Audio Lore

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Audiolore's TOP 20 Best Hardcore/Punk Records of All-Time

 A few years back Rolling Stone magazine posted an article  "40 Greatest Punk Albums of All-Time" and of course everyone tore it apart. (The  article is here). Soon everyone online was posting and blogging about their picks.One of my favorites was this one by Tim Sommer

Of course I wanted to join in. The only problem was I had no computer at the time. So my list was assembled, reordered, had bands added and omitted over and over again my head but was never typed out anywhere. By the time my computer was up and running, the Rolling Stone article and all it's following angry rebuttal posts were long gone. My picks had never been considered,

Then a little while ago while at gym each day I watched and re-watched a bunch of documentaries about hardcore/punk acts, scenes, etc. Soon that list from a couple years ago was back in my head. I figured why not just put it out there now. The only difference is I am focusing more on the "hardcore" side of punk here. 

As ridiculous as it may sound. when i make lists like this I give myself rules. The big one is "No Compilations" (I/m looking at you "Minor Threat  Complete Discography!). Everything has to be an individual release of new music. 

Second Rule: Albums. EPs, and Singles are eligible to be on the list.

Also, just to make the list a little more interesting, I omitted some really obvious ones.

So without further delay. here is my picks for: 

The 20 Best Hardcore/Punk Records of All-Time

19 -Monster X - To the Positive Youth 7” (Gloom Records) - Albany’s Monster X was a band that played good straight edge hardcore with grindcore vocals. Maybe the only band to successfully pull this off. To The Positive Youth is 7" single composed entirely of covers of classic youth crew and straight edge songs, It may seem strange that I would include and EP of hardcore cover songs (two of which are off of other releases on this list) but it is that good with many of them rivaling the originals(Available on Youtube here )

18 – Crucial Youth – Posi-Machine LP (1988, New Red Archives Records)- A funny thing happened when New Jersey's Crucial Youth tried to release a hardcore parody record: They actually produced a good hardcore/punk album. Even though the 21 songs on Posi-Machine cover such topics as how caffeine is bad ("Caffeine), the importance of brushing your teeth ("Positive Dental Outlook"), the importance of having a balanced diet ("4 Food Groups"), or many other lessons, the album also contains some of the best hardcore riffs and wide ranged vocals I have ever heard on any punk record. (Still available through New Red Archives Records, with a few of their singles and "Crucial Yule" and on most listening platforms. Here it is on Youtube. Prepare to be informed)

17-Life Sentence – S/T LP (1986, Walkthrufyre Records) – Life  Sentence's sound was not too different from the strict regimen hardcore sound of California's Uniform Choice, but with a definite Chicago punk grittiness ala The Effigies or Naked Raygun. A lot of fans think the band tried to write more complicated songs and maybe went a little metal on their second album No Experience Necessary (which I surprisingly found in a clearance section at Borders) but I don't really hear too much of a difference. Well, except that the songs are not quite as good. (Available on YouTube here or for download at the Blogged and Quartered website Here)

16- I Hate You - Prime Directive 7" EP(1997, Punk Uprising Records)- When the band was around I never really to get a straight answer or find out real evidence of this Philadelphia band was really a militant or a joke/satire band. But this 10 song 7” EP (Yes just a 7”) has some of the best riffs and best lyrics about anti-smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. I never got the chance to see them live but I heard a lot of their shows ended up pretty bloody (Available as part of their Discography compilation on Apple Music, Spotify, the band's Bandcamp here)

15-Four Walls Falling - Culture Shock LP (1991, Jade Tree)- Perfect mixture of hardcore and SoCal style skate rock. Awesome hooks, a few solos, and on point sociopolitical lyrics. I never really got the hang of skateboarding but I always thought this album would make the perfect soundtrack for it. Their next album Food for Worms was a serious departure in sound, so proceed carefully. I saw a reunion show they did in College Park circa 2000. Everyone was very surprised they played songs off of it. (Available from Jade Tree Records, all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

14 – Beyond – No Longer At Ease LP (1989,Combined Effort Records)- I never thought I could like a band that uses slap bass. It's just a little bit but there is some on this album. For a long time the  Long Island band Beyond's material was very hard to find. I never even actually heard the band until a song of theirs ("Vitality") ended up on a  compilation of NYHC bands. Then in 1997 Some Record reissued No Longer at Ease and I finally got the chance to hear the album in it's entirety. Very good NYHC with a lot of breakdowns. The only thing is, like the band's name implies, they just took it a little beyond the genre, adding elements of metal There is even some funk in the form of that slap bass. Singer Kevin Egan would go on to the 1.6 Band, drummer Alan Cage would go on to Burn and Quicksand, bassist Tom Capone would go on to Quicksand, and guitarist Vic DiCara would play in Inside Out (with some guy name Zach De La Rocha) and 108. Available from Revelation Records,on all listening platforms, or YouTube here.

