By: Christopher Scum
Writing about punk rock is hard because there are so many different genres of punk that it can get frustrating and confusing. Also, there’s the “what’s punk” and “what’s not” argument that’s gone on as long as there has been such a style of music, dress, and way of life.
To list my favorites, I’m throwing in every genre and subgenre of punk rock without compromise; otherwise I’d be writing 20 separate pieces.
These are in chronological order by release date:
The Stooges Raw Power Feb. 4th, 1973
This is the album that grabbed music fans by the gonads and squeezed. Ron Asheton’s guitar playing is a straight kick to the solar plexus of pure, unadulterated screaming energy. Iggy Pop’s sexy, gnarly, biting voice and lyrics makes one wonder if he could slice a jugular vein with his tongue. Raw Power, and every album by this so called proto punk band, has influenced almost as many bands as The Beatles, and with very little or no commercial success at the time of its release.
The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks Oct. 27, 1977
This album changed all the rules and music would never be the same again. For the time, in uptight England, the Pistols’ sound and Johnny Rotten’s lyrics were so inflammatory I’m surprised they weren’t all jailed or worse. They were all beaten badly on numerous occasions. Even if they didn’t pay their dues in the rehearsal rooms (which is debatable), they did so on the street!
This album has stood the test of time with many bands doing covers of songs, especially the anthem Anarchy in the U.K.
Most people still think Sex Pistols when they think punk rock, even with the damage done by pop bands playing the punk sound such as Good Charlotte and Green Day. The Sex Pistols still matter.
* Fun Fact: Malcolm McLaren didn’t pay Glen Matlock to play bass on this album so Steve Jones anonymously recorded most of the parts.
The Ramones Rocket to Russia Nov. 4th 1977
This is the third studio album from the Ramones and my particular favorite. It’s the one I feel came out and said “here we are, we’re here to stay and we’re a formidable force to be reckoned with.” It was also original drummer Tommy Ramone’s last album with the band. He stayed on as a producer though, so no tears.
The Germs GI (Germs Incognito) Jan. 1979
The thrashing guitar (Pat Smear) and snarling vocals (Darby Crash) make this an instant favorite to any hardcore punk rock fan, although it takes multiple listens while reading the lyric sheet to gain full appreciation of this masterpiece. Lorna Doom on bass and Don Bolles made a more than competent rhythm section. The band supposedly put in daily practice sessions in preparation for this recording and it shows.
Black Flag E.P. Jealous Again 1980
I’m trying to balance bands I see as important to the early punk rock movement, with bands I love, and who influenced me the most. Early Black Flag, to me, is some of the most raw hardcore music ever recorded. Although I didn’t get to see them live as they were a few years before my time, I have destroyed apartments listening to this album full blast while drinking liquor when I was young.
Of all the guitarists I’ve mentioned so far, Greg Ginn is my absolute favorite. I love all his work. There’s an explosiveness to the First Four Years compilation album, especially the single Damaged, that I love. After that, it starts slowing down some and the songs get longer.
Ron Reyes does a killer job on vocals but is listed on the E.P. as Chavo Pederast after a rumored fight with Greg Ginn. This E.P. is, to this day, on my I-pod and I’ve been through numerous vinyl and cassette copies. Not just this E.P. either. From where I’m sitting in my messy room I can see a copy of the First Four Years. I’m pretty sure I have the CDs, if not the vinyl, of just about every Black Flag album or E.P. release. Jealous Again just happens to be my favorite!
Notable tracks: All of them, Damn it!
The Minutemen Double Nickels on the Dime 1984
Anything I can say about this L.P. of 45 songs, or about the Minutemen as a band, could never be enough. As a bassist and inspiring guitarist, I am influenced by both Mike Watt and D.Boon who were visionary geniuses and incredible musicians who contributed greatly to experimental and alternative music.
The Replacements Tim 1985
I may catch heat from other Replacments’ fans for listing Tim as my favorite album, because it’s the band’s first release on Sire, which is a major label. It’s also the last album I truly love from this band because when Bob Stinson quit (or was fired) the music changed and I slowly lost interest.
This album is indeed a masterpiece. Bob Stinson’s reckless, distorted, yet tight guitar playing, and Paul Westerberg’s beautiful yet no nonsense voice created a sound unmatched by any band before or since. Westerberg was soft and melodic yet he could reach down in his gut and bring the in-your-face hardcore to you on songs like One More Dose of Thunder and Lay It Down Clown. He also played rhythm guitar and piano. Chris Mars on drums and Tommy Stinson on bass made a perfectly solid rhythm section.
* Cool Fun Fact: Tim was produced by Tommy Ramone.
Social Distortion Somewhere between Heaven and Hell Feb. 11, 1992
I know Social Distortion fans are wondering why in the hell I chose this over albums like Mommy’s Little Monster, which has a more punk sound and is an excellent album altogether.
Truth is, I had a difficult time deciding. However, I came to the conclusion that this album, being their 4th studio recording conveys the overall style and sound of Social Distortion. I love this L.P. from start to finish.
By the time this album came out Mike Ness had come into his own style of country influenced punk rock. His guitar playing is a notch above perfect–and he doesn’t over do it–he just has a way of making his Gibson Les Paul sing, growl, and scream, sometimes all on the same track (such as When She Begins). His voice is right on as is Dannis Danell’s rhythm guitar and John Maurer’s bass.Christopher Reece’s drumming is immaculately tight.
I could go on and on about Social Distortion, and people who aren’t fans will never get it unless they listen. I can’t fathom any punk rock or rock-n-roll band not liking Social Distortion.
There are so many more bands that have influenced me, I just pulled eight off the top of my head.
Thanks, until next time,
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© Christopher Scum, 2013.