Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Top Ten Punk Rock Albums of 1984


Recently, my time machine traveled 20 years back to 1994. The next stop on my musical journey through decades past takes us to 1984. Looking back to this particular year in the history of punk music, it's evident how much things had changed since the end of the '70s. The "original" punk sound had faded into the background, with hardcore and post-punk stepping into the forefront. In addition, a lot of bands that had started out as punk or hardcore groups were beginning to branch out musically and defy genre pigeonholes. So as I worked up this list of the top punk albums of '84, I tried to be more liberal in defining what "punk" really meant at the time. As much as I enjoy the purity and power of good old three-chord slop, I will be the first person to acknowledge that some of the best punk music to ever exist was created with disregard for the "rules". Keeping in mind what was happening in the world in '84 both politically and culturally, I think it's only fitting that much of the year's best punk music did not conform to any "accepted" model. The times, they were a changing. And looking back, we should really thank the likes of Ronald Reagan and Phil Collins for giving us so much to rebel against.

Onto the list!

10. Reagan Youth - Youth Anthems for the New Order
At a mere seven songs, this may be more of an EP than an LP. But I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Reagan Youth are sometimes overlooked in the pantheon of New York hardcore punk, and their existence was ill-fated due to tragic circumstances surrounding singer Dave Insurgent. But Youth Anthems holds up extremely well three decades later, and recalls a time when hardcore was still rooted in punk rock and angry youths railed with all their might against the mainstreaming of fascist ideologies. "New Aryans" and "Degenerated" are as pertinent and powerful today as they were 30 years ago.

9. Partisans- The Time Was Right
Underrated second LP from these legends of UK street punk.

8. Battalion of Saints- Second Coming
In this heyday of hardcore punk, it seemed like every year brought us 2 or 3 classic LPs. This sophomore effort from San Diego's finest was definitely one of 'em.

7. Cock Sparrer- Running Riot in '84
If any other band had issued this record, it would have been hailed as a triumph. But coming on the heels of Shock Troops, one of the greatest punk LPs ever made, Running Riot in '84 is often perceived as a letdown. But if you can get over the darker, slightly different sound and just appreciate it for what it is, you'll hear a classic Cock Sparrer album. "The Sun Says" would have fit in perfectly on Shock Troops, and "They Mean Murder" remains one of the band's finest songs.

6. Hanoi Rocks - Two Steps From The Move
Were Hanoi Rocks a hard rock influenced glam punk band or a glam punk influenced hard rock band? Who cares! This was the band's major label debut - and, tragically, the last album that they'd ever make due to the death of drummer Razzle. This band and this LP were huge influences not just on the likes of Guns N' Roses - but also on countless glam/punk bands I adored in the '90s and 2000s. That's "punk" enough for me!

5. Agnostic Front- Victim In Pain
Far different from Agnostic Front's later forays into crossover/thrash, this debut album is pure hardcore punk and a true classic of the genre. 

4. Reducers - self titled 
30 years later, you'd still swear this band came from London, England and not New London, Connecticut. These guys took classic U.K. pub rock and '77 pop/punk influences and, as they say, made them their own. If you're into the powerpop/punk/rock n' roll thing and don't own anything by The Reducers, it's time to get shopping! Absolutely one of the greatest and most criminally overlooked bands ever, and this was where it all started.

3. Husker Du- Zen Arcade
While their mates The Replacements had long outgrown their punk roots by '84, Husker Du was redefining what it meant to be a hardcore band. The double LP Zen Arcade, for all of its ambition and epic aspirations, holds up so well because it's the finest collection of songs the band ever assembled ("Turn On The News" and "The Biggest Lie" are both among my top five Du songs). It was the first "punk rock opera" - and still the best by far!

2. Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime 
Legend has it that Double Nickels was The Minutemen's response to Zen Arcade. Leave it to the Minutemen to make Zen Arcade sound almost conventional by comparison! Combining the brevity of hardcore with the improvisational sensibilities of jazz, the rhythmic structures of funk, and the smart-assed minimalism of early Wire, Double Nickels is a sprawling, genre-bending masterpiece from one of the most musically proficient punk bands to ever exist. Not just one of the finest punk albums of the '80s, but one of the finest albums of the '80s, period.

1. Ramones - Too Tough To Die
There's a perception about the Ramones that they "slipped" after their first four albums. And perhaps that was true. The band's early '80s releases may have been hindered by musical differences and disharmony within the band. And certainly the band worked with a few producers who didn't truly "get" the Ramones. All of that changed, temporarily, on Too Tough To Die. With Tommy Ramone and Ed Stasium co-producing and the band unified for a return to form, Too Tough To Die is a classic Ramones album all the way. As the title suggests, it's a harder, tougher sounding Ramones - a reinvigorated sonic force re-staking its claim as the greatest band on earth. If you only listen to their early albums, give Too Tough To Die another chance.


Honorable mentions:
Die Kruezen- self titled
Effigies- For Ever Grounded
Government Issue - Joyride
Black Flag - My War
Angelic Upstarts - Last Tango In Moscow
Vandals - When In Rome Do As The Vandals   

So...who did I forget? 

-L.R.

4 comments:

mick fletcher said...

i'd have had the wonderful and frightening world of the fall in there, i'd probably also class new model army's vengeance album as punk as well

Lord Rutledge said...

Good choices, Mick!

Anonymous said...

Partisans! yay! so glad someone is giving them so cred!

Anonymous said...

Fang where the wild things are