13 - No For An Answer - You Laugh 7” (1988, Revelation
Records) - NFAA were very fast, almost to the point of being grindcore. Plus singer Dan O’Mahoney wrote ( and still does in his present bands) some of the best straight edge, no drugs, and don’t drink and drive lyrics out there. They would slow down significantly on their debut album Thought Crusade but still retain the same topics in their lyrics. This EP's "Without A Reason" was covered on the Monster X 7: EP listed before (Available from Revelation Records, all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

12- Gray Matter - Take it Back LP (1986, Dischord Records) - This often overlooked DC punk band's singer Jeff Turner writes some of the best hooks in all the bands he’s been in (he was the singer of 3, the short lived band who did that song “Swann Street” people know and so many bands cover). The band featured two ex-members of Iron Cross in Dante Fernando (also partial owner of the Black Cat in DC) on drums, Mark Haggerty on guitar, and Iron Cross roadie Steve Niles on bass. It's pretty ironic since Gray Matter's fast semi melodic punk is so far removed from the hardcore street punk of Iron Cross. I only got to see Gray Matter once and it was at the 9:30 Club Tenth Anniversary show where almost every DC band played one cover song. If anyone was there and remembers what song they played, please let me know. (Available on one CD with their follow up Food For Thought from Dischord Records,all listening platforms, and YouTube here)

11- Born Against - s/t 7”(1990, Vermiform Records) The thing that separates Born Against from so many other hardcore bands of the era is you can still hear the influence of NYHC bands like Agnostic Front and Life’s Blood (a band some of Born Against's members has been in), but you can also hear some of the emerging newer hardcore punk sound coming out too. This mixed with singer Sam McPheeter sarcastic lyrics make for a band that would soon influence so many bands for years to come. Even though they released many singles and an album or two, this EP is where everything gelled together perfectly. (Available as part of their Rebel Sound of Shit and Failure singles compilation on Apple Music or Spotify, or by itself on YouTube here)

10-White Flag - Wild Kingdom (1987, Positive Force
Records)– I always thought of LA's The Chiefs as a more faster and harder version of The Descendents. Their album Holly West Crisis almost made this list. But on the other end of the spectrum I always thought beginning on Wild Kingdom White Flag moved away from the hardcore sound of their previous albums and became a more glam Descendents. They also aren't afraid to show off their influences by covering The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, KISS, and The Saints alongside their awesome originals "Instant Breakfast", "Suicide King", and my favorite, "Butterfly Revolution".( Available on Spotify, but beware, the song titles and the tracks are all mixed up. Also available on YouTube here ).

9 -Life’s Halt - We Sold Our Souls for Rock in Roll 7” EP (1998, Youngblood Records)- Life's Halt was the perfect mixture of the youth crew Of Youth Of Today and the proto-powerviolence ( I think I just made up a new genre) of Infest. I saw them at the Sidebar in Baltimore, along with the almost equally great Carry On, circa 2000 and the urgency by every member the band on each song was just just seriously out of control (It can be downloaded with the rest of their discography at the Blogged and Quatered website Here or listned to on YouTube here)

8 - Die Kreutzen - Cows and Beer 7” (1982, Version Sound) - The band's name translated to "The Cross" but they aren't a Christian
band. This EP  was recorded when the band was fast, rough, and very punk sounding. Before singer Dan Kubinski's vocals would reach out of this world levels on their debut album. There was definitely no sight of the college rock sound the band would produce just a few albums down down the line. There also aren't any songs about farm animals or alcoholic beverages. The EP's title is more of a joke on what their home state of Wisconsin was known for. The original Version Sound release is $210 on Discogs (some records on this list actually go for tons more) but it is more affordably available tacked on to the end of their Gone Away CD (where they also do a great cover of The Germs'" Land of Treason") or by itself on Beer City Records. You can also listen on Youtube here)

