“A cheap holiday in other people’s misery” [punk’s not dead?]

August 30th, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the tenth, a milestone number that I am going to completely fail to celebrate. I’ve been experimenting with punk music lately, and I think I might have something interesting to say about The Clash and the Sex Pistols, or, more specifically, their albums London Calling and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. I don’t know anything about punk, so both albums were eye-opening.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite

Another giveaway! Tell me something I need to know about punk in the comments (meaning: tell me something you like that I probably don’t know and will probably like), and you’ll get a free copy of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here (mp3s, obviously). It’s old man music, the sort of album you listen to while chilling on a recliner or on a porch somewhere. The upbeat stuff is when your grandkids come around for playtime and you stand up, stretch your back, and then you show them youngins how to do some pushups. It’s good, yo.

I don’t even really know what punk music is, man. Not properly. Most of my punk knowledge comes from the periphery of punk culture. I know of cyberpunk and steampunk, though I couldn’t tell you if they’re called that because of the music or because somebody came up with “cyberpunk” and now “-punk” is the new hotness. I owned a Sex Pistols shirt before I ever listened to a Sex Pistols album because I liked how it looked. I’m pretty sure what I thought was punk rock before I actually sat down and asked a friend where I should start with punk was in fact, black metal. Something really aggressive, dark clothes, piercings, and a dude with weird hair growling into the microphone. I thought it was this, from Brian Azzarello and Guy Davis’s Hellblazer:

Yeah. I mean, real talk, full disclosure, confession time: I figured punk was basically just NWA for white people. For headbangers, not head nodders, basically. Who knew?

Anyway, enough faux guilt over having ignored an entire genre of music that people apparently like a whole lot. January 28, 2011: the day I purchased London Calling. I was heavy into the Beatles and it seemed like a good idea because… I don’t remember, I think I asked Ron Richards of iFanboy because he knows this stuff. I bought it, downloaded, and listened and was caught completely flat-footed.

London Calling didn’t sound at all like I expected. I was expecting something with some sharp snares, or something about anarchists and antichrists. Something growly and mean, the sort of music I could scare my neighbors with or disappoint my parents (in this scenario, it is also 197something). Instead, it just sorta sounds like a regular rock album. More than that–it sounds like a radio-friendly rock album. This feels like music people ride drive around to and sing with, you know?

Not to say that I don’t like it–I actually like London Calling quite a bit. I was just surprised by the diversity of the music on the album. “Brand New Cadillac” is Elvis-y, “Jimmy Jazz” is jazzy, there’s some really reggae songs on here, and then there’s stuff like “London Calling” or “The Guns of Brixton”, which I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe yet. “The Guns of Brixton” sounds a little like talking to a distant drunk, with the strange over-enunciation and the sproings around 1:15 in.

I think my favorite track on the album is actually “London Calling,” though the reasons why are still a bit unclear. I like the phrase “London Calling,” particularly how it punctuates (or maybe just punctures) the song. It’s ever-present, and sorta menacing with the backing vocals layered in on it. (I had to look up the “I live by the river” bit to see if it was about being homeless). I like how this feels post/mid-apocalyptic, like the world’s gone all wrong and it’s too late to stop. It’s the last concert before the end of the world. Am I reading too deep into the song? I don’t think so, it’s sorta right there.

I like “Lover’s Rock” a whole lot, too. That first fifteen seconds leading into the vocals is pretty great, and the vocals just elevate how good this song makes me feel (setting aside the lyrics). It feels and sounds like summertime music. This album doesn’t feel like the ’70s to me. Its style isn’t modern, of course, but it doesn’t feel that dated. It feels sorta timeless.

Amazon tells me that I bought Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols on July 18th. Makes sense–I think I played it a lot while I was in San Diego. (I also got Public Image Ltd’s album on the same day.) The Sex Pistols are closer to what I thought punk was. It’s as raw as an open wound, with a lot of speedy guitar riffs (licks?). It’s great music to work out to because it’s all so high energy.

I really, really like how Johnny Rotten isn’t much of a singer at all on this album. He croaks his way through “God Save The Queen” like somebody at karaoke, yeah? But his swagger is so strong that the rough vocals don’t matter at all. This stuff is catchy. It feels like rebel music, even if that rebellion was a billion years ago. It’s pleasingly political in a way that really isn’t that political at all. It’s not a call to action. It’s just telling us something we already know. Political comfort food. I love the “No future!” chant toward the end, especially the way its drawn out “Noooooooooo fewcha” plays against the fast music. There’s also this hitch in there around 2:46, like the vocals don’t come all the way in. It feels like a slippery, slamming song.

I like the popular songs from this one, I guess. “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK” are tops. “Anarchy in the UK” is even rawer. Is it just me or is Rotten’s voice mixed super high on this song? While he sorta fades into “God Save the Queen” and blends with the music, on “Anarchy in the UK” he practically rides on top of the song. It’s all about the wobble in his voice and that whine he uses to cap off “know how to get it.” It doesn’t sound good, but it sounds great.

