10. Busted At Oz compilation (featuring DA, The Effigies, Naked Raygun, Silver Abuse, Strike Under, and Subverts)
There’s a lot of history to this album that it would be hard to describe in this limited space. In brief: Chicago was isolated from the rest of the punk world in the beginning. Thanks in part to corrupt city officials hating the entire culture and not wanting to see it in our city, it was difficult to flourish. Realizing this, some dudes active in our little scene recorded a night of live music at a punk (and police raid) hot spot known as Oz. This record is 16 tracks from bands that (with the possible exception of Naked Raygun, who are relatively new and undeveloped at this point in history) would never be heard outside of the second city. Busted At Oz showcases our relatively unique sound as we took our own take on the genre, largely unaware of what was happening in places like L.A., DC, and NYC at the time. It ranges from the fairly traditional (Effigies), to the more experimental (DA), to the downright fucking peculiar (Silver Abuse). This is a very important and very overlooked cultural gem for those interested in some old midwest bands that you’ll likely never hear anywhere else.
9. Penis Envy by Crass
Despite Steve Ignorant’s absence, this is by far Crass’s most successful and powerful work. The vocals on this record are performed entirely by Eve Libertine, and it sets its crosshairs on the patriarchy and institutional and societal oppression of women. The lyrics range from satirical and facetious (Bata Motel, Our Wedding) and the more direct and critical (What the Fuck?, Berkertex Bribe), but are consistently clever, honest, and on-point. Not nearly enough punk bands attempt to take on gender politics and issues like rape, but Crass does so fearlessly, and makes an important point without coming off as preachy and obnoxious. The song writing is much more complex and dissonant than their previous works too, and is extremely effective in adding a really disturbing atmosphere to the darker songs like Health Surface.
8. Paganicons by Saccharine Trust
7. The Ascension by Glenn Branca
6. Fire of Love by The Gun Club
The Gun Club was one of the first bands to combine the sounds of punk and noisy underground rock music in general, with American roots music and country. While psychobilly, the movement that would follow in the footsteps of this record, ended up largely sucking, “Fire of Love” is actually original. The combination of the two incongruous sounds is rather subtle, and ends up sounding like neither, rather than both at the same time. The result is an album that sounds a little different every time you listen to it. My first listen was more of a pure punk experience. Later listens had the southern elements being more prominent, sounding like some sort of insane and abrasive Creedence Clearwater Revival.
5. Adolescents LP
Just a fantastic mid-tempo poppy punk album. For years after this, every SoCal pop-punk band was basically ripping off this record. And it really hasn’t aged one bit. Songs like the iconic “Amoeba”, the more experimental and oft-covered “Kids of the Black Hole”, and the wonderfully flippant and hilarious opener “I Hate Children” still sound just as good in the modern context as they did in 1981. Adolescents were way better than their LA contemporaries like X and Agent Orange, and if you need any proof, it’s right here.
4. Deceit by This Heat
3. Youth of America by Wipers
I’ve given this record a hard time in the past for not being as good as its predecessor, but that’s not really saying much, and I feel my criticism was highly exaggerated. Really, its a brilliant album. Wipers abandoned the more traditional punk song writing in favor of longer, more experimental tracks. It feels like a logical next step after “Is This Real?” Greg Sage still has great vocals and plays a very textured feed back-heavy guitar. This time it’s even more extreme, occasionally turning into walls of ear splitting noise, predicting stuff bands like Sonic Youth wouldn’t be doing for another six or seven years. It’s a bit more pretentious than “Is This Real?”, and can be a little hard to get into, but the challenge is worth it. Way ahead of its time.
2. Damaged by Black Flag
DC meets LA when Henry Rollins joins Black Flag as their fourth lead vocalist. Rollins, previously the vocalist for State of Alert, really brings his Washington influence to this record. “Damaged” is ten times dirtier, more passionate and more chaotic than any previous Black Flag recording. Songs like “Depression” and the two title tracks are noisy and visceral like nothing heard from the group before. There is also the occasional light-hearted lull in the anger, like popular track “TV Party”, but these moments are fewer than one might expect. Damaged is generally not as fast as other hardcore records of the time, but it certainly indicative of the pure rage these young men were feeling and expressing in the early 80s.
1. Minor Threat EP
At just under ten minutes, this is the shortest entry on this list, but by far the most important. Right here, Minor Threat introduces the world outside of big tour stops to what hardcore should sound like. This album is fast as fucking hell, and it never relents. There is not a single second of this record that isn’t angry, loud, and electrifying. Did you think this was a little punk record you and your friends were going to dance to? Think again, asshole. You just have to sit there and grind your teeth and punch your leg for 10 minutes. No compromises. And unlike a lot of early hardcore, Minor Threat’s stuff has really stood the test of time. I’d put this record up against anything being made today in terms of pure passion, energy, fearlessness, and brutality. This shit was the most out-there thing to happen to punk at that point in time, and its influence can still be seen, even outside of hardcore punk circles. Goddammit. (Also, it established a culture called straight edge, but maybe you haven’t heard of that, probably not worth mentioning, right?)
Honorable mentions: Haunted Town by The Effigies; Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash by The Replacements; Controversy by Prince; In A Car by Meat Puppets; Faith by The Cure; Juju by Siouxsie and the Banshees; Moving Pictures by Rush; Slates by The Fall; Signals, Calls, and Marches by Mission of Burma; Tom Tom Club LP; In My Eyes by Minor Threat