If you asked me what music I liked from high school and my mid-20s, I would have said “punk.” (This came after, and somewhat overlapped a deep “classic rock” infatuation for most of high school; I don’t cover the past.) There was more than a little pretension in that, but, meh. I liked some other music (see?), but what I thought of as punk sat at the center of it, the same way a leashed dog can only wander so far from the stake in the ground in the back yard. (Also, take your dogs for a damn walk, take them into your home, or don’t get one.)
“Punk” might have been my jam, but I missed a lot and dismissed some of the stuff that came to me for failing to fit a personal, tightly pinched definition of punk – i.e., it could only be alienated, angry and fast. Punk can be only those things, but, as I’ve heard more and different people lay claim to marching under a “punk” banner, it makes more and more sense to expand punk, musically, as an approach to music, something tied more to mind-set than raging vocals, loud ragged guitar, and a drummer wailing away as if he’s forever trying to keep up.
First and foremost, punk seems like it’s about expression, the urgency of getting it out into the world. Sometimes that’s secondary to learning how how to play your instruments, too. If you pick up and read Please Kill Me, you’ll see that…every band stands as an example. (Will loan out that book, btw.)
At any rate, no small number of the songs below came from this collection, so find that if this interests. Some stuff I knew before (X, The Buzzcocks, Stiff...look, see below). I added a couple songs with an eye to undermining the theme – e.g., those songs ain’t from my “yout’” - but because I just liked them and they sounded like generic “punk” genre evolved and maybe a little cleaned up (Blink-182 is plenty fun, but…y’know?). “Surrender” might also feel like a clunker, but I’d argue it fits just fine under the spirit/mind-set argument. Oh, and also, almost all of these songs come from my linear youth, as opposed to my actual youth (as in, I heard 10 of these songs after age 30). And…yep, that’s everything. Enjoy!
Punk from Yout’
1. Into the Valley – The Skids
Pretty straightforward: anthem-y, like the sound of a movement on foot, and that’s some big guitar.
2. Oh Shit! – The Buzzcocks
Remember listening to this in high school, and praying for mom to walk into the room. (“It’s what I like, MOM! DEAL WITH IT!”)
3. Delta 88 – X
It’s the story I love, the day/absurd mission it details. The jangled guitar just sounds like the way one feels as they set out on it.
4. (I’m) Stranded – The Saints (OMG, I love this video!)
Just a good, propulsive rock song. And it carries off on a nice sing-a-long!
5. Dreaming – Blondie
In my top five for Blondie, easily. LOVE the drumming, the way it drives the tune.
6. Adult Books – X
X, more than any other band, helped me expand punk beyond the hardcore acts (a lot of whom left me flat).
7. California Uber Alles – Dead Kennedys
Whenever I listen to the Dead Kennedys, I’m blown away by their, for lack of a better word, aesthetic. One of the smarter acts. Need more time with ‘em…
8. Another Girl, Another Planet – The Only Ones (Another snazzy video.)
Cute little pop tune, a love song with just enough quirk to stand out.
9. Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie and the Banshees
A wonderfully dramatic, arty song – gets at what I mean by “expression” trumping particular form. Also, another band I hiccupped the fuck past.
10. We’re a Happy Family – The Ramones
SUPER clean example of old-school punk, between theme and sound. The Ramones were masters.
11. M-16 – Descendants
One of my favorite bands for a while. They’re aggressively dumb at times, but had this…streak, something that felt a little like righteousness. Came through more on other songs. Which begs a question.
12. Lexicon Devil – The Germs (Gaah! This is the version! Listen to this one!!)
This is how punk plays in my head generically – and I’m pissed that I can’t find the best version of this song. Great, great, song, but it benefits from slowing down a bit, feeling sludgier.
13. Breathless – X
I’m a big fan of Exene and John Doe, but Billy Zoom never got half the credit he deserved. Guitar like a fucking tornado, y’all!
14. Mongoloid – Devo
Devo never got the credit they deserve for originality of sound/concept. Their love/defense of the weird is a highlight of culture.
15. What’s My Age Again – Blink 182 (Shit. Landed that video with both feet.)
Whatever I think about them in the history of punk, this is a great song about failing to fit in.
16. Anglepoise – The Soft Boys
I think this came in because it gets at punk’s healthy penchant for mockery.
17. Whatever Happened To? - The Buzzcocks
Don’t rightly know why I went with this one. I like it, even as I’m not sure I get it.
18. The Once Over Twice – X
I heard this song before I knew what X was about. Think it stuck as a deeply nostalgic attachment. To this day.
19. Suspect Device – Stiff Little Fingers
My favorite band right around the time I left high school. Fed a lot of obsessions of the time (music, politics, Ireland’s “Troubles”; look, young folks fixate like no one else).
20. Born to Lose – The Heartbreakers
On the title alone, this might be the most “punk” song on the selection. Songs like this made me SO grateful I picked up “No Thanks!” Caught me up something fierce.
21. Chinese Rock – The Ramones
Probably my favorite all-time Ramones song. And that’s saying a TON.
22. Myage – Descendants
One of your rare “bass guitar hooks.” Also, think I was more pissed as a young dude.
23. Surrender – Cheap Trick
One of your finer anthems of finally understanding just how goddamn weird your parents are. That just seems very punk to me...
24. Harmony in My Head – The Buzzcocks
And, yesssss! Love this track. About existing in the world you don’t associate with. (If I’m wrong…just let me have it.)
25. Dammit – Blink 182
Captures the lightness (so easy on the ears) and snark that makes Blink work. Good tune.
And, yep, more tracks than usual. That’s what happens when the balance your songs run less than 3 minutes. Hope you found something new and good in that mess.