I wont even pretend to limit myself to ten songs, instead Im listing what I think are the punkest songs ever made and why. Do you care? who cares! these are in no particular order, there is no number one.
1. “So What”- by The Anti-Nowhere League.
“Ive fucked a sheep, Ive fucked a goat, I had my cock right down his throat.” And thats one of the least offensive lines in this song! If your definition of punk is a musical middle finger at the rest of the world then perhaps this song by Britains most banned group is the apex of punk. Its fast, its heavy, its sung with a nearly audible snarl and every line is designed to offend. Its a masterpiece of vulgarity and no punk playlist should fail to include this 20+ year old gem.
2. “Gay Bar”- by The Electric Six
For the first three bars of this song you might be lured into thinking its some sort of surfy-punk tribute until the growled lyrics kick in and the guitars begin grinding in what can only be described as the hardest tribute to gay bars everywhere. Its defiant embrace of the homosexual worlds dives and watering holes is hilarious, offensive to the tight assed, and musically tight and fierce. These guys may not be considered ‘punk’ in the strictest sense of the word, but this song is nearly the epitiome of all punk aspires to.
3. “Silver Bullet”- by The Briefs
A pogo punk masterpiece about killing Bob Seger. Super tight, funny, dancey and dedicated to the demise of the worst example of bar/frat rock still staining our ears. The Briefs rode the short lived resurgence of new wave/pogo punk in the early 2000’s and this song reminds you why this kind of punk is so addictive and fun. Plus Bob Seger fucking sucks.
3.”Yo Yo” – by The Smut Peddlers
first of all, almost every Smut Peddlers song is the punkest song ever written. From the Awesome southern california sounding guitars to the singing which borders on a no-stopping-for-a-breath rant in each and every song. This song is insanely tight, a tribute to amazing looking asian punk girls and the men who love (and still dont get none) them. “She knows karate and stuff, id risk her Karate chop, for a chance just to dive in that muff” Look if you cant see the genius in those lyrics than i cant help you. . .
4. “Working”- by Cocksparrer
Theres a ton of good Oi! songs but the best ones arent about fighting or skinhead girls, the best ones are about the plight of the working class lads who formed the original wave of Oi! and “Working” is a classic tale about a guy who, like tones of laborers, signed onto welfare but still working under the table for his buddies. No lyrics about getting drunk or football hooliganism, just a funny story about a guy avoiding being caught working without paying his taxes.
5. “New Kind of Kick”- by The Cramps
After declaring that he had “learned all he knew, by the age of nine” The Cramps Lux Interior goes on to describe his attempt to satiate a hunger for some new form of thrill by shooting up Formaldehyde, Drano, and other assorted ‘drugs’. Sung is his signature juvenile delinquent sneer and backed by the amazing Link Wray-esque reverb of Ivy, this might not be the best Cramps song ever, buts definitely one of the punkest. By the end of the song Lux is belting out “Some new Kinda kick” so snottily that you can almost feel spit coming out of the speakers.
6. “T.V. Eye” – by The Stooges
Creepy, wierd, and full of the 70’s Iggy Pops grunts and “ooooohuh!” He sings in an even more monotone voice than usual. Maybe the heroin procured for the band that day was extra potent, but the stooges just rumble along and you can almost hear Iggy smooshing his face into the mic as he sings “she got a tv eye on you, she got a tv eye”. It certainly sounds like it means something deep and important but ive never figured out what.
7. “Kick Out the Jams”- by the MC5
Look i know this is cliche, and i know that lots of people pretend to be all about the MC5 and can only name 2 songs by them (like me) but have you listened to this goddamned song!? These crazy honkies were belting out buzzsaw three cord punk and screamed lyrics in the 1960’s! This song might be the craziest of all, it certainly makes me want to go hog wild and start smashing up something. The music is a simple, a short repetitive growl that sounds like a rocket taking off over and over, I swear the first chord doubles your heart-rate. You might not get exactly what they are talking about, but when the singer screams “Kick out the JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMS YEA!!!!” in the middle of the song you really want to. .er. . kick the shit out of some. . uh. . jams.
8. “Minor Threat”- by Minor Threat
Wow, Ive been listening to this song for 20 years and it still gives me crazy goosebumps when i hear it. Iam MacKayes voice is perfect for punk rock and the messages that Minor Threat put in their songs (at a time when most bands were embarassed to take a stand about anything that wasnt beer or pussy related) still hold up as valid and deeply meaningful as they were to me in 1985. A classic example of a band who might not have had the tightest musical proficiency or best recording or even the best singer in the world who make up for it on every song with pure inspiration and determination. Want to get something done? put this song on and I promise it will be all the motivation you need.
