Friday, 15 May 2015

The Top 20 Punk Albums of the Seventies

Oh look, it’s another JuicyPips ‘Top [x] albums of [genre y] from [time period z]’ list. Hurrah! You presumably swooned with nostalgia at the ‘Top 50 Indie Albums of the Nineties’, and wept with joy at the ‘Top 50 Indie-ish Albums of the Noughties’… well, we’re going a little more retro this time. And, er, a lot shorter. I don’t want to bankrupt you with all of these absurdly long shopping lists. (Although it shouldn’t be a problem, as you really should own most of these albums already.)

So, what’s the theme this time? Hold on to your hats and start bouncing up and down, it’s…

Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen
A belter of an album to start this list. Buzzcocks aren’t just one of the greatest punk bands ever, but one of the best bands full-stop. Their 1978 debut contained such ballsy treats as I Don’t Mind, You Tear Me Up, Fast Cars, No Reply and Fiction Romance, and demonstrated a mature take on the punk genre that fused acerbic thrust with complex songcraft. This is one of those albums that you can listen to over and over, and always discover new things about it. Essential.

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model
It was a tough call choosing between this and Costello’s 1977 debut My Aim is True, but ’78’s This Year’s Model just pips it by virtue of having Pump It Up, (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea, Lipstick Vogue and Watching the Detectives on it. In fact, every track on this record is sublime – groovy bass, frantic drums, catchy hooks, it’s glorious.

The Clash – The Clash
Yeah, you can’t talk punk and not include The Clash. We’re going with their debut LP here because it shows them at their most raw and urgent; over the years they experimented with countless genres in fine style, but this first album from ’77 is a rollercoaster of angry-young-men-with-guitars emotion: stripped to the bone, the likes of White Riot, I’m So Bored with the USA, Garageland and What’s My Name? are things to be cherished.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads – New Boots and Panties!!
Dury had a gift for poetically representing everyman issues, which is what made his work so accessible. Well, that and an enthusiasm for artfully chaotic live shows. Plaistow Patricia and Blockheads are beguilingly shouty, My Old Man is so beautifully tender it’ll make you weep every time, If I Was With a Woman and Wake Up and Make Love With Me will get you dancing, and you can’t not sing along to Billericay Dickie.

X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
Deliberate underachievers X-Ray Spex, fronted by Poly Styrene, released just one album and a handful of singles, but they’ve gone down in history as one of the most important bands on the late-seventies punk scene. Just listen to the urgent banshee wails of Identity, Let’s Submerge, Obsessed With You and The Day the World Turned Day-Glo and you’ll see why. (Also, do a little digging in the archives and find the tracks Oh Bondage! Up Yours! and I Am a Cliché – unmissable stuff.) 

Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
Formed in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, Stiff Little Fingers had a lot to be angry about. There was never any posturing or artifice with them – the gritty subject material of Suspect Device, Law and Order and Wasted Life wasn’t fiction, it was stuff they saw every day.
They had a knack for setting it all to kickass tunes too; very distinctive sound, Green Day couldn’t exist without SLF.

The Stooges – Raw Power
‘I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.’ Go on, write a better opening lyric for an album than that.
See? You can’t.
Iggy Pop’s band’s 1973 LP effectively wrote the rulebook for punk rock, with ineffably awe-inspiring tracks like Search and Destroy, Raw Power and Penetration inspiring a generation of disaffected kids to pick up guitars and find a voice. The dirty sound of this record is unrivalled to this day.

Dr. Feelgood – Down by the Jetty
Proof that boredom drives creativity, Dr. Feelgood were four lads from Canvey Island who defied the bleakness of being trapped in a grim estuary by punching out creatively, forming one of the most successful R&B pub bands of the era; their drug-fuelled live shows crossed neatly into the frenetic energy of punk, earning them a place in this list.
Down by the Jetty is at once dark and bluesy, and upbeat and poppy. Best listened to in the pub, drunk, when you’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing to lose.

The Adverts – Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts
The Adverts played at the Roxy a lot in its early days (the Roxy being London’s first live punk venue), so they’ll always be held up as pioneers of the scene. Living out the mantra that it’s better to burn out than fade away, the band only existed from 1976-79, but they were relentless in their touring during their time. This first album is a perfect period punk snapshot – One Chord Wonders, Bombsite Boy, Bored Teenagers, No Time to be 21, it sparkles with 1970s energy.

Gang of Four – Entertainment!
A post-punk band from Leeds, Gang of Four fused punk with funk, dub, reggae, and highly politicised lyrics. Prominent bass, staccato drums, jagged guitars, it’s forthright stuff. You can’t really live without Damaged Goods or I Found That Essence Rare.

The Jam – Snap!
It may seem incredibly lazy to put a ‘greatest hits’ album in a list such as this, but it’s the only way to squeeze in all of the essential Jam tracks. Besides, it’s not like Alan Partridge saying that his favourite Beatles album is The Best of The BeatlesSnap! is commonly acknowledged as being a compilation that transcends the compilation genre. Anyway, screw you, it’s my list.
With this record you get Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, In the City, News of the World, The Butterfly Collector, That’s Entertainment, Beat Surrender, David Watts, The Modern World, plus countless others. Dive in.