Does that make sense? I just love how much energy and style Rotten has on this album. All of the music sounds really great and well put together, with interesting solos and solid beats, and then Rotten comes in and freaks out all over the record. I don’t know that I can verbalize why this is so entertaining to me, but it’s sort of like how I’ll listen to a really great rap song and then hear that moment when the artist breathes in because he just finished a Jenga tower of a verse and his breath control ran out. It’s like the seams are showing beneath the music, and being able to see or hazard a guess as to how it’s put together is a good feeling.

This feels a little like history class, or maybe some type of innocent voyeurism. I’m observing this from somewhere else, far from who it was for and what it represents. I’m pretty much entirely divorced from the punk era and its ethos. Actually, that’s not entirely true–I don’t know enough to know whether or not its ethos still applies. Is that even a conversation I need to be having? Would that make me like the music more than I do? I just like how these albums sound, and not being a part of the culture doesn’t harm that enjoyment, I don’t think. I came away pretty impressed with both of these albums (they’re particularly good to write to, I’ve found, and easy to mindlessly sing along with, especially the end of “Problems”), and they definitely sparked further interest in the genre and the people involved.

The two albums either up-ended or confirmed the stereotypes I had about punk, and I think that’s what I like most about them. Punk is and isn’t exactly what I thought it is, right?

I know somebody out there is well-versed in punk. I’m taking suggestions, preferably full albums rather than singles, but if someone’s a one-hit wonder with a hot song, c’est la guerre. I’ll take it. The best suggestion gets a free copy of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.

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54 comments to ““A cheap holiday in other people’s misery” [punk’s not dead?]”

  1. Hi David,

    For me, punk rock begins stateside with the Stooges-specifically “Fun House”. It is pure and raw-Iggy’s mad howls cut with razor edge guitars. A spit in the face to 60’s free love sound. Fellow Detroit-ers MC5 were more political and recorded probably the best live album of the era with “Kick Out The Jams”. While both these bands are more proto-punk–I think they best exmeplify the spirit of the sound. Both were huge influences along with Velvet Underground on the original NY punk scene of Patti Smith, Ramones, Dictators, Richard Hell and the Voidoids which in turn influenced the UK scene of the Clash and Sex Pistols.

    Blah Blah, this is the kind of thing I could ramble on about, so I’ll spare ya. Basically there are two great books detailing the origins of the American punk scene, “Please Kill Me” for the east coast and “We Got the Neutron Bomb” for the west coast. Also, if you haven’t checked it our already, “The Filth and the Fury” doc about the Sex Pistols is awesome.

  2. I can only echo David’s recommendation for Please Kill Me. It’s a cracker of a book. The Ramones are also great.

    UK contemporaries of the Clash worth investigating are Killing Joke: The Wait.

    Dead Kennedys from California are well worth checking out: Too Drunk to Fuck”

    From DC, Bad Brains: Attitude

    More from the US Hardcore scene but one of my favourites is Poison Idea from Portland, esp. the album these tracks came from: Just to Get Away, The Badge.

    In a similar vein are Black Flag: TV Party

    That should get you started : )

  3. Punk is weird. It existed, and then it immediately fractured. Kids took it on, played punk without really knowing what it was, just let all their energy out. Some people turned it into a pose (*cough* sex pistols *cough*). Some people took it and did their own thing and turned it into post-punk. So basically you have stuff that’s punk and stuff that’s strongly influenced by punk all mixed together. I think the ethos definitely still applies, and it will apply as long as people are pissed off and feel like no one’s going to listen to them, you know? Because that’s really what punk is all about – anger, frustration, catchy hooks, and loudness. At its heart punk is exactly what you thought it was. It’s just that kids do their own thing with it, inevitably.

    I think you should check out the first Clash album (self-titled), which is a little more classically punk and less experimental, but it has some real classic songs on it – Janie Jones and White Riot are unimpeachable. The Ramones were obviously the first real American punk band and their stuff is still decent beyond “Blitzkrieg Bop” – energetic, with a dark humor that can be real enjoyable. Eventually you start getting into the hardcore scene with stuff in LA and DC which is probably what you think of as ‘classic punk rock’ – stuff like Black Flag and so many other bands and we’re quickly reaching the point where I’m just going to start listing stuff so here goes.

