Looking for something to celebrate tonight? Why not raise a glass to ten great punk albums that are celebrating anniversaries in 2021?
Spring is finally here, much of the world is opening back up, vaccinations are rolling out and bands are recording and releasing music again. Dare we be optimistic? We may even have live music back by the end of the year (depending on where you are of course!). 10 Punk Albums
Whilst new music releases are always exciting, let’s take a moment to honour all the old faithfuls who have kept us going year after year after year. In 2020 we looked back over 45 years of punk rock album anniversaries starting from 1975 and bringing us up to the year-that-not-be-named. Well, we’ve made it through THAT year which means we can now re-visit a different set of albums starting from 1976 and in five-year increments, claw our way up to 2021.
Needless to say, there are OTHER albums released in each of these years but hopefully, this selection has a bit of something for everyone.
Celebration: 45th Anniversary
The punk albums to influence all punk albums, denim-clad quartet the Ramones burst onto the scene with their debut, self-titled album. Clocking in at under 30 minutes, this album is packed full of tracks that are quintessentially Ramone-esque – Blitzkrieg Bop, Judy Is a Punk, Beat On the Brat.
Taking a machete through the pomp and ceremony of established rock at the time and all the bloated production, The Ramones stripped things back to the basics of songwriting and then sped it up a bit. This simplicity was its genius- that and the intelligent and humorous lyrics and the nod to classic 60s pop that they loved. It was high energy, it was fun, it was destined to be considered one of the first true punk albums, with a legacy stretching to today.
Celebrate the 45th anniversary of this album by……. Squeezing into some jeans, donning a leather jacket and some sunglasses and just looking effortlessly cool.
Go on… ‘ave a listen:
Album: Penis Envy
Celebration: 40th Anniversary
By the time Crass released their third album, Penis Envy, they had already established themselves as a strongly political band covering issues concerning feminism, anti-Fascism, and environmentalism, to name a few.
Penis Envy was considered more musically complex and nuanced than their previous two albums (The Feeding of the 5000 and Stations of the Crass), featuring vocals by two female singers- band member Eve Libertine and new-to-band Joy De Vivre.
The album makes many astute observations about women’s issues in a patriarchal, capitalist system, including gender stereotyping, harmful beauty standards, and sexual coercion. Not everyone was a fan – HMV banned the album, and the News of the World stated that the album’s title was ‘too obscene to print’.
Perhaps what didn’t help ingratiate the band to the mainstream public was the prank associated with the album’s release. The band recorded a parodic, sentimental love song called Our Wedding and offered free flexi disc copies with a girl’s magazine called Loving under the pseudonym Creative Recording And Sound Services (Crass, of course!). When the hoax was revealed, the tabloids were not impressed, further cementing the band’s reputation as agitators and activists.
Celebrate the 40th anniversary of this album by……. Getting a big black jumper, some Situationist literature and spray painting a big anarchist symbol on the side of your local supermarket.
Band: The Cramps
Album: A Date With Elvis
Celebration: 35th Anniversary
In a California studio in the Autumn of 1985, psychobilly band The Cramps recorded their third album, A Date With Elvis. Released the following year, ADWE takes advantage of some refined sound production but stays with the tongue-in-cheek, sleaze-fest that Cramps fans know and love.
Full of double entendres (Hot Pearl Snatch anyone?) and outright sexy lyrics, the album delivers homage to the 1950s in both style and lyrics (“I’ll be dancing through the flames/Like a devil in disguise” -a nod to the Elvis Presley hit). There were some record label related issues in the run-up to this album’s release, hence the five-year gap between this and their previous offering, 1981’s Psychedelic Jungle.
As a result, the album was released on British label Big Beat Records and didn’t make it to a US release until 1990. The behind-the-scenes disruption didn’t seem to impact the output too much as A Date With Elvis became the band’s most commercially successful release with their signature blend of punk, rock and roll and anarchic garage rock.
