Hiljaiset Levyt: 100 Best Punk LP's

Written by fabulous Mr. Steve Gardner (mr. nice guy of NKVD Records). Thanks Steve!

Here's the sequel to singles review, namely "A Large Pile Of 70s Punk LPs Without Which You Are An Individual Of Debateable Consequence And Why In 100 Words Or Less Each" or "How I Learned To Love The Bombs".

As before, the idea is not to say which is best, although it's Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols. I can't be bothered with ranking them...just go get them all. Would I lead you wrong?

THE ADVERTS - Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts (Bright)

TV Smith at his finest, no doubt. He's got those great urgent vocals, and when it came out the prominent British accent was a breath of fresh air after years of Brits trying to sound like Americans. There's several pressings of this, and I'd recommend trying to find one that has "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" on it, since that's one of their best ever and not all pressings have it. But even if you miss it, "One Chord Wonders", "Bored Teenagers", "Bombsite Boy", "No Time To Be 21" and "Great British Mistake" are all killer. WARNING - the second Adverts lp, Cast Of Thousands, is a major piece of crap. Avoid it like the plague.


Although this lp wasn't released until 1983, it was recorded in 1977 and 1978 when the Avengers were conceivably the best and most powerful band on the west coast of the US. If there had been the opportunities to get press and record that UK bands had, there's little doubt in my mind that the Avengers would have been as important as the Clash. Tough, gut wrenching songs that said something, and a female vocal performance that's been matched rarely in the days since. The band plays hard with loud fat guitars...classic punk.


No, I'm not talking about the English ska band...this is the powerpop outfit fronted by Paul Collins. They were ahead of the Knack, and they were honest, too...this is what they wanted to do, not some scam to cash in on a coming fad. The LA Times Calendar section picked this the best lp of 1979, and it's probably the last time they were remotely close to right. The songs on this are just super pieces of rock and roll...great harmonies with rough edged playing. Songs like "Rock'n'Roll Girl", "Walking Out On Love" or "Don't Wait Up For Me" are great pieces of Buddy Holly flavored rock and roll.

BLONDIE - Blondie (Private Stock)

Underground music fans remind me a lot of the Communist Party in China. Bands come along and are in favor, then all of a sudden they lose it all and everybody dumps them. Sometimes they get rehabilitated and become acceptable to like again. Has Blondie ever recovered from having the gall to do "Heart Of Glass" and worse atrocities later? I dunno, but I still love that first lp with those great girl group songs like "Little Girl Lies", "Rifle Range", "Kung Fu Girls", and of course, the brilliant "X Offender". How anybody ever thought this was punk rock (and they did back then) I'll never know...it must have been their CBGBs roots, but it's a great record (there next one, Plastic Letters, is pretty good, too).

THE BOYS - The Boys (Nems)

The Boys were a London punk band that evolved over time into a kind of strange power pop outfit, but for their first lp they were great pop/punk fiends. Somehow they never got much notice for their efforts, which is hard to understand now, because this lp has a lot more kick, spunk, and tunefulness than a hell of a lot of more highly regarded competitors. It's got a pretty classic chugging 4/4 drum sound and some tasty, fat guitars. Maybe the problem was that the lyrics were kind of goofy good time things, while the press was more interested in political bands. That might explain why this record has aged a lot more gracefully; I can imagine this being released today.

BUZZCOCKS - Another Music In A Different Kitchen (UA)

BUZZCOCKS - Love Bites (UA)

BUZZCOCKS - Singles Going Steady (IRS)

BUZZCOCKS - A Different Kind Of Tension (IRS)

There's no way I'm gonna leave out any Buzzcocks record from this list, although I'm not counting posthumous stuff or any reunion things that may come along. Best way to get up to date on these guys is to buy the Product CD set, which has all the lps and every missing B side, plus the Parts 1-3 single series and some live stuff. The Buzzcocks were one of the two or three best ever... killer snappy punk songs with pop hooks and deliriously catchy tunes with wierd perspectives on love. Every one of these lps has a handful of songs so good that the average band would be lucky to come up with one comparable track in their career. I'd rate the first three as dead equals for quality and the fourth less by a gnat's eyelash.

CHELSEA - Alternative Hits (Step Forward)

Chelsea were a London based band who led off their existence with a fairly dull political song called "Right To Work", but then broadened their horizons and got a lot stronger musically. This record, which is different by only one track from a US disc called No Escape, compiles a batch of their singles to produce a really solid record. Chelsea often sound pretty awkward, and their singer was more of a shouter, but there's some great songs like "No Escape", "Urban Kids", "Look At The Outside" or "No One's Coming Outside". Chelsea surprisingly hung around for quite a while and had some good lps into the early 80s, too.

THE CHORDS - So Far Away (Polydor)

This might be cheating a bit since it came out in 1980, but it was recorded in 1979 and the band had most of their success that year in the UK mod movement that brought the Jam to the peak of their popularity. It's been widely ignored but I thought it was the best lp of the year it came out...great anthemic songs with huge ringing guitars and wild man drumming. I'd describe them as a slightly more straight on and more energetic version of the Jam circa their first two lps. "Maybe Tomorrow" and "Somethings Missing" are two of my all time faves.