    Bad Brains, I Against I – weirdo rasta-funk-hardcore band from DC, but they pretty much killed and I Against I is classic. Black Flag – Damaged – pretty much THE pre-eminent American hardcore band, almost required listening. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables – probably the greatest San Francisco punk band, this one features shit like “California Uber Alles” (about our current governor! hurray!) and “Holiday In Cambodia” – just a great album. Minutemen – Double Nickels On The Dime – great, off-beat music made by a couple awesome guys from the sticks. Husker Du – Zen Arcade – kind of moving from hardcore into alt-rock, but a good enough album that I just don’t care. Jawbreaker – Bivouac/Twenty Four Hour Revenge Therapy – this is an emo album not a punk album but I JUST DON’T CARE! I’m mad with power! Emo is basically what happened in the early 90s when punks started talking about their feelings, and Jawbreaker is possibly the best emo band (other contenders: Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate). Blake Schwartzenbach isn’t punk, but he doesn’t care. Jawbreaker was an awesome band and these albums are still pretty punk so check them out. Also the Replacements, Let It Be, which isn’t punk at all really but is probably my favorite album of all time so I’m just going to mention it, and the Spits, who are a not-very-well-known punk band who put on the best fucking show I’ve ever seen.

    and that’s my rambling, 1 in the morning thoughts on this issue. Hope this helps you somehow. Punk’s not dead.

  4. FINALLY David Brothers writes a blog post where I actually get to feel superior after reading it. When I was 14 I had two things I obsessed over: comics and late 70s UK punk rock. This is MY THING. I’ll try to keep this short.

    I’m REALLY interested to know what you thought of Public Image Limited, since at their best, they combined the best parts of both the Clash and the Pistols, and were the first band that sprung to mind for me to recommend.

    (The kind of music you previously thought punk was isn’t completely off-base, by the way- that kind of punk rock exists (and I listen to a lot of it)- it just came a few years later, with the early 80s Oi/crust/thrashpunk bands like Discharge and The Exploited (who didn’t go fully thrash till the late 80s BUT I DIGRESS). And of course there’s plenty of modern equivalents- bands like Hatebreed get their entire sound from those bands.)

    Other recommendations? Well, first of all, it’s worth mentioning that the first wave of UK punk (which was very much it’s own thing- the only thing the UK scene really got from it’s US counterpart was the word “punk” itself) was so influential that the truest heir to that sound is actually probably modern radio friendly rock- bands like the Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age are pretty damn close in terms of sound. But I’m guessing that’s not what you’re after.

    One of the most notable things about the early UK punk scene is how diverse the sound actually was. I think it’s pretty fair to say that bands like the Buzzcocks and the Damned sounded as different from the Sex Pistols and The Clash as those two do from each other. But you should definitely check them both out. I know you asked for albums, but I’m afraid I can’t really do that- I was all about the singles and the compilations when I was a kid, so I know them a song at a time. Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and Boredom are essential Buzzcocks tracks, and for the Damned I’d say New Rose, Neat Neat Neat and Smash It Up are all likely to make your ears happy.

    The Stiff little Fingers are a really great band, and I can actually name you an album there- Inflammable Material is really good.

    the Stranglers were a bar-room blues rock band who disguised themselves as punks when the fashion came along to make some money. Despite that, they’re worth listening to- they had a really great keyboard player who just plinketyplonked over the top of everything in an almost proggy way and made them kind of unique- Get A Grip On Yourself and Peaches are the obvious favourites there.

    Basically anyone that was on Stiff Records at the end of the 70s is worth looking in to- a lot of them are acts that we wouldn’t really think of as punk today, like Elvis Costello and Ian Dury (who everyone everywhere should listen to), but there’s also the Adverts, The Members, and even yank reject Richard hell, who managed to turn out a few decent tracks when he wasn’t trying so hard to be arty.

    In more recent times, the British punk scene has kind of separated like spoiled milk, into too-soft britpop and too-hard hardcore. I like the heavy stuff, but I’m guessing you won’t. If you’re not sure, try Discharge’s Why? EP- if you turn out to be in the 5% of people who don’t hate it, then that’s a whole other road to go down, and you’ll soon find yourself listening to Slayer. As for the britpop, well, we know you’ve got that covered. there’s a band called Gallows you might want to check out- they’re kind of metal on the surface, but they’re basically a punk band. Grey Britain is a pretty good album.

    But for the most part, for good punk rock post 1980, well, it’s over to your side of the pond.

    Fugazi are fucking great. Minor Threat were good, but Fugazi are genuinely brilliant. In On The Kill Taker is probably the best album to start with, but literally everything they’ve done is just fantastic. their sound is hard to describe- very percussion oriented, experimental guitar rock. there’s a lot of light and shade on their albums. They’re probably the closest band to the Clash, in spirit, that I can think of.

    Bad Religion get a bad rap, I think, because they influenced so many truly terrible bands. No Bad Religion, no Blink 182 or Sum 41. Imagine that world. It might sound nice, but it’s not worth it if it means losing Bad Religion. Think Pistols with a dash of Motorhead, and vocals by a guy who sounds like a college professor, because he really is a college professor. Start with Stranger Than Fiction and work your way out from there.

    Rancid are commercial as all hell and you will have the piss ripped out of you mercilessly if you like them. None of which changes the fact that …And Out Come The Wolves and Let’s Go are both really well crafted albums, full of really catchy ska-inflected songs.

    A lot of people really like Green day. I understood that when I was 14, much less so now. I don’t know if they changed or I did. But Dookie is worth borrowing off a friend, I think.

