If you are looking for something to celebrate tonight then how about toasting the anniversaries of some great punk albums? WARNING! This article is likely to make you feel very old!
As the longest year in the history of mankind drags on, you could be forgiven for thinking that it has always been 2020 – that there was nothing before toilet roll shortages, Zoom meetings and homemade sourdough. But believe it or not, there was life before lockdown, and we’ve got a great way of reminiscing about all the lovely punk that has graced our ears over the last 45 years.
To put 2020 to good use, we have scoured punk history to bring you the anniversaries of key punk releases. So, if you are looking for something to celebrate tonight then how about toasting the anniversary of some of great punk albums? And if you don’t feel like celebrating, then perhaps a drink to compensate for how old this article will make you feel!
1975 Patti Smith Horses
If we weren’t sticklers for counting our years in denominations of 5, then we could have picked some great albums from 74 or 76. But alas, we’ve committed to 1975 as our starting point and you could do worse for a starting point than punk poet Patti Smith and her debut album Horses. Smith was already part of the developing New York punk scene when she signed to Arista Records and recorded this record that is consistently considered to be a seminal album of the 1970s. The sound is punk and garage rock with various other influences dotted throughout the tracks, but the lyrics are pure Patti poetry. Smith always brings a touch of intellectual romance to proceedings and songs like Redondo Beach and Gloria help you understand why she has been cited as an influence by everyone from PJ Harvey to Courtney Love.
Celebrate the 45th anniversary of this album by… writing some poetry and having a glass of vino whilst a smouldering pipe sits next to you.
1980 Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was the debut studio album by a band that would become a cornerstone of the hardcore punk movement- the Dead Kennedys. From the early reviews, frontman Jello Biafra was identified as an integral part of the band’s persona with a magnetism and intensity that have made him an icon in the alternative music community. Featuring one of their most well-known songs (Holiday in Cambodia) the album is packed full of the uncompromising political observations that they would become known for, as demonstrated in songs such as California Uber Alles and Kill the Poor.
Celebrate the 40th anniversary of this album by… writing an angry letter to your political representative whilst defacing pictures of Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcher.
1985 Black Flag In My Head
Staying with the theme of US hardcore stalwarts, 1985 was the release of the sixth album by Black Flag and was the last one released before the band split (although one configuration of the line-up would reform to release What The….in 2013. The cover features illustrations by Raymond Pettibon, younger brother of Black Flag wordsmith Greg Ginn, and a kind of in-house artist for SST Records in the 1980s. Featuring Henry Rollins and vocals and Kira Roessler on bass, the album was considered to be a move away from the hardcore punk sound of previous albums and more of a nod to heavy metal. There’s more of Rollins in the lyrics to songs such as In My Head and Drinking and Driving but ultimately it is a Greg Ginn affair with songs that were intended for his solo use and an emphasis on his guitar playing despite a strong show of prowess from Roessler in the rhythm section.
Celebrate the 35th anniversary of this album by… listening to some Rollins spoken word and then trying to rip up the phone book.
1990 L7 Smell the Magic
Once we hit the 1990s, we extend a warm welcome to the riot grrrl cohort of bands, with one of the most successful and well-known of them being L7. In 1990, L7 were already on their second album and it is this offering that showcases the raw ingredients that come together to give them their trademark ferocity and power. Straddling hardcore and grunge sounds, the pounding drums and dirty guitar creates a nice blanket for the vocals, equally distributed between Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner and Jennifer Finch. The song topics are classic riot grrrl- the disparity between male and female rock stars (Just Like Me) and the capitalism induced alienation (American Society) and the attitude is classic punk.
Celebrate the 30th anniversary of this album by… knitting a pussy hat, smashing the patriarchy and telling creepy Gary from accounts to go fuck himself.
1995 Rancid And Out Come the Wolves
Any search for a band of punk rock heroes is likely to find itself on a road leading directly to Rancid– a band that have remained firmly in the hearts and souls of the punk rock community since they formed nearly 30 years ago. Rancid are a rarity in that they have achieved mainstream success and acknowledgement whilst remaining on independent label Epitaph. And Out Come The Wolves was the 3rd studio album by the band and still remains one of their most critically acclaimed and a firm fan favourite. A veritable smorgasbord of great punk rock songs make up the track listing and their smash hits Ruby Soho and Timebomb aren’t even then strongest songs on the album, that’s how good it is. The ska influence is heard throughout the album and is a nice nod back to the pre-Rancid outfit Operation Ivy.