THE CLASH - The Clash (CBS)

THE CLASH - Give 'Em Enough Rope (CBS) How do you convince anyone that the Clash were a really meaningful band when all they know by them is "Rock The Casbah", "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" and "Brand New Cadillac"? It's damn hard, I'll tell you. But pretend it's a totally different band and go try on these two lps (get the US copy of the first one; it's piles better). Songs like "Jail Guitar Doors", "I'm So Bored With The USA", "Janie Jones", "Career Opportunities", "Remote Control", or "Safe European Home", now those are some great songs. As usual, the first lp is the better, but although there are fewer standout tracks on the second, it's consistently good throughout. The press went to their head, but you can still hear the magic from before it happened.

ELVIS COSTELLO - This Year's Model (CBS)

It's been a long time since I've paid any attention to a new Elvis Costello release, but they used to be a very significant event. The My Aim Is True record was an impressive debut, but even so it was pretty overrated by the rock press; This Year's Model proved how much better Costello could be if he got a band that really gave a damn behind him instead of the feeble San Francisco band Clover, who were the main backing on that first record. The Attractions were a tough and gutty band; I remember seeing them on their first US tour just before this record came out and I couldn't believe how much better they were live than the first lp was on a stereo, but what really blew me away was the songs they previewed from this record...although I'd never heard them before I can still remember the attack and bite of songs like "Radio Radio", "Lipstick Vogue", "No Action", "Hand In Hand" and "Lip Service". The US version of this is definitely the one to get since the UK record drops "Radio Radio" for a couple of much weaker tracks.

THE DAMNED - Damned Damned Damned (Stiff)

THE DAMNED - Machine Gun Ettiquette (Chiswick)

I bought the first Damned lp on Stiff from a Wherehouse chain shop import bin in 1978. At the time I'd never heard anything so raw sounding, including the first Sex Pistols record. Unused to the wild production style, I took several months to absorb it all; at first it was some of the slower tracks like "Fan Club", with it's killer guitar hook, that caught my interest, but as time went on it became obvious that tracks like the hammering "New Rose", "Neat Neat Neat" and "So Messed Up" were the real aces. In a year's time I was playing this lp constantly, and now it's apparent that it's one of the punk lp that has aged most gracefully...it still sounds great today with wild drumming, great hot guitar licks from Brian James, and some killer songs. How anybody could listen to this and say that punks couldn't play is beyond me! By the time of their third lp, Machine Gun Etiquette, the Damned had split up and reformed several times, and now had Captain Sensible moving up to replace Brian James on bass. Although it might hae been expected that the band would have matured some by now, little of the sort had in fact happened. There are some more sophisticated songs with more complicated structures, but basically it's more of the same rave up stuff, especially with "Love Song", "Plan 9 Channel 7" and "Smash It Up" as signatures.

THE DEAD BOYS - Young Loud And Snotty (Sire)

THE DEAD BOYS - We Have Come For Your Children (Sire)

Cleveland's Dead Boys moved to New York almost at the start of their career and quickly established themselves as the hardest and nastiest of the CBGBs bands signed to Sire. For a while they swapped rock and roll headlines with the Pistols with one incident after another, culminating in a member getting stabbed. Their style was a great metallic punk sound epitomized by the classic "Sonic Reducer" from the first lp. Cheetah Chrome spilled out some of the toughest, nastiest guitar ever heard at that point, and Stiv Bators had the snottiest vocal style of all the American bands. Their songs could be pretty inflammatory; imagine requesting "Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth" from your local station! But at the same time, they understood the need for hooks in songs, and they've got some great ones. On the second lp, the song was more produced and a little less raw, but there are still lots of great moments like "Third Generation Nation", "Ain't It Fun", or the monstrous "Son Of Sam".

THE DICKIES - The Incredible Shrinking Dickies (A&M)

The first time I heard this record, I figured there was just no way a band could play any faster. When thrash came along that was proved wrong, but few bands have ever played songs with pop hooks this fast. It's totally silly cartoon punk of the lowest caliber, but it's so hokey it's like the movie Airplane...it becomes great. Their 100 mph version of "Paranoid" is one of the greatest punk covers ever, and some of their own songs like "You Drive Me Ape" are as good. They couldn't continue to match this brilliance though as their second lp had only a couple of good tracks and now they're just plain stupid.

THE DIODES - The Diodes (CBS)

Canada's entry in the hot 100, the Diodes actually had quite a few records but this is the only one I've heard that I'd recommend. And it's a great one. It starts with their killer version of the Cyrcle's folk/pop classic "Red Rubber Ball", and it maintains the pace through a batch of their own cool tunes like "Child Star", "Blonde Fever" or "Behind Those Eyes". As with a lot of records from these days the sound is a little confused...the Diodes here sound like a early 70s heavy rock band blended with the Ramones. Lots of good power pop vocal harmonies add to the confusion.

THE DRONES - Further Temptations (Valer)

Aside from the fact that this is a great punk record, I love it because I got it at the swap meet in front of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood for 49 cents when it first came out and now people are paying outrageous sums for it. Every review I ever read of it (and there weren't many) panned it, but I can't figure out why...it's got the same kind of chugging rhythm section that made the Vibrators so great, and the songs are real catchy Ramones-type tunes with a real hot guitar sound. The singer's got a period-perfect Cockney-yobbo voice. The Stooges-riffing in "Movement" and the racy guitars of "Look Alikes" are the highlights, but there's plenty else to hang your hat on here.