    I said I was going to keep it short, didn’t I? I’ve tried to stick to stuff that’s reasonably easy to get hold of, and isn’t too new-listener unfriendly. Hopefully I haven’t just named a whole bunch of stuff you already know and don’t like.

    Like Columbo, I’ve got just one more thing-

    All the old-school punks I used to hang out with in my mis-spent youth refused to listen to anything from the genre recorded after about 1985 or so. Believe it or not, the music they all went in for in a big way was actually what we now call nu-metal (that term hadn’t been coined in 1995, to my knowledge). There was a pretty bumper crop of bands in the UK in the early 90s who combined elements of dance and hip hop with metal guitars and rock song construction, and unlike the American bands who’d do that a few years later, the sound actually had a very similar energy to it that those early punk bands had- bands like Senser, PitchShifter, Bullyrag and RealTV all catered to a mix of kids like I was and guys in their forties who still had mohawks and safety pins in their faces. the Prodigy, of course, also appealed to this demographic. Nowadays, Skindred are probably the best example of that sound and feel, and one of my favourite bands. Their latest album Union Black, is scorcher. Senser’s Stacked Up and PitchShifter’s http://www.pitchshifter.com are both album’s I’d recommend to anybody- not strictly punk, but it’s very much the same ballpark.

  5. Also, that Anonymous San Fransiscan knows their shit, I second all their recommendations. Nice to see someone’s got that side of the pond covered.

  6. Hmm…

    I’d maybe suggest the Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. That album particularly mixes some UK aspects with raw energy more associated with the US hardcore scene. Plus they’re from San Fran, so maybe that’ll add something to the pot. To me, it’s doesn’t feel quite as… timeless, I guess, as it should. So yeah, that. Comma overload.

  7. Well, that’ll teach me to listen to the album beforehand, it’s already been mentioned in the time it took.

  8. Huh.. I posted whole bunch of links but they seem to have disappeared…

    I’ll just settle for econding David’s recommendation of Please Kill Me posting this one http://youtu.be/sdN__-PQFlc

    Avoid all the other bands David Wynne mentions after Fugazi. Cheerio!

  9. Ah crap and now there they are.. :frown:

  10. There were/are a lot of bands in the “punk” scene. If you are looking for pure, undiluted punk, I would suggest “Punks Not Dead” by The EXPLOITED (1981) for UK punk and “Minor Threat: The Complete Discography” by MINOR THREAT (1990) for US punk.

    Modern punk pretty much doesn’t exist. It’s all hardcore or metal now. A couple of highlights to check out, though, would be “Sing Sing Death House” by the LA punk band DISTILLERS (2002) and “The Shape of Punk to Come” by the Swedish punk band REFUSED (1998).

  11. These are all brilliant suggestions. I’d also suggest X-Ray Spex and The Slits – great female/female-fronted punk acts from the 70s.

  12. I really liked Death’s album, For The Whole The World To See (which I think qualifies as punk…), and they’ve got a pretty cool backstory: they were basically doing punk in Detroit in 1974, right before it became huge(they were also kind of the first African Americans to do it, before Bad Brains), and the record companies wouldnt’ touch them. They were kind of a legend until a couple of years ago, when their only real album was released. A highlight for me is Politicians In My Eyes link.
    I’m New Here is awesome, did anyone listen to the remix album by the guy from XX?

  13. I really enjoy the box set that Rhino put out maybe 8 years ago called No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion (tracklist here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Thanks!:_The_70s_Punk_Rebellion). It runs from The Ramones to Joy Division over 4 discs. It has singles from many of the groups mentioned above. Some of the songs are your first glance at a multi-album career; others are dead ends. An important (to me) part of the punk ethos was that anyone could put together a band, write a song, and record it–that might merit a shrug now, but it seemed mind-blowing not so long ago. That makes it hard to ignore some great blazing singles that never received a proper follow-up.

    Johnny Rotten apparently stopped Rhino from adding a Sex Pistols track because they didn’t release a Sex Pistols box set.

    The set does a great job of revealing all of punk’s tendrils: forays into twee-pop, new wave, goth, art-rock, glam, cock-rock, rockabilly, and hardcore. I’m not saying get the whole set, but maybe check youtube for the titles that sound intriguing.

    My favorite song from it is “Boredom” by the Buzzcocks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoYiQ8Qsozk. Great snot-dripping condescension and self-loathing in the lyric, and a thrilling two-note ambulance riff on the guitar.

  14. Of course, the standbys have already been covered from protopunk to hardcore and on, but aside from plugging the Ramones again, my favorite band of all time, I’d suggest the Gorilla Biscuits. They came in pretty late to the hardcore party in 1987, but I feel like they embody all the things I like about punk generally and hardcore specifically- they’re fast, simple, so full of energy they sound like they might burst into flames, have a moral position and the CIV sounds like he’s about to lose his mind with rage, anxiety and frustration at any moment.

