Punk Rock's 25 Greatest Albums 1997-2001

Punk Rock's Greatest Albums 1977-2001

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This list of classic punk rock albums originally appeared in Shredding Paper, America's #1 record review fanzine (1999-2006), as part of our 25 Years Of Punk special issue. It's based on a poll of the magazine's editors.

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#1 The Clash - s/t (1977) No other punk band was able to express powerful ideas as eloquently as the Clash. No other punk outfit was able to assimilate and utilize as relevant and fascinating a collection of influences. On their eponymous debut they take Junior Murvin's superlative reggae hit "Police and Theives" and transform it into a punk classic. Their most popular tune, "Complete Control" was produced by Jamaican studio genius Lee "Scratch" Perry, and is one of the most brilliant recordings ever made. In their remarkable statement of purpose, "Clash City Rockers", they tack on an ending paying tribute to stars of both reggae and glam, while incorporating "Bells of Rhmney", a folk song about labor unrest in Welsh coal mines in the 1920's! A punk band with lyrics to rival Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs - it seems incredible. When this album came out in 1977, CBS execs in the U.S. decided not to release it here because they thought it would be over the heads of American audiences. They may have been right, but they finally released an American version after the LP became the biggest selling import in history. If you're in a record store look carefully and you'll see that there are two similar looking versions of the CD with somewhat different lineups of songs, the American and British versions. Take your pick, either version is SP's #1 punk album of all time! (Mel)

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#2 Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) The Pistols were the leaders of the pack that the 1976 UK punk scene revolved around. Their nihilistic antics garnered them more press than 50 other bands combined. They didn't disappoint with "Anarchy In the UK", a molotov cocktail of a debut single, with Johnny Rotten's sneering vocal threatening, "I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist". The Pistols took that hit record with them when they jumped (or were pushed) from EMI to Virgin, for inclusion on "Bollocks", their only real studio album, although beaten to market by "Spunk", their Dave Goodman produced demos. Two other seminal hits taken from Pistols singles, "Pretty Vacant" and "God Save the Queen", helped make "Bollocks" the classic it is. "God Save the Queen" was a body blow to the spirit of the Silver Jubilee, the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Although it became England's best selling single, politics denied it the #1 chart position. However fine a personality Rotten was fronting the band, his superb vocals on "Bollocks" are his lasting achievement. The other element that made the Pistol's sound so distinctive was Steve Jones guitar sound. It was piercing, and heavily reverbed, with snippets of metallish riffing, and massive overdubbing. Also overdubbed to dizzying heights were the vocal choruses. All the overdubs turned the Pistols from a three piece with a singer into a punk rock army with 10 singers and 10 guitars. By the time the album came out in late '77, it was the only way to hear the Sex Pistols, who were banned from performing in England. When the clock struck 1978 the Silver Jubilee was over and so were the Pistols, who self-destructed after a brief American tour in January. The Sex Pistols were one band who lived up to the hype and didn't linger! (Mel)

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#3 Misfits - Walk Among Us (1982) Take a look at eBay and see what this thing goes for if it's an original pressing. It will give you an idea just how essential this is to both punk history and it's influence on other bands, well after they had broken up, which is when most of their fame came. This New Jersey band's album was released at a time when many thought punk was dead and gone, this record melded melodic hardcore with horror, love of the dead, decapitation, and plenty of other songs to create zombies by. Other bands that came out of the Misfits include Samhain and Danzig; Glenn eventually became the poster boy for muscle bound front men. Misfits also made the skull on a t-shirt something that was fashionable for someone who wasn't a Deadhead. (Steve)

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#4 Ramones - Leave Home (1977) The second band we talked about at our little meeting to put this list together, and we really got into it on just which (and how many) Ramones (and other band's second best) albums to include. David and I won out on this, because it's simply our favorite Ramones' record. Sure, the first is incredible, sure it's incredibly important, but I just like this one more. It's got my favorite Ramones song on it, "Oh Oh I Love Her So", along with other classics like "Glad To See You Go", the achingly beautiful "I Remember You", and a better mix between the simple 1-2-3-4 classic Ramones style that influenced so many bands and Beach Boys/Beatles style harmonies and melodies that the Ramones were born from. (Steve)

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#5 Wire - Pink Flag (1977) In the age of the bloated prog rock opera with the 20-minute guitar solo, what could be more punk than minimalism and the 90-second song with the abrupt ending? This album set a new standard: say what you have to say, preferably taking as little time as possible to say it, and then move on. Even more so than the rest of the vintage waxings surrounding them, the songs here are stripped down to their essence and as focused as a laser beam, all the while never sacrificing inventiveness or sheer quality for brevity. Selected tracks: "Mr. Suit", "It's So Obvious", "Ex-Lion Tamer"..oh fuck it, just play the whole thing already! (David)