EATER - The Album (The Label)

This is probably overrated, but it's interesting to hear the racket made by a bunch of teenagers from the late 70s making it to record. The main problem Eater had was that they had a crappy Fender guitar sound with next to no distortion, which makes things a little weedy, but you can rely on the bass to drive things along. If the guitar could match the Drones, this record would be on a similar level with theirs. I list it here primarily because it's a good sample of some of the more run-of-the-mill dole queue punk rock.

EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS - Life On The Line (Island)

Hard to figure these guys...they started with an OK record called Teenage Depression which was a wierd mic of live and studio stuff that showed promise but not much more, then hit huge with this record, and subsequently slid into oblivion behind a series of defections and horrible producer choices. On this lp, Eddie And The Hot Rods are probably better described as a high-octane pub-rcok band than a punk band, but they sure did some great songs, starting with the brilliant "Do Anything You Wanna Do" but continuing through "Quit This Town", "What's Really Going On", "Ignore Them" and the title song. Singer Barrie Masters later adopted a style that sounded really fakey (much like the change in the Who's Roger Daltry as he got older), but on this record the singing sounds real and urgent. Great stuff.

THE FALL - Live At The Witch Trials (Step Forward)

To me the Fall were too dry to really be contenders, but lots of other people thought (and still think) they were fabulous, so I figure I ought to list them here to be complete and let you make up your own mind. These songs definitely do not have pop hooks; they feature Mark Smith talking the lyrics over the top of scratchy guitars and mercilessly overplayed drums...a fill at the end of every vocal line and no two the same. The structure of things is rock and roll, but like a lot of noise bands today, the rhythm foundation is rock and roll while the vocals and guitar are off doing other things. I don't know if I'd say the Fall were ahead of their time; it's more like they were off to the side of it.

GANG OF FOUR - Entertainment (Warner Bros)

Although this is a terrific lp, I can't help but look at it as marking the end of the seventies punk era...it seemed like this was the record that made critics convinced that it was safe to go looking for music that wasn't bristling with energy and speed. Gang Of Four were followed as press darlings by Joy Division, then by the Human League, then by OMD, then Soft Cell, then Boy George and the slide still hasn't ended in the UK. But Entertainment was a pretty amazing accomplishment...at the time it was virtually a brand new style of music; a sort of funk based punk rock with this sharp edged, jarring guitar sound and highly political lyrics. And unlike most bands that reach for a dramatically different style, Gang Of Four made something really good and listenable. Except for the Mekons first lp, there really isn't another record out there that sounds comparable to this.

GENERATION X - Generation X (Chrysalis)

Here's another one where you have to be sure to get the US copy. Funny how the US labels screwed us by putting out all the weakest punk songs as singles but on the lps, they regularly replaced softer tracks with much better songs available only as singles in the UK. That's the case here...this thing's loaded with the best of Generation X all on one record. Yeah, it's Billy Idol singing, but he's a 17 year old kid here, and MTV hasn't made his head too fat yet. These songs have a great feel for pop hooks and they convey the sense of teenage rebellion that drove punk rock about as well as any record ever made. Compare this to the amateurish Eater and it's amazing to think that a bunch of guys under twenty could put together such a great set of material. Awesome. Warning...all other Gen X records are lame.

THE HEARTBREAKERS - L.A.M.F. Revisited (Track)

There was much moaning for many years about how the first Heartbreakers lp was ruined by a shoddy mix, so celebrations were in order when this version remixed by Johnny Thunders and Tony James came out in 1984. It's basically the same record as the original L.A.M.F. (it's also been re-sequenced) but it sounds so much ballsier that there's no point in looking for the original. This is the basic set of songs that Thunders played for most of his career, all written in a burst in the mid 70s. It's amazing how he could come up with such a great batch of tracks and then write only about four more good songs the rest of his life. But it's all here, the slashing classic Thunders guitar style and snotty vocals. This record is one of the ten best ever.


Richard Hell was a co-founder of Television and another CBGB alumnus, but his approach was much more art oriented than a lot of the other bands from that club. As a result, this record has to be approached with a jaundiced eye...I look at it as an important artifact to give a well rounded view of what was going on, but that doesn't mean I play it a whole lot. "Blank Generation" is a pretty great song, and "Love Comes In Spurts" is good for a few snickers, but the rest of it is kind of average.

HOLLYWOOD BRATS - Hollywood Brats (Cherry Red)

Recorded in 1975, released in 1980 and still ahead of its time today, this is a fantastic record of snotty, glam punk with Thunders-like guitar, New York Dolls styled rock and roll songs, and great lyrics of life in the gutter. Totally brilliant from the opening "Chez Maximes" to the closing blast of "Sick On You", if someone had gotten this out in 1977 it would have taken a place next to the greats of punk rock records. As it was it was a little too late and has been ignored ever since. It's interesting to note that Casino Steel went on to play in the Boys and several of these songs are on the first Boys lp in radically different form.

