We here at Union University are taught to respect authority and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In order to do this best, mightn’t it be a good idea to know the other side of the situation? Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher once said “Know your enemy,” so if our goal is respect for all, it might be a good idea to listen to music that is characterized by a general lack of respect for others: punk.
While punk has gone through many stages, from “Proto-Punk” with the likes of Iggy Pop and the Stooges to the first mainstream wave featuring The Ramones and The Clash, I am most familiar with what many refer to as “The Second Punk Wave.” This was the point at which punk rock began to merge with pop music, resulting in the popularization of punk music. Many of the bands in this time have received the moniker “Pop-Punk,” but this does not really apply to several of the bands. Before I give you some of the most influential punk albums from the Revival onwards, it’s important to determine the exact criteria required to be considered “punk.”
First, the theme must be somewhat angsty. If there isn’t unrequited love in the album and/or talk of running away, it probably isn’t punk. If you would have connected to the song on a spiritual level in the ninth grade, it’s probably a punk song.
Second, the sound of the song is very important. The instruments are part of that, but the voice of the singer is also incredibly important. There is something very distinctive about a punk singer, and if the voice is not present, then the instruments used had better compensate. These would include electric guitars, a loud bass guitar, fast drums and the occasional piano.
Third, the pace determines the average punk song. This may be the least important characteristic, as many songs break it, but it should still be taken into consideration. Punk songs are usually faster, with quick drum beats and rapid guitar strumming. The verses of the songs may not be as fast, but the choruses will pick back up and draw the reader back into the song.
Fourth, punk songs are simple. I love punk music, but it’s a reality that punk music is simple and relatively easy to play. Granted, there may be an occasional drum or guitar solo that would take a considerable amount of practice, but that is unusual.
Lastly and most importantly, punk music is anti-establishment and/or anti-authoritarian. This category is worth more toward the punk classification than any of the others, and if punk music was boiled down to one characteristic, this would be it. Punk goes against mainstream music, and if the artist occasionally flips the bird towards the government or parents everywhere, so much the better.
With that, it is time to discuss 23 of the most influential punk albums since the Revival in 1994. I will admit, some prejudice went into the creation of this list, but I tried to choose albums that changed the direction of punk or represented a particular moment in the development of punk. For dozens more albums, just stop me in Barefoots and ask. I will give you so much music.
The Blue Album by Weezer
Often categorized as nerd-punk, or alternative punk, Weezer has all of the aspects of punk, and this album is their most popular to date. While the album contains smash hits like “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly,” it also sports “Only in Dreams,” a ballad to bring tears to the eyes of the most professional onion-cutter.
Smash by The Offspring
Smash was The Offspring’s first big album and contains one of their biggest songs to date, “Self Esteem.” It also defined what the new punk wave would consist of and successfully fulfills all five characteristics of punk music to a tee. This album doesn’t have a lot of major hits, but it laid the groundwork for the future of punk.
Dookie by Green Day
“Oh, of course Green Day is on this list,” you say, “So mainstream and typical of Clark.” But as popular as they are now, this was their breakout album, and it represents the more distorted side of punk. This album introduced Green Day to the rest of the world and gave us several punk anthems in the process, like “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around” and “Longview.”
Dude Ranch by Blink-182
I will admit, I am extremely partial to Blink-182. They have been my favorite band since freshman year of high school, and I consider them the epitome of punk-pop. With that in mind, congratulate me for only putting two of their albums on this list. “Dammit” represents one of the first mainstream punk songs and sports one of the catchiest guitar riffs with a story of a bad break-up. This song represents punk in its purest form. The album does not have many of Blink’s major songs on it, but it showed the world that punk music can make it on mainstream radio, and the band recruited many listeners.
Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World
Another example of a punk band doing well mainstream, Jimmy Eat World had several albums before Bleed American, but none were, or have been, as successful as this masterpiece. From the opening distorted guitar riffs of “Bleed American” to the smash hit “The Middle,” and the acoustic masterpiece “Hear You Me,” this album bleeds punk as well as American.
All Killer, No Filler by Sum 41
With one of the strangest introductions of any album (just listen to it, I can’t describe it) All Killer, No Filler hits with loud instruments and screamed lyrics, and it does not relent to the very end. Sum 41 eventually became quasi-metal, and some of that anger and power is present in this album without distracting from the punk aspect.
Box Car Racer by Box Car Racer
While Tom Delonge retained some of the original punk-popiness from Blink-182, he was able to weave more mature themes into this solo album and made a gorgeous piece from the angst-filled “I Feel So” to the entirely acoustic “There Is.” One of my favorite albums on this list.
