December 30, 2022
Another year has come and gone and punk still isn’t dead. Imagine that! How can that be! As a kid way back when, Wattie and The Exploited told me that the newspapers and magazines were proclaiming punk dead, yet here we are decades later and punk has outlasted the tyrants that were Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Regan. Who saw that coming? Well, besides all the spikey unwashed rabble rousers and trouble makers, the squatters and vagabonds. My people.
Some will tell you that punk has had its day and to a certain extent, that may well be true. Yet this year I found myself really struggling to tone this list down to just ten records, and there are a good selection that will be left out unjustly, and that tells me that there is still life in the anti-capitalist broke-ass non-conformist collective yet. Maybe the message has changed, and somehow today’s political figures aren’t the targets that they really should be. When we have some many fascists to aim lyrics at, so much systematic racism and governmental lies to wade through, so much lyrical ammo that nobody is picking up on – or maybe that is just here in Canada? I’ll tell you one thing, the bands that paved the way would have had a field day with all this stuff going down. Anyway… I’m derailed again, aren’t I?
See Also: NOFX “Double Album” Review
So, with all that drivel out of the way, lets count down the ten best punk albums as selected by the staff here at Modern Free Press. We probably missed some, and you can blame the public relations companies for not getting us those albums. Just kidding! We deal some of the best people in the music world when it comes to public relations – so consider this our rude little ode to them!
There are so many off-shots or sub-genres under the punk banner – one of them being Celtic punk, which as the name suggests mixes traditional music with punk, and over the years, there have been many great artists that have explored this style. The Rumjacks produced one of the best records in this category this year, with Brass For Gold, and when the cull came down to its final stages, proved impossible to dismiss, and so they take the tenth spot on this years list.
Perhaps best known for their 2011 song An Irish Pub Song, off of their Gangs of New Holland album which is an observational commentary on the fact that there are Irish pubs in every part of the world, and a protest against what the band saw as a commercialization and inauthentic expression of Irish diaspora culture. Which is true – anybody that has ever been out to a Saint-Patrick’s day parade has seen some wank wearing a shirt or badge that proclaims “Today I’m Irish”, which I suppose is better than the days when pubs had signs outside that said “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish”.
Best Track: Across The Water
Spain’s The Oddballs might not be very well known yet, but they will be if Tales Of Error is anything to go on. Pulling elements from everywhere into a giant paella pan (I’ve been to Malaga, Spain, where The Oddballs are from and had the best paella of my life there). There’s punk rock, and rockabilly, ska and straight up rock n’ roll here and it all comes together into one of the most interesting records we heard this year – and that is saying something!
One of the best attributes that Tales Of Error has to offer, is that feel good esthetic found on early 80s Oi and 2 Tone records from the United Kingdom – that happy-go-lucky with a chance of a boot to the chin and a fist to the orbital bone sort of upbeat sound. That toe-tapping, swing your best pal by the neck whilst swigging back a cold pint type of energy. There is an awful lot of variety spread about these ten tunes. Sometimes sung in English, sometimes in their native Spanish. Traditional instruments like the guitar, bass and a drum kit – but there’s also an organ and saxophone and …is that a maracas?
Best Track: Resurrection
08. Viagra Boys “Cave World”
Admittedly, this one took a while to resonate with me – but there was something that kept drawing my attention back to these nutty Swedes, and in time, Cave World become one of my most played recordings of the year. Viagra Boys are raw, energetic, funny and thought provoking all at once. Sort of like if Courtney Barnett had some real edge to her, a real scummy side – like a squatter in a cesspool run-down house somewhere lost in early 80’s London. That isn’t meant as disrespect to either Barnett or the Viagra Boys, by the way. I like records that sound scummy.
The best way I can describe this, is if Tom Waits had gotten into punk in the old days, the early days, and instead of jamming experimental blues tunes, he instead made experimental and strange punk rock romps – perhaps alongside Ian Drury and the likes of Splodgenessabounds rounding out the group. This is odd, it’s strange – it’s hypnotic and weird and bloody brilliant. In a lot of ways, Viagra Boys remind me of Idles – and if either of these names are unknown to you, I would recommend a wee trip down to Youtube …hell, I’ll even throw out some links. Why not. Idles. Viagra Boys.
Best Track: The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis
When it comes to hardcore bands, terms such as fucking nasty are a compliment and Unpleasant Living is seriously fucking nasty. There was some debate about whether or not to include this recording in this list, as it is an EP that lasts roughly eight minutes but it is so bloody good that we just couldn’t cut it. Somehow, this album represents my first exposure to End It – but I sure as hell hope it isn’t my last, because Unpleasant Living knocked me flat on my ample ass.
Within those eight minutes, End It cook up six tracks and fill them chock full of social commentary about racism, income disparity, police corruption and religion – all of the worst aspects of humanity, if you think about it. I know what you’re thinking – that isn’t anything new for hardcore or punk lyrics, and yeah, you’re right – but End It do it with with venom, with pent-up bile and rage and it translate so well. Unpleasant Living is a great albeit short recording.
Best Track: Hatekeeper
06. Ignite “Ignite”
I’ll openly admit that I was a little weary when I heard that Ignite had changed singers, largely because Zoltan Teglas’ voice was the key point to Ignite. His voice my favorite aspect of those early records. He filled in for Michale Graves with The Misfits when he couldn’t perform, and for Jim Lindberg with Pennywise when Lindberg briefly left the band. He even sang backing vocals on one the greatest Motorhead songs they ever did – God Was Never on Your Side. Huge shoes to fill… but Eli Santana laid all those fears to rest.