THE JAM - In The City (Polydor)

THE JAM - This Is The Modern World (Polydor)

THE JAM - Setting Sons (Polydor)

I suspect the average British critic would pick All Mod Cons as the Jam's landmark lp, since that's the one that kicked off the mod revival and moved the Jam to star status in the isles, but it's really my least favorite Jam record. In The City was rough and raw with an early Who sound...some great songs and some not so incredible but the good songs were enough to make it rate highly. The title track is particularly great, and "Away From The Numbers", "Bricks And Mortar" and "Art School" aren't far behind. The Modern World was my favorite, especially the US release with "All Around The World", "In The Street, Today", "Here Comes The Weekend", "Life From A Window" and "The Combine". I suspect that during my lifetime I've played this more often than any other record; it appeals on so many levels that it's almost always worth putting on. By the time of Setting Sons, the Jam were big stars and the record isn't punk at all, but it's still got a pile of great tracks, especially if you get the US copy with "Strange Town", but "Eton Rifles", "Thick As Thieves" and "Private Hell" are powerful, too.

THE JOLT - The Jolt (Polydor)

Proof that timing is everything...if these guys had put this record out in 1979 they'd have hit the crest of the mod movement and probably been as big as Secret Affair or the Chords, if not the Jam, but instead they put it out at the beginning of 1978 as their career was running down. But it's really pretty strong mod punk stuff that's musically as strong as a lot of the early Jam stuff although the lyrics don't measure up. Still, other than the Jam and Chords, I reckon the Jolt as the best mod band of the late 70s...really good tuneful stuff with lots of energy and a real raw edge to it.

JOY DIVISION - Closer (Factory)

If a band starts a new direction, can they be blamed if those that follows all run off the edge of a cliff? Joy Division pioneered this depressing, pre-suicidal style of music which others managed to commercialize by toning down the guitars, turning up the synthesizers, and schmaltzing up the vocals. It certainly isn't a punk record, but it's an important one in understanding how the punk ethic twisted into a boring, stale mass of synthesizer bands. Joy Division certainly conveyed an emotion in their music, but their more successful imitators totally overlooked it and unfortunately dragged masses with them...you can still see them today with their gothic getups and their Smiths bumperstickers.

KILLING JOKE - Killing Joke (Malicious Damage)

Just about the only industrial band worth listening to in my book, and judging from the number of fans you used to see at hardcore punk shows in the mid 80s with Killing Joke stenciled on their leather jackets I'm not the only punk fan who thinks so. On this lp Killing Joke sounds like a grinding factory pounding out machine parts with a hammering, precision rhythm and soulless singing. This is another pioneering record that set a trail for a new kind of band, and as for Joy Division, hundreds wrecked it later.

THE LURKERS - Fullham Fallout (Beggars Banquet)

If you're sick of trendsetters and just want some old time ramalama punk rock with great singalong tunes, this is your ticket. ZigZag magazine used to rave about these guys, but nobody else seemed to catch on to how great they were...they're just another Ramones cop for sure, but they really do it great; reight up there with the Undertones. The Lurkers strong point is chorus hooks with lots of cool "oh-oh" backings. This lp is by far their best with production that really makes the guitar kick. It's sloppy and amateurish, but that's what makes it so great. Hey, Beggars Banquet, do you remember when you actually released records like this one?

MAGAZINE - Secondhand Daylight (Virgin)

Magazine were Howard Devoto's band after he left the Buzzcocks...for some reason Devoto is regularly given vast amounts of credit for the fact that the Buzzcocks were as good as they were, but I dunno why; his efforts outside of the Buzzcocks didn't come close. Magazine had a few really good songs, and it's tempting to pick their first lp over this one because it has "Shot By Both Sides", Magazine's best. But I think Secondhand Daylight is more representative of what Magazine was about...sort of moody, sinister songs. Even on the great, poppy, "Rhythm Of Cruelty", the underlying lyric is unsettling, and on "Permafrost" it becomes a full on horror show. Magazine were another band that tried to figure out how to use synthesizers, and they also weren't too successful at it. Their best songs are the ones with the synth at the back.

THE MEKONS - The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen (Virgin)

The Mekons are still around, though I haven't heard anything they've done for a long time so I don't know if they are remotely like they used to be. But they sure were clever bastards back when this came out. The cover has a monkey at a typewriter, and he almost types out the first line of the famous "mercy speech" from Shakespeare's Merchant Of Venice. There's a similar amateurish quality to the Mekons themselves...they sound like the Lurkers trying to imitate Gang Of Four...yobbish singing, muddy production, choppy playing, but the result is somehow really good. The songs are pretty spastic, but they're also really interesting and hold up to repeated listens quite well. It's not a major league punk record, but it's a pretty decent one.

THE MEMBERS - At Chelsea Nightclub (Virgin)

THE MEMBERS - 1980 The Choice Is Yours (Virgin)

Two brilliant records, these. I don't know how many people I convinced with the Members feature I wrote a few issues back, but these guys are killers. A superficial listen will leave you mostly with an impression of Nicky Tesco singing, and he's got a loutish Cockney voice that's punk personified. But a couple more listens and you'll begin to take note of a couple of things. First off, this is a world class band musically, and their playing some really complicated songs that shift tempos and switch back and forth from reggae to rock and hammering hard to subtle and soft. Then the lyrics will catch you; they're both humorous and insightful at the same time. The Members manage to have it both ways; they've got punk energy but they've got mainstream proficiency and they can be complicated without compromising their great songs. After these they lost it, but I've played both these records year in and year out and I always love 'em.