Celebrate the 35th anniversary of this album by… finding that old pair of fishnets you keep for special occasions, putting on an old horror flick like Creature from the Back Lagoon and reactivating your Tinder profile.
Band: Bikini Kill
Album: Revolution Girl Style Now
Celebration: 30th Anniversary
Well, the early ’90s kind of belonged to the riot grrrl movement, so no surprises that feminist icons Bikini Kill are our pick for 1991 with their debut demo album – Revolution Girl Style Now. Eight tracks coming in at just over 20 minutes, it’s not necessarily going to sustain you for a car journey beyond the end of the road, but it will give you plenty to think about for a good while after listening.
Before the Spice Girls would make ‘girl power’ a slogan that would reverberate around the globe emblazoned on Pepsi cans and crisp packets, bands like Bikini Kill were living the slogan by DIYing their way into creating a worldwide punk phenomenon that is having somewhat of a resurgence in recent years.
Promoting ‘girl love’ and friendship, empowerment and autonomy, the bands from the original riot grrrl movement proved that out of the ashes of the American hardcore movement (whose ’80s boom time was starting to wane), women had plenty of topics left to cover and countless girls were inspired to start their own bands off the back of heroines such as Kathleen Hanna. Here’s where it all started.
Celebrate the 30th anniversary of this album by… reaching out to your bestie and suggest watching Moxie – the Amy Poehler directed coming of age film based around riot grrrl.
Album: Let’s Talk, More Rock
Celebration: 25th Anniversary
The second album by Canadian punks Propagandhi wasn’t just an album- it was a fan- sorting exercise. Troubled by the presence of ‘jocks’ and macho types at their shows, they decided to make sure there was no ambiguity when it came to what the band was about. And they did a good job in representing the gamut of their political positions in this album, everything from anti-Fascism (The Only Good Fascist is a Dead Fascist), animal rights (Nailing Descartes to the Wall/Liquid Meat Is Still Murder) and homophobia/toxic masculinity (Less Talk, More Rock and Refusing to Be a Man).
A lot of politics crammed into one album with a variety of punk sounds, from the fast and hard variety to a more pop-punk sound. Considered antagonistic to certain parts of the punk scene in North America, this album was a challenge to some to think about things differently. At a time when pop-punk bands like Green Day were dominating the mainstream rock airwaves, Propagandhi kept things authentically punk, reminding people that the original intention of the genre was to challenge the powers that be and engage with the political issues of the day.
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this album by… Getting a library card and ransacking the current affairs section then get into an argument with your right-wing uncle on family Zoom night.
Band: The Drop Kick Murphys
Album: Sing Loud, Sing Proud
Celebration: 20th Anniversary
You are always guaranteed a rollicking good time with Boston Celtic punk band The Dropkick Murphys. Every album packs a punch- a mixture of American working-class trials and tribulations mixed with reverence for the Irish motherland and cautionary tales of sticking to your principles and loyalty to your community.
Their third studio album, Sing Loud, Sing Proud, has just as much energy and attitude as their previous offerings, demonstrating that you can mix street punk rawness with some mandolins, and you can still have a punk album.
There’s always love for Boston and Ireland flowing through the Murphys (For Boston, The Rocky Road to Dublin) as usual, but they’re not afraid to talk about love (Forever), workplace solidarity (Which Side Are You On?), and lament how the working class can become hardened by struggle (The Torch). All building to a fun crescendo with two of their more light-hearted tracks, The Spicy McHaggis Jig and The Wild Rover.
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this album by… Booking up some bagpipe lessons, pouring a pint of Guinness and eating some baked beans (Boston is famous for them apparently. No, me neither…)
Band: The Living End
Album: State of Emergency
Celebration: 15th Anniversary
You’ve had psychobilly. You’ve had Celtic punk. You’ve had riot grrrl and hardcore. How about a bit of rockabilly? The Living End have been twanging a double bass since 1994 and have earned a loyal following worldwide, not least in their native Australia.