9. “Barroom Heros” – by The Dropkick Murphys
Look forget all about that ‘the gangs all here” sing along hoo-haa with irish flags and stuff that the Dropkicks are today, when their first full album (Do or Die) came out it was perhaps the purest form of American Oi! music ever put on a CD. This song is a tale of all those guys we know who drink and fight so long that its literally becomes a normal night for them to get shitfaced and wake up missing teeth. Its not a screed agaibnst these guys and its not in praise of them, its simply a tale from the city that these guys grew up in. The Original singe, who left (to form the Street Dogs) after this album had an incredible voice. Somehow he captures the pathos and sympathy of working class values while still sounding like he can and will kick your ass. The rest of the band never sounded better.
10. “Lets Start A War”- by Fear
Theres a lot of Fear songs that might qualify as the punkest ever, but “lets start a war” typifies their fuck everybody approach. At a time when Reagan was actually pretty likely to start a nuclear holocaust FEAR was telling them to bring it on! They not only hated normal folks, the establishment and politicians, FEAR hated punks, even (perhaps especially) their fans! On this song the band does its typical bombastic prehardcore rumble behind Lee Vings awesome voice. The drums in particular sounds like a gorilla is just throwing them around in the background and the lyrics are snarled instead of sung. Punk as fuck.
11. “Days of Wine and Roses”- by Lars Fredricksen and the Bastards
“Bring on the Days of, Wine and Roses. Riot Squads, and firehoses” Good stuff by Rancid bass-ster and the guy who always thought had a much better voice than Tim “mumbles” Armstrong. this tune is full of political awareness, outrage, and the no holds barred attitude that still holds that the people taking to the streets can change the world. I like all of the Bastards stuff, its harder, heavier, and before hardcore turned into cheesy metal-core, this is what we would have termed hardcore punk. No pop elements here, just three chords ground out behind the shouted lyrics. Plus theres lots of cussing, i love lots of cussing.
12. “Rise Above”- by Black Flag
Another obvious choice, but for good reason. Nothing is punker than being against ‘them’ especially when you dont define who ‘them’ is! Fuck it could be anyone, it could be the corrupt government, but hey it could also be your dad who made you take out your nose-ring! Either way, were gonna rise above those bastards! A great sing along chorus and Rollins is in top form chopping each word off “WE! ARE! TIRED! OF YOUR! ABUSE! TRY! TO STOP US! BUT! ITS! NO USE!” And if you have ever heard Black Flag you dont need me to tell you that the Greg Ginn guitar action is amazing and off the chain. The guy was a virtuoso who took all that skill and channeled it into simple powerful riffs that sound like nothing before or since.
13. “Beat Me Senseless”- by The Circle Jerks
This is a HARD one to find, from the criminally underappreciated VI (as in roman numeral 6) album. The Circle Jerks were perhaps the snottiest, most southern cali of all southern cali puink, but on this song its just pure masochistic genius. keith morris voice is its most gravelly-high pitched (how did he do that!?) and the rest of the Jerks were the tightest I ever heard. After this album they dissappeared for a few years but if you can find this bad boy theres a ton of gems on it, and this one is the shinest.
14. “Holiday In Cambodia” – by The Dead Kennedys
Man that intro gets you every time, as soon as you hear that shivery guitar start up and Jello kicks in with his patented wierdo falsetto you know this aint one of those ‘funny’ Dead kennedys songs, this is a serious one. Politically aware, with a build up, crescendo, and then it all gets going at once, the chorus (“POL!!! POT!!!!!!”) and the music going crazy. Awesome, awesome song. I swear this song makes you nervous that some black suited guys are gonna come drag you off to a labor camp every time i hear it. A band whose very existance was a subversive act, how punk is that?
15. “Olympia Wa.”- by Rancid
Ok look, punks have feelings too. Rancid was always great at taking a look at the personal without making it emo. Punk as hell and gritty to boot, but on this particular song the ska, the political stuff, the sing along ‘whoa ooohs!’ are left out and its just a song about a homesick punk rock kid stuck across the country from his home and the only place he wants to be. its good stuff and still punk as shit.
So thats it for now. Theres lots more I left off, maybe ill get to it or maybe my next list will be “The Best Condiments” (hint, Relish is number 4). Either way, let me know what you think of this shit.