Getting Rid of the Albatross: Craig McDermott’s 20 Definitive Punk & Post-Punk…


23 Jul 2011, 14:31

The Top 10:

10. Modern Dance. Pere Ubu. The Modern Dance. 1978.
Unsettling as hell. MERDRE! MERDRE! Even worse, subversively infectious. MERDRE! MERDRE! Caused leading mad genius of music criticism Piero Scaruffi to completely lose his shit. "The modern dance of Pere Ubu is a funeral rite for humanity after the catastrophe," he says. MERDRE! MERDRE! "A pagan representation of the end." MERDRE! MERDRE!

9. Shadowplay. Joy Division. Unknown Pleasures. 1979.
A distilled, post-punk adaptation of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." The downward spiral has rarely sounded this unhinged, never this masculine.

8. Blitzkrieg Bop. Ramones. Ramones. 1977.
A thousand listens later, still hits like The Shot Hear Round the World that it was in 1977. Features one of the all-time classic lyrics ever (“Shoot ‘em in the back now!”). Literally about nothing, still stands for everything.

7. Roadrunner. The Modern Lovers. The Modern Lovers. 1976.
The New York Dolls may have set the stage for punk in the early 70’s, but you might call this “the only track that matters.” Recorded in ‘73, but released in ‘76, literally the musical first-born son to the Velvet Underground’s genre-creating “Sister Ray.” Bridges the gap between that era and the Punk/Post-Punk heyday that would follow in the ensuing decade. Also features maybe the least punk lyrics ever, which only makes it all the more punk, right? Roll the windows down, press your foot on the gas, but most of all, remember to pay homage.

6. Gloria. Patti Smith. Horses. 1975.
How bout that opening line, y'all? “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” What's that Patti? The world is nothing but rules and regulations? You're bored??

And what's the deal with this sneaky, perfectly executed build-up to the first chorus? And not even having the common decency to change "Gloria" to--I dunno--"Gary" or some other male Christian name? Wait a minute, didn't...Goddamn Patti Smith, you didn’t just take a classic Van Morrison love song and turn that shit into the very first punk anthem/Feminist manifesto did you?!?! God help us all.

5. (Love Like) Anthrax. Gang of Four. Entertainment! 1979.
It’s been called the “anti-love song,” but that doesn’t really do it justice. This is Gang of Four taking the proverbial love song back behind the wood shed, and absolutely murdering that shit. And as for the proverbial "pop song" ---police are still looking for the body.

Almost brutal to listen to, even harder to put into words what transpires during this track. Hearing "Anthrax" for the first time when you’re in a relationship, especially if it’s a shitty one, is like subjecting your brain to a four-and-a-half minute electroshock therapy session. Once you’ve been deprogrammed though, you’ll have nothing but gratitude for the boys in Gang of Four.

4. Anarchy in the U.K. Sex Pistols. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. 1977.
Can’t be fully appreciated until the listener transports himself mentally back to 1977, back to a time when a single group could, and I quote, “inspire real life panic in Britain.” The villainous turn by lead singer Johnny Rotten is what matters most. The best bad guy produced by pop culture since Darth Vader, Rotten sloganeers like a politician, even as he’s spitting lines about wanting to destroy society as we know it. Of course, by the time Thatcher and Reagan had finished having their way with the lower/middle classes of Britain and the U.S., Rotten and the boys sounded less like nihilistic sociopaths and more like a group of guys who just happened to know something the rest of us didn’t.

Additional note: This video clip is the definition of "ass-kicking."

3. Memories Can’t Wait. Talking Heads. Fear of Music. 1979.
The album title sums up the underlying thesis of post-punk. Both Fear of Music and Remain in Light, thirty years later, somehow remain light years ahead of everything else. You’re not on Talking Heads level, and you never will be. "Memories Can't Wait" features Byrne and Co. at their utmost peak, pushing the boundaries of post-punk nearly as far as they would go.

2. The Guns of Brixton. The Clash. London Calling. 1979.
Look, "London Calling," "Death or Glory," "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais," they're all classics. In life, however, there really is only one question, and The Clash ask it on this track. So, when they kick at your front door, how you gonna come?

1. Marquee Moon. Television. Marquee Moon. 1977.
Res ipsa loquitor.

Pere Ubu Joy Division Ramones The Modern Lovers Patti Smith Sex Pistols Talking Heads The Clash Television


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