Thursday, December 09, 2004

DB Up in Your Ear: Top Punk Bands List... Or Is It?

PunkBands.com and Kerrang! magazine recently produced a list of the 50 greatest punk albums of all time. Here it is:

1. Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
2. Green Day - Dookie
3. Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
4. Nirvana - Nevermind
5. The Offspring - Smash
6. Rancid - And Out Come The Wolves
7. Discharge - Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
8. The Clash - The Clash
9. The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette
10. Ramones - Ramones
11. NOFX - Punk In Drublic
12. Fugazi - Repeater
13. The Clash - London Calling
14. Blink 182 - Enema Of The State
15. The Stooges - Funhouse
16. Black Flag - Damaged
17. Minor Threat - Complete Discography
18. Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power
19. The Undertones - The Undertones
20. The Offspring - Americana
21. Bad Brains - Rock For Light
22. Buzzcocks - Love Bites
23. NOFX - Sol Long And Thanks For All The Shoes
24. Crass - The Feeding Of The 5000
25. The Ruts - The Crack
26. The Vandals - Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
27. Operation Ivy - Energy
28. Refused - The Shape Of Punk To Come
29. Rocket From The Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!
30. The Exploited - Punk's Not Dead
31. Cro-Mags - The Age Of Quarrel
32. Quicksand - Manic Compression
33. Descendents - Milo Goes To College
34. Sublime - Sublime
35. The Misfits - Static Age
36. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Let's Face It
37. Less Than Jake - Hello Rockview
38. Bad Religion - Suffer
39. The Dwarves - The Dwarves Are Young And Good Looking
40. Supersuckers - The Evil Powers Of Rock n'Roll
41. Social Distortion - White Light White Heat White Trash
42. The Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home About
43. Green Day - Nimrod
44. Will Haven - El Diablo
45. Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material
46. Napalm Death - Scum
47. AFI - Black Sails In The Sunset
48. Poison Idea - Feel The Darkness
49. GBH - Leather Bristles, Studs And Acne
50. Killing Joke - Killing Joke

No doubt there are some outstanding albums on this list, but... it's a weird list, isn't it? First of all: what is punk? As it's defined by this list, it's quite broad. Let's face it: Nirvana and NOFX and Napalm Death are very different kinds of bands, with only the fellas from NOFX generally classified as "punk" at all (or "light punk," as my metal-loving pal would put it).

It's hard to argue with the Sex Pistols at #1, but "Dookie" at #2? In my book, "Dookie" is the worst of Green Day's albums, by a fairly wide margin. Sure, it broke them on MTV, but who cares? Each of their albums has improved upon the one before it. I therefore like "Nimrod" at 43 -- though I think "Warning" and "American Idiot" are in certain ways superior.

As a ska punk fan, I take major issues with some of the choices here. The list reads more like some interns did research to see what was hot on the MTV over the past decade than what albums were truly important/influential to punk rock. An exception to this is Operation Ivy's "Energy" (#27), though I would put the granddaddy of the sub-genre's album at least 10 places higher.

The selection of the Mighty Mighty Boss Tone's "Let's Face It "at #36 is a disaster. This is a fair-to-middling album, but it's not a punk album. It's a ska-lounge-pop album, with some rock thrown in for kicks. "Devil's Night Out," or perhaps even better, the extraordinary live album, "Live from the Middle East," would have been far better choices.

Another example of poor album choice is Rancid's "...And Out Come the Wolves" at #6. I applaud placing Rancid that high, as they're one of my favorite punk bands, but the album choice seems more beholden to MTV saturation than anything else. "Let's Go" would be more appropriate -- while "Life Won't Wait" or even the recent "Indestructible" would have been more interesting and challenging choices.

Finally, some of these albums don't belong on this list. Choices like The Offspring (a good but not great power-pop act), Quicksand ("Manic Compression" contains one good song... one), and Blink 182 (no comment) were downright disappointing.

Bands that should be on the list that are not:

- Suicide Machines -- two to three albums
- Voodoo Glow Skulls -- three to four albums
- Perfect Thyroid -- once named by Alternative Press as one of the five best ska-punk acts of all time
- Bouncing Souls
- Fastbacks
- Mudhoney
- L7
- The Distillers
- The Hives

Bands on the list that should be given (way) more love:

- The Clash
- Nirvana
- The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones

Impressive selections:

- Operation Ivy
- Descendents
- Less Than Jake

Update: After I wrote the above, I realized that the 50 Greatest list was as voted on by readers... well, what do people know, anyway?