999 - Seperates (UA)

There are many people who think Nine Nine Nine were one of the great punk bands. I'm not one of them...they had some really fun songs like "Nasty Nasty", and live they were pretty entertaining the time I saw them, but they always struck me as though they'd just as soon play something else if it was popular. "Homicide" from this lp, which was about their most popular song, was pretty close to disco, but there's plenty of other catchy ones here, like "Tulse Hill Night", "Out Of Reach" or "Let's Face It" (which continues "The boy can't make it with girls!"). Singer Nick Cash has a sort of affected, high pitched snarl when he wants to emphasize a point, but when the band sings straight verses or chorus parts with backing vocals they can have a nice punk pop sound that's alot like the Boys.

THE ONLY ONES - Special View (Epic)

Actually, as I've said before, if I had to pick one Only Ones record, I'd take the Peel Sessions lp, but I think for this purpose it's only fair to take one that came out in the period when they were active. This record came out in the US and it's kind of a compilation of tracks from their first two UK lps that Epic thought were their best. They came pretty close to being right, too. The four best Only Ones songs are here..."Another Girl Another Planet", "Lovers Of Today", "Out There In The Night" and "You've Got To Pay". These guys were sort of old farts to be considered punks, but they sure latched onto the new style and put together some great loser songs. This stuff's about halfway from power pop to Johnny Thunders, if you need to pin it to a style. There's lots of great tasty guitar chunks and cool rocking songs. Yeah!

RADIATORS FROM SPACE - TV Tube Heart (Chiswick)

First Irish punk band to release an lp? U2? Get serious! Stiff Little Fingers? Getting warm, but not as warm as if you nuzzled up to the Radiators From Space, who released this lp in 1977...the fourth lp on the indie Chiswick label. The music is sort of glitter punk stuff...the bass motors up and down while the guitar plays these T Rex type chords. This record is another widely ignored one, but I think it's full of classics like "Television Screen", "Prison Bars", "Roxy Girl" or "Blitzin At The Ritz" to name just a few. After this their record company tried to make 'em into power poppers, which they failed miserably at.

RADIO BIRDMAN - Radios Appear (Sire)

I hardly think much needs to be said about this one. If you've bought more than one issue of Noise For Heroes and haven't heard Radios Appear then no amount of preaching is going to help...it's the record that spawned a zillion Detroit punk-metal bands, almost none of whom come close. When you listen to this, you should imagine what it would sound like if it was produced by Rob Younger knowing what he knows about how to use a studio now. Despite the muddy sound it's still loaded with great songs filled with tough guitars, tougher vocals and unlimited energy. Aces.

THE RAMONES - The Ramones (Sire)

THE RAMONES - Leave Home (Sire)

THE RAMONES - Rocket To Russia (Sire)

THE RAMONES - Road To Ruin (Sire)

THE RAMONES - It's Alive (Sire)

There's how many dozen Ramones lps at this point? I've lost count. But this first batch were all the ones I think you need; after this the band started to sound like they didn't really know what to do with themselves in the studio, but through these five each new one was an improvement. The Ramones and Leave Home seem fairly slow now, but at the time they were about the most rocking records you could buy. Rocket To Russia was the Ramones really letting out their surf music roots to the max, and then on Road To Ruin (my fave of all of them) they got a super hard and tight sound that really burns. Though never released in the US, It's Alive is great since it shows the Ramones where they were best when they were best; all their best stuff done live.

THE REAL KIDS - The Real Kids (Red Star)

The Real Kids were one of the best bands ever to come out of Boston, and if only they'd cut their hair they'd probably have been ten times as well known. But in a day when hippies were totally disreputable, there's one of 'em on the cover with hair half way down his chest, which probably discouraged a fair segment of the potential audience for this one. Too bad; it's got great songs with a timeless quality. They've got that punk energy but a more roots rock and roll flavor that makes them fit in almost any period...unlike say a Chelsea lp, which couldn't have come out at any time other than 1977 to 1981, if you didn't know that the Real Kids lp came out in 1977 you might have guessed 1989 as well as 1969. John Felice has a great power pop voice and there's a pile of classic guitar rock songs to back him up.

THE REZILLOS - Can't Stand The Rezillos (Sire)

THE REZILLOS - Mission Accomplished But The Beat Goes On (Sire)

One of the rare Scottish punk bands to make it on any level, the Rezillos played a brilliant brand of cartoonish punk rock with a sixties day-glo feel. They had two great singers in Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds, and the male/female vocal blend worked great on all their songs. Added to that is some strong and fat guitar playing and lots of rippling bass. These are their only two lps, and the second is a live lp done to finish off their record company obligations, but both steam with great, catchy songs about zany topics like flying saucers or girlfriends loved for their sculptures.

RICH KIDS - Ghosts Of Princes In Towers (EMI)

Despite all the hoopla about Sid Vicious, it was Glen Matlock who was the Sex Pistols bass player for most of their career, and he made some big contributions to their sound, writing "Pretty Vacant" among other things. He got kicked out, allegedly for saying he liked the Beatles, and formed the Rich Kids with some former members of the glam pop band Slik, including Midge Ure, who later went on to make an ass of himself in Ultravox. But the one Rich Kids lp is a real kick of stomping power pop. The production is a little murky, but the guitars are still strong and there's a pile of great songs, like the title track, "Hung On You", "Cheap Emotions", "Young Girls" or "Rich Kids".

