Heavy Metal was the first type of music I really got into. It's speed and aggression spoke to me. So it was without surprise that when I first heard of this music called "punk" I was excited that a new world of fast, angry music was waiting to be explored. Punk has had a long journey, generations of fans and its fair share of controversy. It's kind of the anti-genre, spawned from a tightly wound pop world, where the clean cut and happy go lucky masses ruled the airwaves. Dejected youth, tired from the formulaic symphonies, joined forces and made a form of music that could not be ignored. Most of the punk compilations I grabbed when I was younger crammed 20 to 30 songs on each CD, so instead of my usual 10 I give you 20 Great Punk Songs.
1. Against Me! - "You Look Like I Need A Drink"
From Gainesville Florida, Against Me! stormed on the scene in 2002 letting everyone know that energetic and raw punk was still out there. "You look like I need a drink" is from the 2003 album As The Eternal Cowboy, to this day it's one of my favourites. This song has non-stop energy, a catchy chorus and piercing vocals. Still have yet to hear a bad song from Against Me!
2. Misfits - "Bullet"
Glenn Danzig and his Misfits were one of the fore runners of Punk Rock and definitely the pioneers of the Horror-punk genre. Most of there songs are barely over 2 minutes and feature lyrics about unspeakable acts of violence and chaos. "Bullet" is from the infamous Static Age sessions, which to this day is one of the greatest punk debuts of all time.
3. Green Day - "Bab's Uvula Who?"
Green Day have evolved their sound significantly over the years, which i'm all for. Their early efforts however were punk masterpieces. Dookie usually gets all the glory, but I feel 1995's Insomniac was the stronger offering. It included the crunching track "Bab's Uvula Who?" With it's musical unity and speed it becomes the album's diamond in the rough.
4. The Ramones - "Commando"
The Ramones attracted crowds by singing short, lightning quick songs where the lyrics were easy to remember and be belted back at front man Joey Ramone. Though some listeners claim they have songs reminiscent of The Beach Boys, "Commando" is unmistakenly Ramones.
5. Hostage Life - "The Last Superman"
Hailing from the hulking metropolis of Toronto, Hostage Life pull no punches about what they are. Their 2007 album Walking Papers is full of satirical views of the corporate world and the suburban environment in which they thrive. Being Canadian is almost a birth-rite to having a sense of humour. "The Last Superman" just kicks ass.
6. The Clash - "Janie Jones"
Anyone who only knows "Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" doesn't know shit. The Clash are one of the most important bands in punk rock, and perhaps rock music in general. Influencing countless modern acts and still being unmatched in song writing prowess. "Janie Jones" is the first song off their first record, I heard it and never looked back.
7. Rancid - "Journey To The End Of East Bay"
Rancid were a center piece of the punk revival in the early 90's. Forming out of the ashes of Operation Ivy, their song "Journey To The End Of East Bay" actually documents there times as a young, inexperienced punk group. The opening bass riff removes any doubts that Matt Freeman is one of the most impressive bass guitarists of our time.
8. Stiff Little Fingers - "Law and Order"
They became a household name when the 1998 film High Fidelity slipped a reference to the Stiff Little Fingers in a mid-movie scene. Using that recognizable UK punk sound "Law and Order" is straight shooting, protest song about how they were treated during the punk's infancy.
9. The Loved Ones - "Jane"
Not to be confused with the 60's group from Australia with the same name, America's Loved Ones formed in 2000. Signed to Fat Mike's record company Fat Wreck Chords after an impressive tour with NOFX and The Bouncing Souls, "Jane" is a wonderful offering from a young band with plenty of potential.
10. Black Flag - "Room 13"
Damaged was Black Flag's debut album and it was an unrelenting assault of screaming vocals, scathing guitars and all out punk energy. There are many iconic songs to choose from but "Room 13" is the left of center sleeper hit to me. It may take a few listens before it grows on you, but it will.
11. Rise Against - "Like The Angel"
I can remember seeing Rise Against at the 2003 Warped Tour and I knew I was witnessing something special. They had a unique sound and really got into their performance. The first song I heard by them was "Like The Angel" and i'll always associate that song with them first before any others.
12. Social Distortion - "Don't Drag Me Down"
Punk rock veterans Social Distortion embody what I think punk should be all about. They don't give a fuck what anyone thinks about them, or how they should act, dress or what kind of music they should play. I love their 1996 album White Light, White Heat, White Trash, possibly their most well known, but one of the least known songs on the record is my favourite: "Don't Drag Me Down".
13. The Distillers - "I Am A Revenant"
The Distillers win the award for the only band on the planet to use the word "Revenant" in their song title. Thankfully, the song kicks major ass. Brody Dalle, or whatever she calls herself these days, came from Australia to the LA punk scene when she was 18 to form The Distillers. Though short-lived The Distillers left their mark on punk-rock with songs like "LA Girl", "Drain The Blood" and "I Am A Revenant".
14. Iggy & The Stooges - "Search & Destroy"
Iggy Pop, the quintessential lead man, amazed a nation of punk fans with his on stage antics. 20 Years later he would amaze medical science by seemingly not aging a day. The Stooges were perhaps the earliest "punk" band and sounded like nothing else when they released their debut in 1969. Their swan song would come in 1973, however, in the form of "Search & Destroy", arguably the best lead off track of all time.
15. DBS - "Snowball"
dbs was a young punk group from Vancouver, BC formed in the early 90's. In true punk fashion their debut album Tales From The Crib has 23 tracks and was just over 30 minutes long. Their song 'Snowball' got considerable play on Much Music, which is how I came to know it, and remains their most popular to this day.
16. Heartbreakers - "Born To Lose"
The masterful guitar work of Johnny Thunders is center stage in this classic. The Heartbreakers were part of the first wave of punk rock in the 70's and toured Europe just as the Sex Pistols were taking off there. "Born To Lose" is essential music listening, inside or outside of the punk genre.
17. Face To Face - "I Won't Lay Down"
Uncompromising and consistent are 2 adjectives i'd use to describe California's Face To Face. They stand along side some impressive names when it comes to the bands they've been associated with, but never cared too much for mainstream success. Their 1996 self-titled album provides many great songs, but "I Won't Lay Down" exemplifies the band perfectly.
18. Avail - "High Lonesome"
Formed in the 80's Northern Virginia's Avail have plugged along at their own pace since their beginning. In 2000 they were signed to Fat Wreck Chords and released One Wrench which gave us the song "High Lonesome". The song definitely stands out from typical punk songs, but Avail is currently on hiatus and have been for some time. Unfortunately I couldn't find a video for it, but if you do some digging, you'll find it.
19. Time Again - "Lines Are Faded"
Newcomers Time Again bring a sound from a simpler time. Though they formed in 2005, their songs sound like those early 90's when bands like NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion and Rancid were gaining notoreity. In fact Time Again is signed to Tim Armstrong's Rancid Records. Check out "Lines Are Faded".
20. Bad Religion - "Sorrow"
Couldn't forget about these guys. Bad Religion have done so much for the punk music scene. Brett Gurewitz, who formed Epitaph Records, plays guitar for the group and has signed many punk acts to his label including NOFX, The Offspring, SNFU, Rancid and Down By Law. "Sorrow" may be a song of a later album, but it encapsulates Bad Religion's principles. Another one of my favourite concert moments was watching Bad Religion as the sun was setting. I was just on the skirts of the moshpit and all the dust getting kicked up into the air with the sun shining through it created a kind of golden haze. At that moment the band started playing "Sorrow" and it was a perfect backdrop for their performance.