    Start Today- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny1lr0Jknvc
    New Direction- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8T5nOeozTU
    Both from the LP Start Today

  15. As a 16 year old long haired white boy living in Kentucky in 1976, I pretty much had no use for Punk. I just didn’t, and couldn’t relate. I had nothing to rebel against except the usual teenage stuff, and the whole mohawk/safety pin/torn t-shirt thing looked like just another uniform to me, like the tie-dye and jeans hippie style. I already looked different enough in my small town, I didn’t need to look that different. So, even though the good people who wrote for Creem, whose word I took as gospel otherwise, told me I should be digging it, well, I just didn’t.

    Except, for some reason, I really liked the Ramones, especially the Rocket to Russia album, which remains a favorite to this day. Eventually, I came to like Television and the Clash (took me a LONG time to dig them, and even then it was the really commercial, hooky stuff like “Rock the Casbah” which the hardcore fan turned up their noses at.

    So, yeah, the Ramones. Check ’em out. It’s a cartoon, but it’s an entertaining cartoon that goes real fast.

  16. Punk was born from distraut of anything that could be considered “establishment”, and that especially included any music that a producer did a lot of work on. It was the ultimate garage band ethic in action, and the more raw it sounded, the better it was.

    In addition to the stuff that’s already been mentioned, I’d recommend checking out the early Talking Heads stuff, and especially Camper Van Beethoven. “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Bitchin’ Camaro” are a good start with them, btw.

  17. Anything by NOFX, also early Rancid. Op Ivy is even better but Rancid is way more newby friendly

  18. @Pabellow: That Death album was such a great reissue! Sounds like Arthur Lee fronting Sabbath!

  19. I’ll make you a mixtape.

  20. @Dylan: Also, I’d recommend Clinton Heylin’s From The Velvets To The Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk and Babylon’s Burning: From Punk to Grunge, as well as Last Gang in Town: The Story and Myth of the Clash by Marcus Gray. The Heylin books especially give the scope of the movement from inception to export to the eventual fracturing into New Wave, No Wave, Grunge, etc.

  21. @Prodigal: And not to “Um, actually,” you, but “Bitchin’ Camaro” is a Dead Milkmen track.

  22. @Dylan: Sorry, been so long since I last heard the song that I forgot that was who recorded it.

    So David, add the Dead Milkmen to your list of recommendations.

  23. this was interesting, and i love hearing what people who arent stuck in the everyday minutae of modern punk think about the whole thing.

    http://freakangels.com/whitechapel/comments.php?DiscussionID=540&page=5#Item_17 here is a link to a discussion i fostered about the same stuff from a while back, if you are interested in the long-form-dork version of what i am all about.

    basically: anyone saying punk doesnt exist now is not paying attention. theres a ton of DIY kids, illegal show spaces and tours paid for with weed money just doin whatever the hell they want.

    and speaking of TODAY> YESTERDAY, heres an ep that came out last week from bay area kids PUNCH. relentless and angry from a group of guys n gals that arent all suburban white kids. socially aware, and not in some ‘we sign facebook petitions!’ way haha http://www.mediafire.com/?4os10ipd1y931gm it might be a little too crazed for you, but at least check it out for whats goin on.

    a little more mellow (and much more CLASH-esque, even saw them cover STRAIGHT TO HELL a few weeks back) is the CHAMBERLAIN WAITS lp from philly kids THE MENZINGERS. cant find a link for a d/l, but they are big enough that they are on amazon

  24. @David Wynne:

    I’ve never understood the tendency to praise the Buzzcocks, but then shit on bands like Blink-182 and Sum 41. They’re basically the same type of band, guys singing about girls and sex. To call one shit just because they existed 20 years later is kind of ridiculous. Blink-182 might not have had the overall quality of early pop-punk bands, but I’ll put up “Rock Show” and “First Date” against anything the Buzzcocks ever did.

    Anyways, here’s my 5 of my go to recommendations for punk albums.

    Sleater-Kinney – The Woods: A little in the vein of London Calling where S-K clearly started out as a punk band, and over time outgrew the label. Almost every sound on this album is oversized, but absolutely perfect for what they’re aiming for. Corin Tucker’s voice has never sounded better.

    Les Savy Fav – Rome (written upside down): 17 minutes of band at the top of their game.

    Wire – Chairs Missing: In my mind this album perfectly straddles the experimental/punk divide that Wire traversed during their first 3 albums. Not as purely punk as Pink Flag, but not as out there was 154 is.

    X – Wild Gift: The best album by easily the best west coast punk band. X were always probably a little too smart to be a punk band, but they still did it better than anyone else.

    Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic: There’s probably been better albums released in the last decade, but whenever I put on Guitar Romantic I find it hard to care about any of them. Proving that sometimes keeping things simple is the best recipe, Guitar Romantic shows that a dash of cleverness and the ability to play catchy songs loud and fast is all you really need sometimes.