TOM ROBINSON BAND - Power In The Darkness (Harvest)

Nobody ever talks about this band but I consider this to be one of the greatest records that came out in the late 70s and I can't figure out why nobody else does. Robinson is a bit of an opportunist...his previous band Cafe Society was a pretty mild folky outfit and since the early 80s he's gone through the post-punk Sector 27 and then into some really revolting lounge type stuff, so I don't pay attention to him anymore, but this one lp is a big kick in the butt. You have to put yourself in the period...England was in a bit of a shock as they were finally realizing that they were falling off the world stage into hard times from which they wouldn't emerge for a long time. It's probably worse now than it was then, but now the expectations have diminished, too. Back in 1977 there were constant warnings about England going up in riots everywhere and police crackdowns and all that, and Robinson put it right out there in his lyrics along with some strong music. The words to songs like "Winter Of 79" sound a little funny now...the song was written in 1977 from the perspective of a guy looking back on 1979 from the future, and none of the stuff happened, but you have to try to put yourself in the context in which it was written. Anyway, "Long Hot Summer", "Up Against The Wall" and "Don't Take No For An Answer" are as good as it gets. Get the US copy...it's got an extra ep with a batch of UK single sides on it.

THE RUTS - The Crack (Virgin)

Another band that I don't think got the credit they deserved...the Ruts made some intense music which they played with a high degree of musicianship without forgetting that good songs and energy are most important. No pop band here; these guys blended reggae with furious punk. Although it would've been great to have both sides of their first single on this, it still has a pile of ace tracks like the classic rage of "Babylon's Burning", "Something That I Said" and "Back Biter", all of which are killer guitar blasts. Then there's great punk-reggae stuff like "Jah Wars"...so much more real than anything bands like the Police did in those days.

THE SAINTS - I'm Stranded (Sire)

THE SAINTS - Eternally Yours (Sire)

With Radio Birdman, the Saints complete Australia's best known pair of punk bands. The Saints got more credit early in their career, although Birdman are most touted now. There's been all kinds of music under the Saints banner over the years, but these first two lps, recorded with Ed Kuepper still in the band, are by far the best. I'm Stranded is full on guitar punk with simple, burning blasts. It's basic, primal, animalistic punk rock at its best. The second lp has similar songs but more complex production. Amazingly it integrates horns into the sound without losing punch a bit...just try "Know Your Product" for size if you have any doubts. Both these have stood up to hundreds of plays on my stereo and still sound great.

THE SCIENTISTS - Pink Album (EMI Custom)

I'm not going to pretend that I was hip enough to have picked up this record when it came out...few outside of Australia can make that claim. All I've got's a tape of it, but the fact that it was obscure or limited doesn't mean it didn't happen or doesn't count. This record features the Scientists playing punk pop before they started into their subsequent noisy grunge stuff. It's got a pile of really cool songs filled with teen angst. My favorite is the rocking "Walk The Plank", but they all connect great...kind of like a Perth version of the Radiators From Space but with better singing.

SEX PISTOLS - Never Mind The Bollocks (Warner Bros)

In 1977 the music papers were full of stuff about all these punk bands in Britain...problem was I was in school in rural western Massachusetts and the network for imports wasn't at the point where shops out there got such bizarre objects as imported singles, so it was months before I heard the 12" single of "Anarchy In The UK" owned by the guy who ran the best record shop in town (the only band I could imagine sounding like that was the Who), and even longer before the Pistols lp was actually out on a US label so I could bring a copy home. I remember when I first played it I could only listen to about three songs because it seemed so intense, and then for the next few weeks I'd play a couple tracks a day until finally I understood what was going on and I went wild about it. Playing it now it's got this feeling of total familiarity and the songs almost feel like pop songs to me. Alot of this is due to what came after and how much wilder bands got in between, but at the time there was nothing like it. But although it's no longer that fast, it still has great songs and huge guitar to go with Johnny Rotten's great singing. All other Pistols lps are shit rip-offs except the Flogging A Dead Horse record, which has some great single B sides and half the songs off Bollocks, so be sure you get the right one.

SHAM 69 - Tell Us The Truth (Sire)

SHAM 69 - The First The Best and The Last (Polydor)

Sham always wanted to be the Sex Pistols, and they aped the sound pretty well...fat guitars, cockney singing and the whole bit. Tell Us The Truth is their first rabble rousing lp...one studio side, one live side. It starts off with a great bit with Jimmy Pursey's mom giving him a hard time and then bursts into the great "Family Life". From there on it doesn't let up much anywhere...just basic full on power chording punk rock. The First The Best And The Last is a UK compilation of singles spanning their career, and it's a great collection from the riotous first single "Borstal Breakout" through "Angels With Dirty Faces" and all the rest. Not subtle but great fun.

THE SKIDS - Scared To Dance (US release)

Here's another one where you want to get the US copy because they've included some better single tracks that improve it from the UK release. The Skids were Scotsmen and included Stuart Adamson, who later fronted Big Country. But the Skids were primarily driven by Richard Jobson, who at the time of this record was only 18 years old but had already read piles of books about the two world wars, and the Skids songs all reflected it with militaristic topics and music with a beat that sounds like troops marching at double time. For the most part, Jobson's throaty singing is totally unintelligible, but songs like the powerful "Into The Valley", "Sweet Suburbia", "Charles" and the driving "Melancholy Soldiers" still make a statement. This isn't really punk music, but it certainly rocks along...unusual stuff to be sure.

