Sweeping across America and the UK in the 1970s, punk rock grew out of the garage rock of the sixties into a full-fledged genre that spawned its own counter culture and lifestyle. Chaotic, sophomoric, political, anti-establishment, ramshackle, and slightly deranged, these are classic albums of the punk rock movement every man should know.

“Ramones” | Ramones, 1976
This album, recorded for just $6,400 in 1976, is ground zero for punk rock. Sure, the occasional critique is that the Ramones were essentially remixing the pop music of the fifties and sixties (just a little bit harder and faster), but really this groundbreaking album was unlike any predecessor and it changed the game for all that followed. Even if you’re somebody who’s never “listened” to punk music, you’ll be shocked how many of these songs you already know from movies and commercials. With a focus on stripping down the excesses that later came to overpower mainstream rock music in the seventies, “Ramones” boasts of the coming counter-culture even in the simplest of chord progressions. The album is adolescent, angsty, and fun, sweeping across genres such as teen girl pop (“I Want To Be Your Boyfriend”) to classic covers (“Let’s Dance”) to the more self-explanatory (“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”). This album is a great place to start.

“The Clash” | The Clash, 1977
Oddly enough there are two versions of this essential album, one for the US and one for the UK, with the UK’s version considered to be the superior album. This record combined liberal politics with anti-establishment lyrics, and with the help of Joe Strummer’s hard-scrap voice, it forged a path for punk rock as a vessel of social change. Its riotous sound was a welcome noise in the ears of England's disenfranchised youth, and still is today.

“Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols” | Sex Pistols, 1977
Rolling Stone has referred to this album as “the Sermon on the Mount” of punk rock, and for good reason. Though not the first punk rock album to debut in the UK (that was The Damned’s “Damned Damned Damned”), it was the first mainstream hit that truly engaged teens and frightened the establishment. Its hit “God Save The Queen” was banned from the top of the charts during Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, a fact that only increased the album’s appeal. Johnny Rotten’s voice snarls all the sarcasm and vitriol that he could handle, while the rest of the band hammers away with their barely intelligible instrumentation.

“Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” | Dead Kennedys, 1980
Frontman Jello Biafra is one of the most recognizable faces of the punk rock movement and the predecessor of the hardcore movement that followed soon after this album’s release. While deeply steeped in the quagmire of the Reagan era, these sardonic and biting lyrics are so politically charged that they still resonate with vigor today. The album is haunting, screeching, minimalist, and offensive, with a surf-rock vibe that somehow keeps it all still enjoyable.

“Damaged” | Black Flag, 1981
Black Flag lived a life of rebellion even more than they sang about it. The band members constantly turned over, they were muddled in lawsuits, and their musical virtuosity was questionable. Nevertheless, they were a beloved feature of the LA punk scene long before they recorded their first full length album. The distribution deal for the album got held up when the president of the record label heard the album and declared it “anti-parent”, which ultimately it was, along with being anti- just about everything else.

“Walk Among Us” | The Misfits, 1982
Glenn Danzig’s first band, The Misfits, changed the future of punk rock mostly by remixing elements that they loved from their predecessors’ music. The feel of the album is hardcore, despite the fact that Danzig’s quintessentially masculine voice is alternately shouting and crooning in an ode to fifties’ rock n roll. The album also launched the sub-genre “horror punk” given that the band members all dressed up like corpses and sung almost exclusively about themes arising from B-grade sci-fi and horror movies. The album’s cover art even features the “rat-bat-spider” that terrorizes astronauts in the 1959 The Angry Red Planet.

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