Best Punk Albums: 10 to 6

Varnit Khanna

10. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (Alternative Tentacles, 1980)

While they may have seemed goofy to some at the time, the Dead Kennedys definitely left an imprint on the west shore that few are going to forget anytime soon. Lead by one of punk’s most prolific frontmen, Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedys were fiercely outspoken on political issues. In time, this appeared to gain them more notoriety than their own brand of West Coast hardcore. But one look at a few of the songs on “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables,” and it’s apparent both elements fueled the fire.

Their satirical spoofs on poverty and political activities left many outraged. But one need only a few brain cells to realize most of this was just a cry for attention. How can one not laugh at titles like “Kill the Poor,” “Stealing People’s Money” or “I Kill Children.”

Despite the campy lyrics, more and more people started to take Biafra too serious which ultimately led to the demise of the Dead Kennedys. For the times, though, they were definitely perched on the outer edge.

9. Rancid – Let’s Go (Epitaph, 1994)

Going ten years strong, Rancid has been a staple to punk. The fellas all found marginal success in bands prior to Rancid with such acts as Operation Ivy, UK Subs and MCD.

Despite the enormous success of “Let’s Go,” thanks to airplay from the single “Salvation,” the guys in Rancid stayed true to their punk roots and remained with independent label Epitaph.

Guitarist Lars Frederiksen and singer/guitarist Tim Armstrong have become one of the strongest songwriting duos punk has ever seen. The guys definitely wrote what they knew about: life on the street growing up near the Gilman District in Oakland.

“Nihilism,” and “Salvation,” among others, tell the tales of the struggles and diversions apparent throughout the album. “I can’t believe these people live like kings/Hidden estates and diamond rings/I’m a rat out on a mission/I’m in your front yard under suspicion.”

Although gathering moderate mainstream acceptance, these guys have retained their street credibility for sticking to their guns and living the lifestyle they preach about.

Featured tracks: “Side Kick” “St. Mary” “Salvation”

8. Fugazi – 13 Songs (Dischord Records, 1990)

Ian MacKaye took his new project in a totally different direction from where Minor Threat was heading. The energy and charisma was indeed still there, but it had been channeled into others’ avenues of delivery. The music remained heavy, but had more of a free form structure compared to Minor Threat. Straight up screaming was replaced by the occasional vocal interjection. MacKaye and company proved they were living up to their full musical potential.

What didn’t change, though, were the insightful lyrics. Stressing awareness and awakening, “And The Same” conveys these feelings of personal neglect. “Yes, I know this is politically correct/But it comes to you spiritually direct/An attempt to thoughtfully affect/Your way of thinking.” But it’s “Burning Too,” nestled at the end of the album that glows with the yearning for individual retribution. “Anytime but now/Anywhere but here/Anyone but me/I’ve got to think about my own life.”

Fugazi has persisted because they’ve remained fiercely independent, constantly maintaining a DIY attitude. And above all, they’re sympathetic to the kids. Shows are seldom over five bucks, and CDs hover around ten dollars at most.

Featured tracks: “Burning Too” “Waiting Room” “Bad Mouth”

7. X – Los Angeles (Slash, 1980)

While hard to place in a specific genre, X carved out their own little niche in the world of rock `n roll combining punk with country, rockabilly and folk. In time, these latter elements became more and more prominent as X eventually shook their punk tag.

After being discovered by former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the band signed to Slash and released what many believe to be their best work. Bassist John Doe and singer Exene Cervenka shared writing duties (and eventually a marriage) producing favorite X songs such as “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not” “Los Angeles” and the date rape tale “Johny Hit and Run Paulene.”

Like the Clash in England, X managed to toe the line between folk artists like Guthrie and punk players like the Ramones. Despite losing touch with their roots down the road, “Los Angeles” stands as the monumental album for the band whose sound was as diverse as their members.

Featured tracks: “Los Angeles” “The Unheard Music” “Johny Hit and Run Paulene”

6. Minor Threat – Complete Discography (Dischord Records, 1988)

Essential. This IS the best hardcore album of all-time, capturing their repertoire in one nice package. The aftershocks of Minor Threat are still being felt today and will remain to do so for generations to come.

Formed in 1980 by D.C. native Ian MacKaye, Minor Threat played to throngs of kids hungry for a fresh alternative to the drink inspired rock of the `70s.

Minor Threat swapped sensitivity for bold, frank depictions of the trials and tribulations of youths being forced to conform to adult society.

They may have seemed pretentious to some, carting what could have been perceived as “holier than thou” attitude. Further analysis of songs like “Bottled Violence,” “Out Of Step” and “Screaming At A Wall” permeate the messages Minor Threat was trying to convey: think with a clean, clear mind.

Little did MacKaye know that the track “Straight Edge” would start a revolution of the same name popular in many scenes across America. “Laugh at the thought of eating ludes/Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue/Always gonna keep in touch/Never want to use a crutch/I’ve got the straight edge.” For those not familiar with the movement, straight edge is basically about living a clean, sober lifestyle, straying from the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes among other activities.

After gaining an enormous following and unwelcomed stardom, Minor Threat called it quits and ended the band in 1983. MacKaye continued to run Dischord Records and eventually form the enormously popular indie band Fugazi.

Featured tracks: “Steppin’ Stone” “Guilty of Being White” “In My Eyes” “12XU”

– Boonie Boone