left in the tank for them.
1.Adolescents, La Vendetta
We can't really say enough about the songwriting duo of Steve Soto and Tony Cadena. As two founding fathers of OC punk, they've proven themselves relevant time and time again. And of course, The Adolescents cemented themselves into local punk rock lore decades ago. But for them to come out with an album as well structured, aggressive and poignant as La Vendetta this year brought their game to a new level. Anyone who looks at the album cover will immediately recognize their passion toward the Kelly Thomas case that caught national attention as the bloodthirsty cops who beat a Fullerton homeless man to death went free. But with La Vendetta, The Ads created a rallying cry that was impossible to ignore from the moment you hear songs like "A Dish Best Served Cold," or "Let it Go," fueled by the classic combination of melodic guitars and catchy gang vocals over the raucous bass lines and smashing rhythm section that grabs the listener by the collar doesn't let go. As far as OC is concerned, this record is a time capsule piece that, despite the sorrowful outcome of the Kelly Thomas case, we can always look back and be proud of.