Still, it would seem that the gambit was perhaps not as large as at first glance, as Santana has a great set of pipes and on Ignite, a solid fit. Once the band hits the road, it will be quite interesting to see how he handles the more well known tunes that Teglas put his stamp on some time ago. I get the, based on his performance on this record, feeling that he’ll handle the job quite well. Both men have a similar vocal sound, delivery and range.
Best Track: The River
While the news that Days N’ Daze have disbanded that came earlier this year, comes as a bit of a shock and as pretty shit news to a lot of people – the good news is that Escape From The Zoo features several members of Days N’ Daze and is sort of like the spiritual continuation, even if they did exists years before Days N’ Daze broke up. Also, the newest Escape From The Zoo record is pretty fucking good.
Sometimes Escape From The Zoo sound a little on the pop punk side of things, yet at others, their crust influences seep through. Those more poppy leanings are intentional and stem from a chat Jesse Sendejas had with his father as a 14-year old, where the senior Sendejas mentioned how he liked to hear an upbeat riff or tempo when the lyrical content became rather bleak. Considering this record is largely about Sendejas getting sober and becoming a better person for himself and those around him, it does tend to wander into darker territory at times – realism, if you will. It is then a given, that this record quite often ventures into happy little segments, to off-set the more morose bits.
Best Track: Wasted Days
Any time the marvelous Flogging Molly release new music, our ears are perked up like a dog hearing his name. Here we are, with a new record – their seventh. Being the fool that I proudly am, I hoped that once I pushed play, I’d be greeted with the type of songs that the band were putting out when I first stumbled, quite literally, upon them. Alas, those days are a thing of the past. A fable of time not unlike the things Flogging Molly live to sing about. I suppose all things must progress or else grow stagnant, and that repeating prior triumphs can only propel an artistic mind so far. Living off the victories of the past, too, must grow old. On Anthem, Flogging Molly continue walking their own path – albeit to the beat of a different drum, so to speak. Over the year, Anthem has grown and grown on me, so it has.
I can still remember, astonishingly enough, when I first heard Swagger – the debut record from the great Flogging Molly. It was Saint Patrick’s day in Montreal, and I was on my way to being kicked out of Hurley’s Irish Pub for getting too drunk, too rowdy, but prior to that, the sound system had been playing Swagger on repeat, and I found myself dancing my bollocks off, pint in hand, for much of it. The following day, I awoke in a gutter, stinking from the sins of the night before – but before shamefully wandering home, stopped into a local record shop to buy myself this new record. I’ve loved it ever since.
Best Track: This Road Of Mine
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03. The Interrupters “In The Wild”
The rise of The Interrupters has been coming along quite steadily and deservedly so. Few acts today are as downright fun to listen to as The Interrupters are, and throughout the records that has remained a consistent force. With In The Wild, The Interrupters again strike gold. Through the fame that the band are starting to enjoy, the topical arrogance hasn’t seeped through. The Interrupters are still as in love with their fans as the fans are with them – and they still take the time to express it, and I hope that never changes.
The formula used to construct the songs on In The Wild is in large the same recipe that the band have always used, down to having the great Tim Armstrong guest on the record – something I believe he has done of every album so far; he has hand his hands on all their albums in one way or another anyway. But only a fool would reinvent the wheel of a top notch race car, and so the music found here on the fourth record from The Interrupters is strikingly similar to past jaunts – and thankfully so. Nobody else makes me want to jump up and jiggle my extra pounds around like these cats do.
Best Track: As We Live (feat. Tim Armstrong & Rhoda Dakar)
I was so obsessed with No Fun At All’s Grit album, that when Seventh Wave was announced, I immediately began scouring the internet from ways to pre-order myself a copy of the new record – so little surprise, that they once again sit atop the year end charts.
There’s always that added level of excitement and anticipation when I band you’ve loved for a good long time is about to drop new music, and that most certainly has been the case leading up to this new record. For a quick minute, the album was delayed over some sort of incident that took place over something messing about with gear on stage, but that seemingly was resolved and left in the past – thankfully. As such, No Fun At All finally release their seventh album, aptly titled Seventh Wave, which feels like a play on the number of releases they’ve crafted and a knock on this pandemic which seems not to have realized that it has over stayed it’s welcome.
Best Track: See The Splender
01. Hot Water Music “Feel The Void”
Well, this wasn’t an easy choice but crowning Hot Water Music champion of our yearly top ten punk list feels right. Few bands can still create brilliant albums like Hot Water Music have done with Feel The Void three decades deep into their careers. Sure, a case can be made that their earlier efforts like No Division or Caution are superior albums and we’ll leave that discussion for another day, and stay on topic here – we couldn’t think of an album in the genre that could top Feel The Void this year, and as such we name the Punk album of the year for 2022.
What more can be said about Hot Water Music that hasn’t already been said a hundred times prior. Chuck Ragan remains perhaps one of the greatest voices in the entire punk spectrum and from the opening moments of the album, on Another Breath, it is strongly evident that Ragan is on form and after five years away doing his solo thing, was poised to kick start Hot Water Music again. Yes, there are multiple singers that lay down tracks under the moniker of Hot Water Music, but Ragan is the best of the batch; although Chris Wollard and newest voice Chris Cresswell also of The Flatliners are no slouches themselves.
This is such a formidable record, and as I mentioned, for Hot Water Music to still be pumping out such great music more than thirty years in truly is special.
Best Track: Another Breath
Honorable mentions to The Nils “Five Roses”, Off! “Free LSD” and Comeback Kid “Heavy Steps”.
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