7 comments:

The Sore Loser said...

You know a hell of a lot more about this than I do, but even I found that list bizarre. Two NOFX albums in the top 50? Ridicurous. And yes, where are my gloriously misunderstood Suicide Machines, who I still listen to (in my weaker moments)? Rolling Stone's top 500 rock songs looks like genius in comparison, even though "When the Levee Breaks", possibly Zeppelin's greatest song, didn't even make the list.

Eric Berlin said...

I think NOFX is a borderline great punk band, so I'm not disappointed to see them on the list a few times. I'm not very familiar with their entire canon, so it's difficult for me to nit-pick with album should be where. That being said, their live albumn, "I Heard They Suck Live," is one of the better live albums I've ever heard, and captures their energy quite a bit better than their studio sound.

Weaker moments and the Machines, eh? No need to be (partly) in the closet about it, friend. I would certainly put "Battle Hymns" in the Top 10. While you wouldn't call The Suicide Machines extraordinarily innovative (but Punk isn't really an innovative form, is it?) they fuse ska and punk about as well as anyone, ever. They also possess an infectious energy, a great horn section (key for any ska-punk act -- this is where Less Than Jake fails at times) and the ability to mix in a variety of rock, pop, and metal stylings to keep things interesting.

So step out the closet and shout it loud!

Anyway, you're right: the Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs list was far more interesting and obviously well compiled. The Elder Statesman of rock mags does lean a little heavily, as always, on classic rock for my taste -- but let's face it, it aims at a Baby Boomer demographic.

But that's an entirely different argument.

girlfiend said...

I used to go to Bouncing Souls shows all the time when I was in high school. I hadn't thought of them in years.

Eric Berlin said...

The Souls are great, and thier sound has not lost any of its crisp, upbeat edge over the years. I even won my wife over on them with repeated airings of The Toilet Song:

Who's gonna throw the toilet
Who's gonna throw the toilet off the roof?

Great stuff, great ambivalent angst-ridden lyrics. I mean, who doesn't want to throw a toilet off the roof sometimes?

They hail from your neck of the woods (Philly - or nearby.... Jersey?), Ms. Fiend, if I'm not mistaken.

~EB

Eric Berlin said...

A not-so-quick side-note on Kerrang! magazine:

I lived in a small town in the South of England during the long, dreary winter of '96 - '97. For a laugh, my friend Nirav and I (together, we made up The Yanks in our little corner of Kent) bought an issue of Kerrang! magazine as it featured pull-out posters of whatever alt-rock / metal acts were popular at the time: Kula Shaker, Pearl Jam, etc.

For a second laugh, I entered a contest that advertised as winning some kind of alt-rock prize in London. I answered an incredibly easy quiz question (the answer, strangely enough, was Pearl Jam) and Kerrang! I had won.

So Nirav and I got to attend the UK premiere of a documentary called Hype! which chronicled the exploitation of the Seattle music scene circa The Grunge Years. N and I were hoping for a Dave Grohl or Courtney Love sighting, but it turned out to be a much more low key affair.

After the film's showing, a great majority of the quiet/nerdy/music geek/teenie bopper audience headed home, but N and I were looking for kicks in the Big City, cooped up most of the time at the Nag's Head Pub in Chatham as we were. We stuck around afterward and managed to take part in, with the assistance and cooperation from some of the Kerrang! UK editorial staff, a raid on the open bar at the little theater we were at. Well, the bar wasn't quite open -- we managed to pilfer stocks of the good stuff that were supposed to be off limits.

After some later and uninteresting pub hopping (the Kerrang! folk decided the Yanks-as-contest-winners weren't very hip to hang with after the heist, I'm afraid) I remember walking back to the Late Night Bus with two huge shopping bags filled to the rim with bottles of wine, champagne, and even a liter or two of German beer.

It was an interesting night.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit to being relatively new to punk and to not having heard all or even most of the bands on this list, but surely Green Day is not greater than The Clash??????? Do Green Day even deserve a place on the list because I can't help thinking there must be many better [and more influential] bands/songs out there . . . And where the Hell are The Velvet Underground????? I think many would agree to their being extremely influential in the punk movement . . . not least the artists themselves! And also, I did not see The Pogues on this list, who are an absolutely brilliant punk/alternative band who mixed Irish national music with punk rock, and who were the first to do so . . . what a strange world . . .

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