11. The Nips
Their claim to fame, obviously, is that Shane McGowan went on to become a beloved and notorious figure in popular music. But The Nips/Nipple Erectors were, in their own right, one of the great unheralded bands of '77 punk rock. Their recorded output, while limited, is pretty damn classic.
10. The Testors
This legendary New York City outfit is generally overlooked even by the most knowledgeable punk fans and critics. Sonny Vincent and his crew never signed to a major label and only managed one proper release in their day. But they made some of the rawest and wildest punk music ever - which has been rescued from the dustbin of history by the Complete Recordings 1976-79 retrospective. In this time when trashy punk rock n' roll thrives, it's great to remember one of the earliest and best trashy punk rock n' roll bands.
Perhaps this German trio was more unknown than underrated. Either way, they were bad-ass! Who doesn't love a band that records in a World War II bunker? The band's debut single ("Com' On') and LP rank amongst the finest punk recordings of their time. Sadly, they were never heard from again. "Nobody Can Tell Us" will still blow your head off.
8. Subhumans (Canada)
The other Subhumans are more known, but the Canadian Subhumans were the balls! Not dissimilar in sound and spirit from their Vancouver associates D.O.A., the Subhumans were emblematic of a time when radical/activist/political punk music was actually good. Check out my lengthy review of their classic debut album Incorrect Thoughts over at Dirty Sheets.
7. The Kids
If The Kids had been from England, New York, or California, they would have been absolutely massive. Listen to any of their first three albums, and it will quickly become obvious why we record collector/punk historian geeks have such a hard-on for these Belgian firecrackers. When it comes to raw and rockin' punk music, I put The Kids on a par with The Saints, Pagans, early Damned, and anyone else from the legends class.
6. The Simpletones
The importance of The Simpletones cannot be denied. Not only were they one of the originators of the So-Cal "beach punk" sound, but they were also one of the first punk bands to write lyrics from an entirely adolescent/high school delinquent point of view. In a lot of ways, they were a direct antecedent to "pop-punk" music as well (Were The Descendents fans of theirs? They had to have been!). Songs such as "I Like Drugs", "Kirsty Q", and "Dead Meat (Killer Smog)" are stone-cold classics of California punk rock. If you can find it, their I Have a Date compilation is one of the coolest punk collections ever. At the very least, get yourself a copy of Beach Blvd.!
5. La Peste
I thought about a lot of Boston bands for this list. And in my mind, the most overlooked of the lot was La Peste. While any English punk band worth two shits could get a label deal in the heyday of punk, a lot of American groups were on their own. Had La Peste done a proper LP circa '77/'78 with the backing of a decent label, surely it would have been on a par with the all-time punk classics of the era. They were that good - a scorching powerhouse of a band with the songs to back it all up. As it is, their patched-together debut album belongs in the record collection of anyone who professes to enjoy punk rock. Everyone knows "Better Off Dead", but "Don't Wanna Die In My Sleep Tonite" is the jam!
4. The Professionals
When I think "classic U.K. anthemic punk", few bands fit the bill better than The Professionals. With all due respect to Johnny Rotten, I have to say Steve Jones and Paul Cook were the musical heart of the Sex Pistols. You can have P.I.L. I'll take The Professionals!
Perhaps Ruts were more unfortunate than underrated. Prior to Malcolm Owen's untimely death, Ruts had tremendous chart success. They had three top 40 singles in the U.K., and their only studio album, The Crack, peaked at #16. And what a band! Ruts were original, musically diverse, and exceptionally good at playing their instruments. There's no telling how great they could have become.We'll never know. But even with only having left behind one album and a handful of singles, Ruts were one of the greatest punk bands ever.
2. The Adverts
While hardly off the radar, The Adverts always struck me as a band that never really got its due. I personally put The Adverts in the very top tier of English punk, on a par with The Clash, Damned, and Buzzcocks. And T.V. Smith has got to be one of the most underrated songwriters that ever lived.
1. Angry Samoans
The Samoans underrated? Am I nuts? But consider this. I don't think any band besides The Ramones has been a bigger influence on the last 15-20 years of good punk music. I mean, just think of all the Rip Off Records bands that "borrowed" from the Samoans! With their songs averaging barely more than one minute and wildly offensive lyrics delivered with tongue-in-cheek vitriol, these guys practically invented "snot-punk". Their first two albums are two of the best punk LPs ever made, and their blending of three-chord punk with the burgeoning hardcore of the day was darn near revolutionary. I'm not saying the Samoans have been completely overlooked. But for their era and region, they ought to be as highly regarded as, say, Social Distortion or The Dead Kennedys.
There you have it, folks. Now tell me who I forgot or neglected. A list like this is always a "work in progress".