In 2006 they released their fourth album, State of Emergency, which went straight to the top of the Australian charts. The songs were road-tested live to gauge fan reaction before being committed to the final album tracklist, including the singles Wake Up, What’s On Your Radio and Long Live the Weekend.
Apparently disappointed with their previous album, the band wanted to go all out with this offering and produce something they can be really proud of. Back with Roll On producer Nick Launay, the production values allow all the elements of the bands sound to shine through- Cheney’s vocals, Andy Strachan’s drums and Scott Owen’s double bass.
Maybe a bit more the rockabilly side of things than the punk side of things, but still a great album by a band who always deliver.
Celebrate the 15th anniversary of this album by… Attempting the biggest quiff you can whilst signing up for swing dancing lessons for your next Brian Setzer concert.
Band: Fucked Up
Album: David Comes To Life
Celebration: 10th Anniversary
Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up made sure they gave themselves a name that will forever provoke your work computer’s aggressive filter system meaning you will probably have to listen to their epic punk rock opera elsewhere.
David Comes to Life is their third album and an ambitious attempt at storytelling across four acts. The story is all a bit ‘meta’, but, in a nutshell, it involves a love story between the eponymous David and an activist called Veronica, a lightbulb factory, bombs, death, a villain and philosophical comments on the nature of narration and perspective.
It is certainly not lacking in vision and was very popular among critics and fans alike—all very complex and interesting and still very punk. The sound is loyal to the hardcore scene the band came from, fusing punk guitars and a wall-of-noise effect, with a bit of shoegaze-y melancholy. Whether it is your cup of tea or not, you’ve gotta give the band ‘A’ for effort.
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of this album by… fully embracing the rock opera/concept album thing by listening to American Idiot by Green Day, Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull and anything by Rush.
Album: Take Control
Celebration: 5th Anniversary
UK’s favourite punk duo Slaves, are already approaching 10 years in the biz with three acclaimed albums behind them. Their 2016 offering- Take Control- came in relatively quick succession of their debut (2015’s Are You Satisfied?) benefiting from the momentum behind them following the success of their first offering and singles such as Cheer Up London and Feed The Mantaray.
Take Control was produced by Beastie Boy Mike D, who also features on the song Consume or be Consumed. The album is concerned with the politics of the personal – how people’s individual lives and the crushing weight of conformity, expectation and routine are a recipe for misery.
The songs have lost none of their raw edge demonstrated in the first album, and there’s enough bratty snarl and irreverent humour on this record to conquer any fear of having to follow up their successful debut.
Celebrate the 5th anniversary of this album by… Quitting your job, getting a new tattoo and trying to play drums standing up WHILST singing a la Slaves’ Isaac Holman.
Band: Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Album: When God Was Great
Celebration: Released Friday 7th May
Would it be hyperbole to say that the new MMB is one of the most anticipated alternative albums of 2021? Probably not, as this 11th studio album by the kings of third-wave ska has been a couple of years in the waiting and likely to be hugely popular upon its release in May 2021.
With support from long-time friend Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, the album will be put out on his HellCat record label and with Armstrong helping out in the studio. Singles The Killing of Georgie Part III, I Don’t Believe In Anything and The Final Parade (which features a who’s who of ska and punk including The Interrupters, Fishbone and The Specials’ Roddy Radiation have given us a flavour of the sound on the album and it seems it will not disappoint fans of the MMB brand of catchy, textured, high energy ska-punk anthems.
Celebrate this release by… Rocking a tartan zoot suit and starting a band with 14 of your closest friends who can either play a brass instrument or dance about.
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I’m Molly Tie- a freelance writer and punk blogger! I have two major musical loves in my life- punk and the music of the 1960s. I love all eras of punk- from 70s UK to US pop-punk. I’m particularly interested in issues relating to women in the music scene. I am currently writing a book that explores the lived experience of being a female into punk music. The book is a labour of love- and my aim is to get it published in 2021.