Madness – One Step Beyond
Stalwart of wedding discos the world over, Madness are an essential fibre in the fabric of British music. The late-seventies Two Tone movement mixed a ska revival with punk sensibilities, and Madness were at the forefront of it along with The Specials, Bad Manners and The Selecter.
One Step Beyond laid out a blueprint for the many Madness albums that followed, but this is the band’s genesis. Stick it on at your next house party. Drink some cheap lager and pogo like a nutter.

Magazine – Real Life
Howard Devoto left Buzzcocks in 1977 and formed Magazine, as he was keen to create work that was more progressive and less mainstream.
Shot By Both Sides is probably their best-known track, and there’s much more to enjoy on Real Life too – Definitive Gaze could have been written for a scary 21st-century video game, while Motorcade and The Light Pours Out of Me are sprawling, Hollywood-esque cinemascapes of sound. Odd, but very rewarding.

Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Ah, of course – they were bound to crop up, weren’t they?
Inarguably one of the most influential bands of the late-1970s, their angry lyrics tackled conformity, consumerism, abortion, the Holocaust, the monarchy, and all with a rasping leer and a riot of delinquency.
Their one and only studio album is an all-time classic; Submission, Bodies and EMI are pretty much perfect, and Problems is one of the greatest songs ever written. Sure, they’re an obvious choice in the punk genre, but with good reason.

The Rezillos – Can’t Stand The Rezillos
Good fun, this. A Scottish band formed in 1976, they employed the punk sound of their contemporaries but without the nihilism or viciousness; in fact, this is all pretty light-hearted. There’s a bit of glam in there, a bit of classic 1960s rock ‘n’ roll, but all unmistakeably within the seventies punk aesthetic.
Their sole studio LP is studded with gems – Flying Saucer Attack, Top of the Pops, No, It Gets Me, (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures, Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight, Bad Guy Reaction, it’s the sound of drunk teens and twenty-somethings having a great time. Lovely stuff. 

The Stranglers – No More Heroes
I was tempted to include 1977 debut Rattus Norvegicus simply because it contains Peaches, but instead we’re looking at their second album of the same year. (Remember when bands used to do that? A lot more freedom from the record labels back in the good old days…)
Released just five months after their debut, No More Heroes opens with the devastating I Feel Like A Wog (reviled in period by people who didn’t understand satire, but ultimately held up as an anthem for racial unity), before passing through the amusingly annoyed Bitching and, of course, the stunning title track No More Heroes. Impossible not to love.

The Ramones – The Ramones
Yes, much as a punk list has to include The Clash and the Sex Pistols, you also have to have The Ramones. They’re far more than just a ubiquitous t-shirt worn by people who’ve never listened to them, you know…
Often cited as the first band to really define the punk rock sound – taking cues from the aforementioned Stooges, of course - it’s tricky to choose a favourite (Road to Ruin has I Wanna be Sedated on it, while Rocket to Russia features Sheena is a Punk Rocker, you can see the dilemma), but let’s go with the first, eponymous LP from 1976. Beat on the Brat, Blitzkrieg Bop, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, you can’t go wrong.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
When a band is named after the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp and fronted by a tragic figure suffering from severe depression, you can’t expect their output to have the cheeriness of, say, The Rezillos. What you can expect, however, is some exemplary songcraft – this debut album, from which no singles were released, features such unalloyed masterpieces as She’s Lost Control and Shadowplay that will haunt your soul.

The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
Gothic punk band The Damned famously had members named Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible. That sort of frames the pantomime scenescape you witness as you open up a Damned album.
Their 1977 debut is packed with cheekiness, from New Rose to Neat Neat Neat, and demonstrates that you should sometimes play the bass like it’s a lead guitar.

The Undertones – The Undertones
Another Northern Irish punk band – but unlike Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones’ material sidestepped the Troubles and instead focused on teenage angst and adolescence.
Obviously you’ll know Teenage Kicks – although that wasn’t actually included on The Undertones originally, the album was re-released to pack a few of the big singles in – but there’s far more to this record than that. Male Model, True Confessions, Here Comes the Summer, Jimmy Jimmy, this is joyful.

Blondie – Parallel Lines
The world would not be the same without the existence of this watershed album. Gigging as an underground punk band with a former Playboy Bunny at the front, it took a few years for Blondie to find major commercial success, but it was this, their third album, that thrust them firmly into the limelight. And rightly so – One Way or Another, 11:59, Heart of Glass, Hanging on the Telephone, Fade Away and Radiate, Will Anything HappenParallel Lines is just so gorgeous it defies belief. (Sure, it marks the band’s shift from punk to pop, but it still belongs in this list.) Count yourself lucky that it exists. Listen to it often.

OK, that was actually twenty-one albums in the end. But every one is essential. Go forth and listen!

No comments:

Post a Comment