7-Corrosion of Conformity - Six Songs with Mike Singing EP (1985, Caroline Records)-Eye for an Eye is an awesome album. Still my favorite of their full lengths. But singer Erik Eyker vocals also sound just a little painfully uncomfortable. It’s probably the whole point but I think it was on the following release where Mike Dean took over vocals was where the band hit it's hardcore/punk heights. You could hear the thrash of the next two albums (one with Mike singing, one without) broiling underneath (but thankfully not the southern fried stoner rock of 1994 and on C.O.C.) but to my ears Six Songs with Mike Singing is total hardcore/punk (You can find this EP tacked on to the end Eye for an Eye on Apple Music, Spotify, or can be listned on YouTube here)

6-Ill Repute – What Happens Next? LP (1984, Mystic Records)
– Super fast, awesome hardcore/punk out of Oxnard, California (Nardcore) with surprisingly positive lyrics. Most the lyrics like the ones in "Sleep Walking", "Book and It's Cover" and "It's Not Gonna Happen to Me" deal with finding your own identity in the world. Available on all listening platforms, sometimes with the "Next" changed to "Then" and on YouTube here ). Be forewarned: starting with the 1994 album Big Rusty Balls the band became more of a rockin' melodic punk band. Still good stuff though

5-Last Rights 7” (1984, TAANG! Records) - Ex- Negative FX(Although I could be mixing up the order of the bands) and pre- Slapshot Boston band that was actually so much more than just a hardcore/punk band. Listen to the lead off guitar on the first song "Chunks", later covered impressively by their fellow Mass, band Dinosaur  Jr. The band actually only played one show. This 7" Ep was TAANG! Records second release. (Available with a few extra tracks and the almost as great Negative FX album on most listening platforms. Here it is on YouTube)

4- Half Off - The Truth LP (1987, New Beginnings Records) – Southern California's Half Off has always been a slight mystery to me. Still to this day I have never found a copy of this album "in the wild" and have had to rely on taped copies or mp3s found online. I have not had a chance to read any info on the insert. What I do know is the band does the an awesome job combining the SoCal hardcore sound of bands like No For An Answer and Uniform Choice with the hardcore punk sound of Boston bands like Jerry's Kids. Surprisingly unlike other SoCal hardcore bands like Uniform Choice or Insted, the lyrics, sung by singer Bill Rubin (who would go on to the more metal Haywire) are not very positive at all and often critical of the hardcore/punk/straight edge scene. Especially on song #8 "Rain on the Parade", which on a side note is where the Pennsylvania band Rain on the Parade took their name from. (Available to listen to on Youtube Here)

3-Straight Ahead - Breakaway 12”(1987, I Risk Records) - Hands down the best NYHC record. Only a little over 6 minutes in total but every second of it taken up by perfect positive lyrics, gang vocals, and hardcore breakdowns. They even manage to throw in a few guitar solos. The band featured Craig “Ahead” Setari (Later Of Agnostic Front and Sick of it All) Rob Escaverria (later of Rest in Pieces and Helmet) and Armand Majidi (of Rest in Pieces and Sick of it All), although I am not sure if Armand played on this EP. Straight Ahead's song "Straight Ahead" is one of the covers on the Monster X single. (Avilaible on YouTube here or for download on the Blogged and Quartered website here)

2-Faith/Void - Split LP (1982, Dischord Records)- I have to admit
I listen to the Void side an awful lot more than the Faith side. I’ve actually worn out multiple copies on vinyl and compact disc. But that is because Void’s sound was so unlike anyone else. Total fast, blistering guitars. Inhuman vocals. They also happen to be from my hometown of Columbia, MD, so that made them even cooler. Faith is also very good hardcore. Not much of the more emo sound that would begin to come out on their following Subject to Change LP, where Minor Threat and (future) Fugazi front man Ian Mackaye would take over vocals from his brother Alex and the band took part in creating a whole new genre as Embrace. (Still available from Dischord on CD with Faith's Subject to Change LP on most listening platforms or Youtube here

1 - Poison Idea - Feel The Darkness LP (1990, Vinyl Solution/American Leather Records) - More rockin’ than the Portland, Oregon band's earlier more hardcore stuff which makes most these lists. They do manage to keep some of the Germs influence. But the band finally got some good production. Songs like "Plastic Bomb", "Deep Sleep", "Gone for Good", well, pretty much all 13 of the tracks come bulldozing out of the speakers at you. The most powerful track on the album of course is song #3 "Just to Get Away". I always thought of the total "fuck the world" song as Poison Idea's signature song. The great news is after being unavailable for so long (not sure why because the last label it was on was Epitaph) TKO Records has brought it back in print and also made the album available on Spotify. You can also listen on YouTube here

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