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this album by… Growing either a beard à la Tim Armstrong or a mohawk à la early Lars Frederiksen and then skanking to some ska.
2000 NOFX Pump Up the Valuum
Album number eight for NOFX– Pump Up the Valuum– showcases both the band’s incredible knack for pun-nery as well as why they are considered to be the princes of pop-punk. 1994’s Punk in Drublic may remain one of their most popular albums but …. Valuum is certainly up there in terms of love from their fans. There’s the silliness that all have come to expect from Fat Mike’s gang of fools with tracks like Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don’t) which makes some rather unflattering assertions about children and old people, and My Vagina which rhymes ‘finer’ with ‘vagina’. But nestled in there are some tracks with some sober social commentary such as Dinosaurs Will Die but whichever side of NOFX takes your fancy, they know how to pack it all into one album.
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this album by… taking Fat Mike’s advice and making sure you wipe front to back.
2005 Sleater-Kinney The Woods
Are Sleater-Kinney punk? Are they rock? Are they riot grrrl? They certainly sprung out of the riot grrrl cohort when they formed in 1994 and their politics is decidedly feminist and left wing. However, their sound has always been eclectic and 2005’s The Woods took the band’s sound to a more classic rock direction that saw them likened to Hendrix and Zeppelin for their 7th studio album. The album received widespread critical acclaim and was considered to be one of their most confident records and made it into Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of the 2000s. Whilst it was more intricate in sound than that which we would traditionally identify as punk (one track is an 11 minute guitar track- not usually associated with punk) , Corin Tucker’s vocals and the challenging lyrics on tracks such Entertain and Jumpers mean it can stand up next to many of the other riot grrrl classics from Bikini Kill and the rest.
Celebrate the 15th anniversary of this album by… reading some feminist literature and printing your own slogans onto t-shirts.
2010 Against Me! White Crosses
Against Me! formed in 1997 and even with numerous line-up changes, they are still going strong. White Crosses is the last Against Me! album to be released prior to lead singer Laura Jane Grace coming out as a transgender woman in 2012 and was the last of the band’s releases with Sire Records. The lead single from the album – I Was A Teenage Anarchist- takes aim at punk scene puritans and celebrates the liberation of breaking free from stagnant and restrictive social groups and their dogma. This was the album that saw critics suggest that the band were ‘growing up’ in terms of outlook and sound and although not as acclaimed as their follow up- Transgender Dysphoria Blues- there are still enough decent tracks on here to give it a listen.
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of this album by… cancelling your membership to that radical reading group that you have been wanting to leave since they suggested reading Nietzsche for the 100th time.
2015 Neck Deep Life’s Not Out to Get You
Neck Deep’s second studio album was hailed by critics as an album which would satiate those listeners who needed a 90s pop-punk sound back in their life. Their debut album success meant that the band members were able to quit their jobs and devote their time to music and it seems that this extra devotion paid off if the strength of this release was anything to go by. Any modern band with a pop-punk sound will eventually find themselves compared to those who went before like Sum 41 or Blink 182, but they don’t always come off as favourably as Neck Deep have. LNOTGY made it to number 8 in the UK album chart and made them darlings of the UK music press and poster boys for 90s/early 2000s pop-punk nostalgia.
Celebrate the 5th anniversary of this album by… putting on some Converse and a skinny tie and declaring yourself the new Tony Hawks at the local skate park.
2020- Dream Nails- Dream Nails
The punk witch quartet from London are well known on the DIY punk scene for their energetic and celebratory live shows that resurrect the old riot grrrl rule of ‘women and non-binary to the front’. Formed in 2015, Dream Nails have built up a solid reputation as community activists as well as musicians and their songs are a blend of political commentary set to an upbeat pop punk sound. Strong supporters of the Do-It-Yourself punk ethos, fans of the band are regularly treated to little extra endeavours such as gig boxes, custom pedalboard tutorials and the chance to become part of their music videos. Signed with Alcopop Records, their self-titled debut album was released in August 2020 and with bangers like Kiss My Fist and Big Dyke Energy on the track listing, there’s no doubt that we will be celebrating the anniversary of this release in 20 years’ time.
Celebrate this release by… firstly, buying a copy and then DIY-ing your own band equipment out of cereal boxes, glitter pens and all that toilet roll you stockpiled.
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.