Leaving Through the Window by Something Corporate
It’s not your typical punk album, but Andrew McMahon (who later started Jack’s Mannequin and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness) constructed a slightly more complex pop-punk album, laden with piano and sweet, sweet bridges. “I Woke Up in a Car” is a perfect example of the weird punkiness that the album exudes, and it combines modern pop elements with simple power chords typical of punk.
Tell All Your Friends by Taking Back Sunday
Honestly, I’m just getting super tired of writing descriptions, so just go listen to the album. Honestly, music is largely subjective anyway. This album is very punky and rocky.
No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls by Simple Plan
I threw in a Canadian punk-pop band just for fun. They’re pretty decent, so go listen to them or whatever.
Blink-182 by Blink-182
Alright, so I will talk about this one (“Of course you will”). This album goes against several punk standards and does it well. It’s sadder, slower and more balladic than most albums, and it sets a precedent for change in the punk genre. “Always” and “I Miss You” are two examples of this, each taking the angsty, punk style but putting it to more complex music. This is a rare break from the norm, and Blink does it perfectly.
Deja Entendu by Brand New
Brand New is about as punk as a bunch of frat boys can be, so it’s not as punk as many albums on the list. The main reason it made it on my top 23 albums was due to its construction. The song order is perfect, and it’s an incredible listening experience.
Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne
Humor mixed with punk music. Need I say more? I mean, I could, but I might ruin the listening experience.
Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard
Mmhmm by Relient K
Christian and punk music seem like they would go together like cyanide and toddlers, but Relient K blows expectations out of the water and is actually one of my favorite bands. Mmhmm is one of the best punk albums of all time, with every song bleeding into the next one, incredible lyrics and the classic punk sound.
American Idiot by Green Day
“GREEN DAY AGAIN?” Yes, just calm down. This album is incredibly important, as it brought punk-rock back into the limelight. Blink-182 had brought punk-pop into the limelight and kept it there, but the hard rock, “Eff Society” sound had not really been popular since the first punk wave and The Ramones. In addition, this album tells a complex story of a leader who rises up against a totalitarian government and his relationships. It’s gorgeous, and the plot alone is worth listening to the whole album.
Commit this to Memory by Motion City Soundtrack
Motion City Soundtrack has very upbeat music mixed with depressing, overly cynical messages, which creates a beautiful, paradoxical kind of music. It’s really cool and emotional.
From Under the Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy is one of many punk bands that have fallen into the trap of making popular music. Their new album is alright, but it gets repetitive after a few listens. “From Under the Cork Tree” is their second album and represents the peak of their punk stage. Much like foods that should be refrigerated, they were better when they first came out.
The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
“Clark, this isn’t even a punk album.” It’s a punk-emo hybrid, and it’s my favorite album, so it’s going to be on here. Just be grateful I didn’t find a way to incorporate Jukebox the Ghost on here, because I really wanted to. Anyway, similar to American Idiot, this album tells a story. Instead of governmental revolution however, this album tells of death, the journey into the afterlife and the memories from life. It’s a wonderful album and is my favorite on this list.
The Sufferer and the Witness by Rise Against
AH LOOK HOW CLOSE WE ARE TO THE END OF THIS LIST! KEEP READING!
Masterpiece Theater by Marianas Trench
One of the least known bands on this list, Mariana’s Trench, has a very distinctive sound. They might be the most complicated sounding band, and they use harmonies almost ad nauseam. I would say they are one of the hardest bands to explain, so do yourself a favor and just go listen to the songs.
Colour Blind by Seaway
Before Seaway, true punk rock had mostly fallen to the wayside. It had been a decade since Fall Out Boy’s mainstream entrance and a year more than that since Green Day and Relient K. If you are worried about the future of punk, have no fear, because Seaway is here. Listen to the guitars in “Freak.” They are simple, yet incredible. Simply incredible.
The White Album by Weezer
Yes, Weezer is at both ends of this article, because they were good and still are. The White Album is one of the greatest albums of 2016 so far and is a call back to The Blue Album 22 years ago. From the opening guitar in “California Kids” to the epic ballad of “Endless Bummer,” The White Album has everything a punk album could want. A piano infused upbeat jam? “Jacked Up” has got you covered. What about about an incredible guitar solo that turns an ordinary bridge into something out of this world? Check out “Do You Wanna Get High?” This album is incredible, and every song is perfection. Even the weakest songs are levels above the average punk song.