THE SLITS - Cut (Antilles)

I'm still not sure about the Slits, but there's enough people who swear by 'em that I figure I better give 'em a mention. The Slits were three women with drummer Budgie (later of Siouxie And The Banshees), and they played a sort of off beat, twisted reggae. To me the drummer is the best part of the band, and he's really only guesting. I suspect that more than a little of the affection people have for this group lies in the photo of band members as nude mud wrestlers on the sleeve. Still, they're yet another part of the bizarre mix of different musical styles that all got tagged as punk in the late 70s, so they deserve a mention.

THE SPECIALS - The Specials (Two Tone)

Hard to believe how many different movements splintered off of punk in the years from 1978 to 1981. As soon as bands found that being branded as punk was a ticket to commercial oblivion they began to do anything to try to come up with a different angle and a different label. Many of these turns sucked, but some were surprisingly good. This Specials lp marked the advent of ska in the consciousness of people other than hardcore fans of Jamaican music. It's still the best ska record I've ever heard, thanks in no small part to the production keeping things rough and rugged. The slicked up followers like the Beat or Madness just didn't wash. There's a pile of tracks on this that I can listen to any time and get a kick out of 'em.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - Inflammable Material (Rough Trade)

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - Nobody's Heroes (Chrysalis)

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - Go For It (Chrysalis)

I love all the Sitff Little Fingers lps (prior to their re-union, anyway), though the live ones are redundant and not really necessary. SLF steadily got more produced and pop sounding as their career went on, but they never reached a point where it was too slick...right up to their last record it was still really good. But there's no topping Inflammable Material, their incendiary first record and one of those rare records with such intensity that you really feel it when you first hear it. It's the best kind of punk...catchy melodies played with a gut level kick, loud, raw guitars, inspired singing/snarling and words hat really have something to say. Nobody's Heroes has some great songs, too, but not that same level of fire that the first one had. Go For It also has a batch of terrific tracks, some more pop tasting stuff, but there are still tracks to remember for a long time.

THE STRANGLERS - Rattus Norvegicus (A&M)

THE STRANGLERS - No More Heroes (A&M)

THE STRANGLERS - Black and White (A&M)

I really hated the Stranglers when they first came out because with their cheesy keyboards they sounded like the Doors. After letting them sink in though I found that the comparison didn't stick. If one of these records came out today there's no way you'd call it punk, but we were confused then, and since this stuff had a dark power to it and felt kind of threatening, there wasn't anything else to call it. It sure wasn't the Bee Gees. Even though the swirling keyboard based sound isn't my favorite, there's a lot of really good songs across these three records, songs that I'd have to rate among the classics of the time, like "Sometimes", "Hanging Around", "Grip", "Something Better Change", "No More Heroes", "Tank" or "Sweden" to name the absolute highlights.

SWELL MAPS - Collision Time (Rough Trade)

You wanna know how to make a noisy record sound good? Use Collision Time as a text book. It's a greatest hits lp (there's been another one since), which is kind of funny since they never had anything close to a hit. But it's coherent and powerful by comparison to their regulation lps with great songs like "Read About Seymour", "Ammunition Train", "Midget Submarines", "Let's Build A Car" and "Blenheim Shots". It's wildly amateurish with all kinds of odd sounds and off key singing plus guitars that are barely in tunem but somehow it succeeds brilliantly. It's a unique and indescribable sound, and you'll just have to trust me on this one and go for it.

TALKING HEADS - Talking Heads 77 (Sire)

TALKING HEADS - More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire)

Another band that really isn't punk but got called one because they played CBGBs. But they were certainly new wave, and though it was arty, there was a lot to recommend about these first two records. I thought 77 was pretty accessible and easy to latch onto, but More Songs actually has more staying power and sounds better today. "Psycho Killer" was one of my fave songs in 1977...it's the typical quirky David Byrne sort of track, but they were doing it better on these two records than they ever did later.

TELEVISION - Marquee Moon (Elektra)

This is another one I feel obligated to mention though I personally don't like it. Television were another CBGBs band and are sort of like the dark side of the Talking Heads...where the heads are art mixed with pop, Television is arty but brooding and dark. The songs are long and sprawling and don't give you much to hang onto.


Johnny Thunders is high on the list of underground heroes these days and lots of bands cover his songs with the Heartbreakers but I've never heard anyone cover anything he did on this record, and there's some great songs here. The band changes around from track to track, including at various times former Sex Pistols, Only Ones, Humble Pies and Thin Lizzies. It's Thunders at his blazing guitar best, and when he's paired with Steve Jones at his prime there's an extra kick that his Heartbreakers stuff couldn't even match. The best track is the scathing "London Boys", which counters the Pistols "New York" and contains some hysterical lines about Johnny Rotten needing someone to help to the bathroom. There's also the best cover of "Pipeline" ever done, the killer loser song "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" and the blistering "Leave Me Alone" (which is really the Dolls "Chatterbox" with a new name). There's more variety here than the Heartbreakers would have shown, but it doesn't hurt a bit.

UK SUBS - Recorded 1979-1981 (Abstract)

I suppose this is unfair since this is a "best of" record that goes well past the 70s, but the early stuff is well represented here, and if I want to listen to a UK Subs record, this is what I'll put on. The Subs were a second generation punk band, and they dropped a lot of the pop tendencies of the first wave and went for a really tough, hard sound that alternates between hardcore and stuff that's like the hardest Ramones music. This record is consistently solid...if you like one track you'll like 'em all, I suspect.