  25. The Stooges-Raw Power/Funhouse/The Stooges
    Death-For the Whole World to See
    The Slits-Cut
    Gang of Four-Entertainment
    The Minutemen- Double Nickels on the Dime
    As Mercenarias- Beginning of the End of the World

    do a bit of reverse engineering for the original labels any of these were on and you will find a treasure trove of stuff, some of which has been mentioned. The As Mercenarias are now on Soul Jazz Records which is a whole other obsessive hole you can fall into by itself.

  26. Well, all the good recommendations for the classics have been pretty much covered. (though I find it odd that no one mentioned Crass yet, but better not open that can of worms, or else we’ll be here all day discussing the merits/faults of the band)

    So I’ll throw you some curve-balls. These are by no mean classics, but some odd gems that other people haven’t mentioned yet.

    Bad Religion – Into The Unknown

    In theory, probably the punkest album of all time because of how ballsy it was. Some background: Bad Relgion, at the height of popularity of hardcore punk (a movement they were part of), decided that the next logical move was to release a space rock opera with keyboards and all kind of synthesizers. It pissed off their fanbase so much that the band did not make a comeback until years later with an album called Back Into the Known. In retrospect, and taken on it’s own, it’s a truly catchy experimental (well, for a punk band) album. Definitely worth a listen. Favorite track: “Billy Gnosis”

    Rocket From The Crypt – R.I.P.

    Crazy Sand Diego punk band from the 90’s and on mixed more energy than a power central. Notable for their incorporation of saxophone into the standard punk set-up. This is a live album so it includes all of their greatest hits, as well as give you a good representation of why they had such rabid fans. It’s actually a recording of their final performance before they decided to break up, so they went all out on it. Favorite track: “I’m Not Invisible”.

    Descendents – Milo Goes To College

    I’m kinda surprised no one mentioned it yet. The odd boy out of the American punk movement. While in the 80’s all the bands were moving towards more political minded songs (taking cues from the Sex Pistols and The Clash), the Descendents went the other way and just started making songs about girls, coffee, and food. Absolutely not pretentious, just four guys making music about what they knew. Favorite track: “Hope”.

    I could be here all day, but I’ll leave you with those.

  27. so…judging on everyone elses posts, i might suggest EVERYONE check out that PUNCH link i posted above as an example of punk as a current, living, breathing thing.

    for what its worth, it will be on a LOT of best of 2011 lists. (and no, i have nothing to do with them. im not just pimping it, i just always get bummed when internet punk discussions dont mention anything new.)

  28. Considering your frequent references to The Clash I’m surprised no one yet mentioend The Pogues. If punk was NWA for white people then Pogues were NWA for the Irish. Irish folk punk and Shane MacGowan an amazingly still living symbol of the era as much as Syd Vicious. Nihilism of drugs and drunkenness and bad behavior but also political statements. Strong connections to the Clash, Joe Strummer produced their last album (as the intact Pogues), and fronted for their final tour when MacGowan left. MacGowan so nasty the US record label had to airbrush teeth on him for the cover art. Hell’s Ditch probably best album and punk era hits “London Girl” and “Rainy Night in Soho.” Ironically Pogues music like Clash also being appropriated by Madison Avenue for TV spots (Subaru and Cadillac).

  29. Someone mentioned it in passing, but seriously, Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen is the best and most unique punk rock record ever released. It’s a bit intimidating – 43 tracks comprising 75 minutes of music – but the majority of those songs are under two minutes, and it bounces around so freely between so many styles that if it gets to a part you don’t like, all you have to do is wait a minute and it’ll turn into something completely different. They had easily the best rhythm section in punk rock history (Mike Watt is a god among bassists), and their free-form lyrics, often delivered as spoken word rants, are poetic in a way few rock lyricists ever accomplish. Hell, as someone who likes Gil Scott Heron, you’ll probably find a lot to appreciate with their lyrics. If you only listen to one punk rock record ever, it should be that.

  30. Also, if you want something more current, I’ve been digging the hell out of (End of a Year) Self Defense Family lately. They’re totally unique, their frontman is intensely charismatic, they maintain a tremendously entertaining online presence, and they have the only Twitter account I can bring myself to follow. Their last full-length album, “You Are Beneath Me,” was a towering achievement of emotional post-hardcore, but I’d reccomend you check out their new single “I’m Going Through Some Shit”, recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica. I really love the lyrics:

    “I scored an F on standardized tests
    I boarded a plane to Los Angeles
    Mid-flight, I received your text
    Good luck, son, I hope you crash”

    It’s much slower than most of their stuff, but it’s one of the most interesting punk rock singles I’ve heard in years, and it’s only $1.50 to download. You won’t regret the purchase.

  31. @james – It’s partly about historical context- Blink 182 if anything softened and smoothed off the edges of a pre-existing sound, where the Buzzcocks were making it from scratch- but it’s mainly about personal taste. I don’t like that slick, over-produced sound, and I hate the singer’s voice. Of course everyone should listen to whatever they like, I was basically just making a cheap crack about bands I was pretty certain David would already have heard.