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#6 Damned - Damned Damned Damned (1977) In a scene where Malcolm McLaren, the Clash, and every band slinging guitars and sporting fashionable ripped clothing and safety pins was trying to get their record out and one-up the other guy, the Damned produced all the "firsts". This was the first punk album released in the UK, the first album released by the legendary Stiff Records, and Damned were also the first to tour America. Produced by Nick Lowe, who rumor has it, sped up the original recording ever so slightly to make is sound more "punk". This record is the only studio album that includes the full original line up. Less political than most of the most other UK punk bands at the time, the focus here was on sneering vocals, great guitars and monster hits (Well, maybe not hits, but they should have been!) like "New Rose" and "Neat Neat Neat". They probably influenced as many bands as any punk band did at the time, and showed that you could just have fun playing songs you loved, and that the message didn't have to be meaningful, which was somewhat of a rarity among the first British punk bands. (Steve)

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#7 Jam - Setting Sons (1979) Originally conceived as a concept album about surviving a nuclear war, the idea was scrapped, but the emotional sentiment still comes through loud and clear. By 1979, many of the first wave of punk bands had already broken up, and the form was starting to expand musically. Paul Weller's soul and reggae tastes were showing through ("Heatwave" is one great cover) in the songs. Jam had more traditional "British" influences (like the Beatles) than other bands, and even used (shriek!) keyboards, with song length often expanded from the "gotta be under 3 minutes" rule. There are classic tracks on this, like "Saturday's Kids", but it's the depth of the songwriting that makes this LP shine. Desperation, desolation, but all done with a sense of melodic ear candy. (Steve)

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#8 X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents (1978) Even though this originally didn't feature their demented cheer "Oh Bondage Up Yours" featuring their original sax player Laura Logic, (a situation rectified by the CD reissue) this still turned out to be a fine waxing indeed. The classic cover, featuring the band members trapped in test tubes, and song titles such as "The Day The World Turned Day-Glo", "Identity", "Art-I-fical" perfectly reflected lyrics directed towards the artificality and ultimate sterility of the consumerist society Poly Stryene and company found themselves immersed in, and the pigeonholes said society tries to force you to accept. The band made it very clear that they intended to be a round peg in a square hole, though instead of gray-faced diatribes they welded irony and wits as their weapons as effectively as scapels. Not to mention that this is also one of the very few times you'd hear a complimenting sax used so well in punk outside of any ska/jazz hybrids. (David)

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#9 Saints - I'm Stranded (1977) The Saints were from Australia, but sounded like they were from Detroit. They had a couple big pluses; Chris Bailey's edgey voice and a fine collection of rockin' melodic tunes. Much of the Saints tunes will remind you of "Raw Power" Iggy, with a faster tempo. Their slow one, the six minute long "Messin' With The Kid" is one of this, or any album's highlights, sounding like a garageband version of the Rolling Stones circa "Black and Blue". (Mel)

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#10 Jawbreaker - Unfun (1990) How can anyone listen to a song like "Want" and not feel the longing in Blake's voice? Blake's voice churns from too many cigarettes and a whole lot of angst. This baby rocks from beginning to end, the playing is perfect. Chris and Adam made up probably the most formidable rhythm section in American punk. Jawbreaker's debut was recorded in Los Angeles, home to two thirds of the trio, and was the perfect melding of hardcore emo and melodic pop punk. It powerfully demonstrated that you didn't have to sacrifice strong melody to put across strong emotions and anger; and make the girls swoon, too. (Steve)

To read our comments on albums 11-25 check out the article in SP #10.

#11 Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material (1979)
#12 Operation Ivy - Energy (1991)
#13 Descendents - Milo Goes to College (1982)
#14 X - Los Angeles (1980)
#15 Avengers - s/t (1983)
#16 Black Flag - Damaged (1981)
#17 Generation X - s/t (1978)
#18 Pagans - Shit Street (1979)
#19 Dead Boys - Young Loud and Snotty (1977)
#20 Screeching Weasel - My Brain Hurts (1991)
#21 Rezillos - Can't Stand the Rezillos (1978)
#22 Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance (1978)
#23 Dils - s/t (1990)
#24 Dickies - Dawn of the Dickies (1979)
#25 Germs- (GI) (1979)


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