THE UNDERTONES - The Undertones (US copy) (Sire)

Punky pop at its finest, Ireland's Undertones led with their best and never came close again. They were real young and easily influenced by the music press and they tried to mature faster than they really knew how, so it was all downhill from this. But here, singing about everyday stuff like girlfriends and summer vacations that they really related to, they've captured teenage magic in a bottle. There's one track after another of these incredibly catchy songs. I only regret that it doesn't have "You Got My Number", which was their best single ever, otherwise it'd be heaven.



The Vibrators got a lot of shit for being too old for punk (they were in their early 20s), but they sure figured out how to play it great right out of the chute. Both of these are among my all- time faves. I give the edge to Pure Mania...it's a little more pop sounding and has some great tracks like "Petrol", "Yeah Yeah Yeah", "London Girls" and "Whips And Furs". Of course V2 has "Pure Mania" (that's right, "Pure Mania" isn't on the lp with that title), "Flying Duck Theory" (a great radio song) or "Destroy", so choosing is tough. But they've both got that cool chugging 4/4 drum sound and you don't lose either way.

THE WIPERS - Is This Real (Park Avenue)

Why didn't the Wipers make more of a splash? 'Cos they came from Oregon and nobody's ever come from there, I suppose. Throughout all the 80s they put out one cool record after another and people barely noticed. This one started it all and it's the best because it's raw and hard and intense as all hell. The guitar used to remind me of Wire on Pink Flag because it's so raw, but the Wipers played much more rocking stuff. Their songs are shorter and more pop structured here than they later became, but they also burn like crazy. Greg Sage's unique guitar style is present right from the start...I could pick him out of any lineup of gunslingers in a minute.

WIRE - Pink Flag (Harvest)

WIRE - Chairs Missing (EMI)

WIRE - 154 (EMI)

The ultimate art-punk band, Britain's Wire debuted in 1977 with Pink Flag, a pile of songs built like no one had built them before...they started here, they ended there, and they didn't cover and ground twice. Songs lasted less than three minutes, two minutes, even less than one minute. Guitars were brutally distorted to where they sounded like distant cannon fire. It worked brilliantly. Then came Chairs Missing in 1978. It's got some Pink Flag styled songs, but there's also some songs with a twisted kind of pop feel to them...songs that feel soft on top but hard underneath. Then there's 154, by which time the sound had shifted fairly dramatically to where there were keyboards and synthesizers among the guitars and the singing dropped its harsh edge in a lot of places. But it's still compelling. But the first was the best...a classic that has to be in every collection.

X - Los Angeles (Slash)

X looked like a punk rock band and usually sounded like one and they were accepted like one, but I think they were more just a full on rock and roll band. Out of LA, they had traditions that went to rockabilly and fifties rock and roll like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis (listen to that Chuck Berry riff at the start of "Johnny Hit And Run Pauline". The singing combo of Exene and John Doe always made me think of Jefferson Airplane, and they always sang and didn't scream like most of their US punk rock compatriots, but the music doesn't match at all. It's Ramones styled punk rock with a darker feel and these fifties references thrown in. The result has held up well over time...it's still an urgent, meaningful record to listen to.

XRAY SPEX - Germ Free Adolescents (EMI)

I probably said it all in the review of that bootleg single they just did, but anyway it's worth hearing this record to get the full picture. Some of these songs are kind of fun, but this type of punk music sure didn't wear well...the strident screechy vocals just grate and they sound pretty silly today. This would be a cool album to mine for covers, though, since there are some good tunes that are ruined in the performance. The basic concept behind XRay Spex was a rebellion against the plasticness of life by parody, hence song titles like "Art-i-ficial", "Genetic Engineering", "Plastic Bag" and "The Day The World Turned Dayglo". The result comes off like a high school essay that's trying too hard to be creative.

XTC - White Music (Virgin)

Somebody told me they saw XTC on MTV not too long ago...I can believe it because they were getting pretty bad when I last heard them, but they had a good start with some good snappy power pop. It still has that sort of quirky keyboard feel that renders it a little suspect in my mind, and I'll bet that Oingo Boingo has all their early records, but still I've got room for songs like "Radios In Motion", "Statue Of Liberty" or "Set Myself On Fire". But if you can't find it, don't have a cow 'cos it's not the most important record in this list.

THE YACHTS - SOS (Polydor)

Here's where I get my big rant on the Yachts in. This record is killer power pop and what's wrong with everybody that they can't see it? They've got this cool cheesy keyboard sound with a nice chunky guitar underneath and in addition to being catchy tunes, their songs have hysterically funny lyrics, like "Yachting Type", where the guy's girl runs off with a yachtsman, or "Mantovani's Hits", which hypothesizes a rock and roll world where Elvis records hadn't been hits but Mantovani's had, or "Box 202", where the guys girl is killed in an airplane crash so he puts out a classified ad to look for a replacement. The others deal with romance in equally oddball ways, but always rocking and always catchy as hell. My brother got to see these guys open for Elvis Costello in Seattle in 1979 but when Costello hit here all we got was the Rubinoos. It's not fair, I tell you. The second Yachts lp is lame, so make sure you get this one.
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Created by JJu: March 4, 1996        Research and Destroy!

Last Updated: March 4, 1996