    @ChrisT – are we trying to recommend stuff here, or are we trying to induct David into the bitchy world of punkier-than-thou posing? He wants stuff to check out, as a newcomer, so I suggested easy to find, easy to listen to stuff that works as a first step in. I adore Poison Idea- the album you’re referring to Feel The Darkness, by the way- but they aren’t exactly accessible, now are they? You really think Plastic Bomb is a logical next step after London Calling? Really?

    @Joe.Distort – Dude, we’re recommending stuff to a newbie, not trying to show how hip and on the cutting edge we are. Of COURSE the punk scene is alive and well, and I’m pretty sure we all know that here.

  32. @David Wynne: sorry! I was in a bitchy mood… Sure Poison Idea is not a logical step in terms of history etc but maybe in terms of punk buzz/adrenaline hit etc. + I’m horribly biased: Bad Relion might be OK but all those poppy, preppy bands they influenced… ay…

  33. @ChrisT It’s cool- it’s a bugbear of mine, and I tend to overreact a bit to that kind of thing. Nazi punks fuck off, y’know? Anyway, I am absolutely with you about the bands Bad Religion influenced. But I love them all the same.

  34. Would love to hear your thoughts on the Clash and London Calling!!

  35. I’ve been acquainted with a very limited slice of hardcore in the 90’s, but it’s still a period I’m really fond of.

    Fugazi’s album “Repeater” is what I consider the gem of their catalog. It’s not as polished as some of their later stuff, but I love that damned album. (As a side note, lead singer Ian MacKaye is the grandaddy of Straight Edge. You can blame him for CM Punk 😛 )

    Bad Religion’s “Recipe for Hate”. If you can get “American Jesus” out of your head after hearing it, you’re a better man than I.

    Operation Ivy…everything they did commercially can fit on one CD. Rootsy ska-blaster “Sound System” has been something of a theme song for me.

    Bikini Kill “Pussy Whipped”. The Riot Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl movement started here with Kathleen Hanna’s screechy, whiny, petulant…and usually really effective vocals. “Star Bellied Boy” and “Rebel Girl”.

  36. Sandanista from the Clash is worth a listen. I love it, but others absolutely despise it. Still, something worth giving a go, if only to make up your own mind. If you really liked how diverse the Clash can be, you might love it. If you’re looking for the ‘standard’ punk music, you might hate it. Maybe. I’m no authority.

  37. *Sandinista, Jeez I’m rubbish at spelling.

  38. Joy Division-Unknown Pleasures
    -English Depression Punk

    Television-Marquee Moon
    -New York Snakey Guitar Punk

    The Fall-This Nation’s Saving Grace
    –Sarcastic Middle Finger punk

    Minutemen-Double Nickels on the Dime
    –West Coast G-Funk Punk

    X-Ray Spex-Germ Free Adolescents
    -Some girls that scream a lot punk

    Would be some of my recomendations, on top of some of the others that have been good(that Death album is really good), and you might as well listen to the Ramones. They’re as important as the Clash or Sex Pistols. Richard Hell and the Voldadoids is another good one to look for.

  39. The Detroit Cobras do crunchy garage punk covers of R&B/pre-rock stuff. Lead singer Rachel Nagy is like, three foot tall and two feet of those are cigarette smoke. She’s great.

    Shout Bama Lama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3XOoO-y2rw

  40. There is no NWA for white people – hah. NWA wrote about being treated like shit by society. Punkers WANTED to be treated like shit by society – ha ha. Thus the ripped clothes and crazy hair… HEY! Over here! Look at me!… when NWA is saying… just effing treat me like anyone other human. Your NWA call is perfect – ha ha.

    If you like Clash… seek out English Beat – their earliest stuff is genius. Clash is a english twist on Bob Marley… English Beat is a step further.

  41. The Police followed the same influence as the Clash as far as Bob Marley goes… only Sting was a Paul Mccartney song writer so he is considered ‘mainstream’ instead of punker… but the Police’s first 2 or 3 albums are totally raw english-marley-ska… sowwy – geek alert

  42. Wire are good. Spiky and sinister songs with good noises. Also, on a very similar tack, Elastica.

    Dot Dash by Wire – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTGNnSgfp5Q

  43. I basically support most, if not all, of the suggestions made so far.

    For newer stuff, I quite enjoy the bits I’ve heard of the hardcore band, Gallows; they have two albums out Grey Britain and Orchestra of Wolves. Orchestra of Wolves – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlqiKM4suCA

    And if you’re looking for something catchy, fun, energetic and intentionally childish, then post-punk band, Be Your Own Pet should also been thrown in the ring.
    Becky – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DF2SlDPTCw&feature=relmfu

  44. @David Wynne:
    then why is everything listed old as hell? and one guy straight up said ‘punk in the modern day doesnt really exist’

    whatever. im not tryin to prove shit on here, just trying to talk about a record that came out after 1990 instead of lookin backwards. if you need me, i will be at the gym listening to RINGERS be all poppy and dumb.

