The Soundtrack of My Life: Punk Rock Nation

Deep down in my heart, I’ve long wanted to be a punk rocker. What can I say, it looks good on me.

Bob Blue Mohawk

And before you ask, yes, it’s real.

Even though I don’t have the stamina for it anymore, and the truth is I never quite jelled with a lot of the politics that tends to run through a substantial portion of punk music, the sound of it just works for me, and there is a strong anarchist strain that I can get behind. There are a few bands that I enjoy, and a couple records that hold a special place in my heart.

The Vandals – Hitler Bad, Vandals Good: Who said video games never taught me anything? It was “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” that first introduced me to this band and album, particularly the fantastic “Euro-Barge”. It was a revelation for me, fast, driving and pounding without taking itself too seriously. I had to know more, but I had no idea who they were. Fortunately I have a friend who enjoyed THPS as much as I did, and he loved the band too. He found the album, introduced me, and the rest is history. I’ve listened to a couple other Vandals albums and they never quite did it for me (although the song “Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)” is a classic), but this one is pure magic through and through. In addition to the aforementioned “Euro-Barge”, I highly recommend “Money’s Not an Issue”, “I’ve Got an Ape Drape”, and “My Girlfriend’s Dead”. They all manage to capture the essence of punk while still being fun and light-hearted, which is something a lot of punk music manages to miss.

Goldfinger – Goldfinger: Somewhere between ska and punk (I’m a bit of a fan of both without being heavily into either), this leans just a bit more heavily in the direction of punk. I was originally hooked by the (commercially successful) “Here In Your Bedroom”, which I still love, but there’s a lot more to them than that. Their ability to switch up the tempo and style in seconds makes for a jarring, disconcerting, frenetic experience, which for me is best exemplified by such tracks as “The City With Two Faces” (Mom, if you’re reading this, please don’t ever listen to this song. Seriously. Not parent safe.) At the same time they can turn it around and do goofy, fun songs like “Mable”. It’s not an album for the faint of heart or people who can’t handle a LOT of F-bombs, but it is a great antidote for anyone who is sick of commercial pop music.

The Ramones – Loco Live: I’m not usually a fan of live albums, for two reasons. The first is that very few bands are as good live as they are in the studio, and the second is that live albums just can’t capture the feel and the energy of being there that a concert provides. In fact, there are only two live albums I’ve ever loved, both of which were introduced to me by the same friend who found that Vandals album (I really need to buy him a beer). This is one of them. I missed every opportunity I had to see the Ramones live, and now I’ll never get the chance, but this album comes very close. The Ramones are one of the only bands I know that are actually better live than in the studio, and this may be them at their best. If this doesn’t capture the energy of being there, it’s close enough for poker. Pick a Ramones song you like, it’s probably on there, and done in half the time you’re use to (and twice as good). The energy that comes rolling out of your speakers when you listen to this one picks you up and carries you right along. Even better than the music is the obvious connection the band shares with the audience, feeding off their energy and using it to go even further. It’s a great experience and not to be missed, especially for those of us who never got the chance to enjoy it in person.

The Offspring – Americana: I know a lot of people aren’t as big a fan of “new wave punk” as I am, but I think that’s just snobbery. While I wasn’t a huge fan of their first album, I did enjoy a few of the tracks, and unlike some other would-be punk bands (I won’t name names) they managed to be punk without faking British accents and include some social commentary without getting preachy. I really feel like they hit their stride with this one. The album as a whole is fairly light-hearted, with tracks like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, “Feelings”, “She’s Got Issues”, and “Why Don’t You Get a Job?”, while still working in a subtle thread of social commentary in more than a few of those tracks. They save the heavier commentary for “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and (arguably) “Walla Walla”, while still not being preachy or condemning any one group. It’s the sort of thing I personally believe punk rock is best suited to do: highlight social ills in an engaging way, without laying blame in a particular direction, but instead insistently demanding redress.

Related Posts:

The Soundtrack of My Life: My Very Own Lilith Fair

The Soundtrack of My Life: Rock Operas

The Soundtrack of My Life: An Ongoing Series


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