Monday, September 3, 2012
For a lot of us, the mid-to-late '90s were a golden age for punk music. I started doing zines in 1995, but it probably wasn't until '96 that I found my true niche as a music reviewer. I latched on to a burgeoning '77 punk revival and never looked back. Last year I listed the best punk albums of 1997- the year I perceive as the pinnacle of that era. But while things really took off in '97, the prior year may have been the real turning point for the return of "classic" punk rock. The two bands who'd become my favorites of that period - the Dimestore Haloes and Prostitutes - came out with debut singles. Pelado Records arrived on the scene. The release of Terminal Boredom by The Registrators ushered in an age of domination for Rip Off Records. And while pop-punk as a genre had already become oversaturated, the cream of the crop had a pretty legendary year. What follows is my list of the best punk albums of '96. This is not necessarily how I ranked them then, but rather how I rank them now.
15. Mr. T. Experience- Love Is Dead
A lot of people consider this to be Dr. Frank's magnum opus. I don't necessarily agree (I'm personally partial to Our Bodies Our Selves), but no doubt this is one of the best MTX albums, and a genuine classic of the pop-punk genre.
14. Descendents- Everything Sucks
That rare "comeback" album that doesn't suck.
13. Swingin' Utters- A Juvenile Product of the Working Class
Sure, it's no Streets of San Francisco. But so what? This was an excellent, underrated follow-up. This band has been so good for so long that sometimes it gets taken for granted!
12. New Bomb Turks- Scared Straight
Like all their other albums, fast and furious punk n' roll trash par excellence. And you could buy it at the mall!
11. The Queers- Don't Back Down
Probably the second greatest Queers album next to Love Songs For the Retarded, this had a nice mix of Beach Boys style pop songs and snotty-as-hell punk rippers.
10. The Lillingtons- Shit Out of Luck
There are six or seven bands I put in the top tier of '90s pop-punk, and The Lillingtons are one of them. This was their debut album, and I don't think they ever topped it."L.I.! L.L.! I.N.G.! T.O.N.S.!"
9. Showcase Showdown- Appetite Of Kings
Superb debut from Boston's beloved pogo punkers. Remember "Oi Oi Deacon"?!
8. U.S. Bombs- Garibaldi Guard
When I think "classic" U.S. Bombs, this is the first album that comes to mind. Perfect blend of '77 and old school Orange County punk.
7. The Strike- A Conscience Left to Struggle with Pockets Full of Rust
Great leftist punk rock from the American Midwest with a heavy Stiff Little Fingers influence.
6. The Automatics (self-titled)
One of the best bands of the '90s, and criminally overlooked to this day, The Automatics played lo-fi pop-punk with balls. This was their first and best album. Contains the smash hits "My Life Is Shit" and "She Likes Girls".
5. The Humpers- Live Forever Or Die Trying
The Humpers' first release on Epitaph. Surely they "commercialized" their sound for a big label, right? Wrong! One of their fiercest and finest albums.
4. The Slobs- Down the Tubes
Cincinnati legends. Shawn Abnoxious calls them "the Pagans of the '90s". Sounds good to me!
3. The Oblivians- Popular Favorites
This is as good as rock n' roll gets. Accept no imitations.
2. Registrators- Terminal Boredom
Imagine the first Damned LP played at twice the speed and sung in sublimely mangled English. Or imagine a catchier Teengenerate. Either way, you're talking about one of the greatest pure punk rock albums of any era.
1. Beat Angels- Unhappy Hour
The later '90s were the heyday of glam-punk. You had the Dimestore Haloes. You had the Trash Brats. And then you had probably the best of the whole lot, the almighty Beat Angels. They should have been huge. They should have been massive. Produced by Gilby Clarke of G n' R/Candy fame, Unhappy Hour is the missing link between Cheap Trick, The Replacements, The Raspberries, and Generation X - 11 tracks of glitzy power pop full of bubblegum hooks and heartrending Bukowskian lyrics. A masterpiece.
So there you have it. High honorable mentions go out to the the Crumbs' self-titled LP, the Beatnik Termites' Bubblecore, the Spent Idols' Hugs Und Kisses/Tonite, Chixdiggit self-titled, and the Nobodys' Short Songs For Short Attention Spans. What a year, eh? Plus there were some legendary seven-inches like The Spastics' self-titled single, the Pink Lincolns' Sumo Fumes 3, and Snotboy's The Coolest Girl In The World. Hmm. Now that I went and wrote it all down, I'm not so sure that 1997 was the year. '96 might have been even better! And at some point, I will need to subject '98 and '99 to further inspection as well! Stay tuned. This "history project" is just getting started!