  45. @joe:
    If you think punk’s dead, you’re going to the wrong shows. Punks Not Dead!


    ah, the internet

  47. @Joe.Distort I suggested stuff from 1977 right up to last year. But I made sure it was all stuff that’s easy to find and people will have heard of, so it’s all old hat in your book, right?

    Full disclosure- you, specifically, personally you, not just people like you but actually YOU, are the reason I don’t go on Whitechapel. Have you ever had a conversation about music that didn’t involve one-upmanship? It’s not a competition, dude. And none of the characters in Diesel Sweeties like Indie Rock Pete.

  48. I’m not well versed in punk rock by any means, but J Church was a great pop-punk band. Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I have no clue how many times I’ve listened to Nostalgic for Nothing, one of their singles compilation collections, but it has been in my rotation ever since I picked it up at a record store in NYC on a school trip back in ’97 and I never get tired of it.

  49. @Neil: J CHURCH is one of the greatest poppunk bands of all time

    and davidwynne: shit, i actually feel bad about that. i have a shit-ton to say about the music i like, and i dont really feel im trying to one up anyone (except people who try to put down fast,aggressive music, in which case, i freely admit i do it). maybe im used to discussing music with a lot more cynical people or something, but i dont want to dissuade people from things. on the other hand, i dont know you at all, and i dont know if you are the type of guy who feels that people that talk about obscure punk/HC are automatically being ‘snobs’ or ‘elitist’ or whatever so who knows? i put a FREE link to the record i was talking about right in my post, so i wasnt trying to talk about something that was impossible to find. i also immediately listed another bigger band who have music on itunes and amazon right afterwards, so theres that.

    i really dont know how else to respond to that. i also freely admit to listening to a bunch of cheesy pop and stuff that isnt acceptable to punks either, so i guess im too cool yet not cool enough.

  50. Also another one I forgot, check out the Supervillains. Just saw them with Less Than Jake and a couple other bands a few months ago and I was very impressed.

  51. Wow, I’m way late on this thread, so I can only second what others have suggested.

    Punk really doesn’t have a musical meaning, other than a vague sense of “getting back to rock n’ roll basics” in opposition to the over-produced and orchestrated rock albums of the mid seventies. That’s why the ‘punk’ label covers a whole lot of bands that you might not associated together, and why you were so surprised at London Calling.

    Punk rock involved having an energy and sponteneity and attitude that was in opposition. To politics, to prog rock, to societal norms, whatever. The stereotype was that punk rockers couldn’t play their instruments, but that’s clearly false. I lean towards the bands that had musicianship (the Clash), rather than bashing stuff out at high energy (the Sex Pistols). Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, it’s just my preference.

    So, like I said, these have been mentioned, but here goes:

    Marquee Moon by Television
    early Talking Heads
    Horses and/or Easter by Patti Smith
    the first 3 or so Elvis Costello albums (especially This Year’s Model)
    early Blondie
    I’m drawing a large blank here…

    Heck, Bruce Springsteen in the 70s was pursuing some of the same back-to-basics themes, so even though he wasn’t a part of the punk movement, there’s some overlap. Check out Darkness on the Edge of Town.

    I assume you’ll update us, David!

  52. Not much to say, tons of others have said everything I would’ve said better, but I wanted to let you know that I love your posts about music. I know next to nothing about rap/hip-hop and your posts have led me to a lot of good music.

    I haven’t seen The Bouncing Souls mentioned yet. Check out their album Hopeless Romantic.

    If you ever start getting into Metal I’ll be sure to write you a wall of text like the rest of these guys haha.

  53. The Clashes earlier albums were a lot more Sex Pistols sounding, not having the genre blending of London Calling. The track White Riot should demonstrate what I mean.

    As far as other albums, someone already beat me to the ’67 Detroit Protopunk classics of The Stooges and The MC5, but there’s a third group from that time and place that fit right in with them called Death. They had one album called For All The World Too See, which I’d put as the best album by any of the three groups. They had a very interesting approach to rhythm that set them apart from the more traditional bluesy rock of the other two.

    From the other side of the pond, I’m a huge fan of Robyn Hitchcock. In his later years he’s been more of a whimsical psychedelic folk songwriter, but in his early days with The Soft Boys he was punk as it got. I recommend Underwater Moonlight.

    New York Dolls by New York Dolls might have been the beginning of punk in New York, where it has called home since. Worth a look.

    Television is my personal favorite since I’m a huge fan of jam bands and Television wasn’t afraid to have long guitar solos in front of a punk audience. Marquee Moon deserves every bit of the praise it gets, but for the complete effect I recommend a bootleg of one of their early shows at CBGB. 12/29/76 is the one I like best. CBGB is of course a landmark venue for early punk and the members of Television built the stage there after convincing the owner to let them play.

  54. […] Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite, a general post on punk Graeme McMillan, bka “One Of My Favorite People On Or Off The Internet,” sent me a […]