overground scene

My 10 favourite UK punk albums

A long time ago I realised that the british bands that I loved were among the ones with a more american sound. The Damned sound like the New York Dolls, and have Ramones and Stooges influences. On their amazing first album they play a stooges cover as well. The same goes for the Adicts and the Buzzcocks who have a style that resembles a lot the Ramones style of punk. Of course other phenomenal bands like Stiff little fingers, or second wave bands like The Partisans, Blitz and so on, certainly have a more “british” sound and are equally loved.

Nevertheless, as I have mentioned in previous posts, it is a bit tricky arguing over what resembles what, since they all have some common roots and in most cases time lags between the creation of similar bands are marginal. One thing for sure, british punk bands had this “rude” thing going on that diversified them from other punk scenes. Except the first one, which is indeed my number 1, all others are in random order.

1. Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material (1979)

I don’t have much to say about my all time favorite punk record. I.M. does not have one boring/uninspired second! Each and every song is unique. It is fast, pissed off, emotional, a little bit of everything. How is it when you want to show someone how good a record is and you put the two-three most impressive songs of the album… In this album all songs are the most impressive of the album. It is like a Beatles compilation with all the “number ones”, where each song is the best until the next one starts! Burns has the most incredible vocals ever and they are 100% punk. These vocals don’t make you a superstar. Godly riffs, godly solos, frenzied rhythms and an amazing cover song. Everything is so inspired in this album that I find it hard to highlight its best aspects!

2. The Adicts – Songs of Praise (1981)

Before the release of their first album, the Adicts had already achieved so much! If this album (their first) had never been released and the adicts had quit in 1979, there would still be something from them in this list. Their 1978-79 singles are better than what most of other british (and american) bands achieved in a lifetime. This album is perfect and has all the qualities of the singles, with a slightly worse production. Monkey is among the few extremely talented singers, with a stunningly versatile voice. With the way he sings he turns most of the songs from very good to magnificent. I cannot grasp how on earth he came up with that singing on “hurt“! Moreover, his voice is actually beautiful on songs like “songs of praise”. How possible is that to say for a punk singer? The strange thing about this band is that the other members are my favorite musicians from the english punk scene as well. Lyric-wise they look, in general, at the light side of life. However, you can sense some seriousness and awareness on songs like “in the background”. A gem!

3. CRASS – The Feeding of the 5000 (1978)

The feeding … is the definition of hardcore anarchist punk. The first record ever, without melody and the conventions, overall, of rock music. It is offensive and has no respect for any kind of authority, may it be political-musical-ideological. It confronts the arrogance of punks who are in reality indifferent and ignorant and at the same time, claim that they can cause a revolution and change the world. It explicitly points out all the bad things inside the punk scene and declares its death. Musically it’s furious and raw. Throughout the album there is not one single trace of melody. I personally doubt it that there has been another album before that, where there is no conventional song structure, no melody, yet songs are undoubtedly songs. Many followed of course after that. The first one ever, though, deserves a distinct place in music history.

4. The Partisans – Idiot Nation (2004)

Idiot+NationThe partisans were bred inside a declining punk scene of drunk, racist and un-original bands in the early 80s. Their first ep’s were indicative of a tight, serious and original punk band. Songs like ‘police story‘, ‘power and greed’, ’17 years of hell’ of of their ep’s and ‘partisans’, ‘never needed you’, of their eponymous album, manifest an ability to compose and execute catchy yet brilliant songs, meant to become classic. However, their 2004 album has been one of the most pleasant surprises to me. And that is, because it is so perfect that it deserves to be among the best punk albums ever. Far from their old sound, of which traces can be found only in one or two songs (e.g. ‘what I want’), they sound more like The Clash (give em enough rope Era). However, all songs are unique, none reminds of something else, and most importantly they are fresh and perfectly orchestrated and performed. Lyrics are perfect as well. Of all old punk bands reunited, the Partisans are by far the most honest. They have something substantial to offer. They don’t recycle their glorious past. All songs are beautiful and of the kind that are impossible to be written anymore. Favourite songs: ‘That girl’, ‘Hypervalue’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Reality TV‘, ‘Keep on’, ‘No one asked us’.

5. Subhumans – The Day the Country Died (1983)

The first subhumans album is another classic one of the anarchist scene. They also made an impressive return with their new album last year (which I dare say is their second best). Always more musical and skilled than the other bands of their scene, Subhumans progressed from album to album, but never topped their first one (in my opinion). Here songs are more diverse but also furious and intense as ever. The classic ‘Mickey mouse is dead‘ is one of the best songs ever written. This album, even though it clearly goes down the path crass have paved, contains songs that are more punk-rock oriented (musicwise) like ‘zyklon-b movies’ or ‘dying world’. All in all a perfect album that needs no further praising.

6. Conflict – The Final Conflict (1988)

Conflict, a heir apparent of crass, is another band that I could not decide which of their albums I like more. At first I decided that their first album is ‘objectively’ their best. It constitutes the trademark anarcho-hardcore sound and songs like ‘meat is murder’, ‘1824 overture’, ‘bullshit broadcast’, ‘one nation under…’ are not only brilliant but also innovative songs. However, my favourite album is probably The Final conflict. Steve ignorant sings in a couple of songs here, including the unbelievable ‘I heard a rumor’. This song would win the prize of “Best Punk Duet”, if it existed. An extremely inspired album with modern hardcore sound. The eponymous song and a couple of others, are long epic songs with a lot of changes and melodies. Most american anarcho-hardcore bands, either the first wave (e.g. Resist, Deprived…) or the second (Provoked, Tragedy, Behind enemy lines…) copied this style.

7. Discharge – Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing (1982)

The thing that is remarkable about this album is that it sounds exactly like a bulldozer. As far as I know, there has never been anything similar before Discharge. After them of course thousands followed. Discharge, and this album in particular, must be the most influential album ever for hardcore/grindcore bands around the world. So what if american bands have been faster and more technical?! Never America produced something equally brutal and powerful like discharge. The drum beat was monumental, the vocals were monstrous, the lyrics were laconic and straight to the point. This combination was unique and no matter how many bands copied it or “refined” it, the original feeling is impossible to be captured.

8.The Clash – Give ’em Enough Rope (1978)

The_Clash_-_Give_'Em_Enough_RopeThe second clash album has always been my favourite. Although less furious than the first one and less musical/diverse than the third one, it represents a perfect middle way. Strummer gives some of his best performances, the two guitars paint much more sophisticated and beautiful pictures than most punk bands ever did. This was the second or third punk album I ever bought. What I first appreciated was that it was a very sentimental album, in relation to other bands I had heard at that time (i.e. Dead Kennedys, sex pistols, exploited, etc). Nevertheless, it was undisputedly “punk”. Songs like ‘tommy gun‘ or ‘safe european home’ became my favourite and I used to sing them all day long. But for songs like ‘stay free’ this album became so loved. I never learned whether the story of this song was based on actual facts.

9. The Adverts – Crossing the Red Sea (1978)

The-Adverts-Crossing-The-Red-25333Crossing… is one of those albums which you can’t stop listening to once you discover it. Powerful, aggressive and yet sentimental, expresses the worries and aliveness of the thinking teenagers of that time. Each song has a catchy melody and chorus that stick to your head. Each and every song is an instant classic. It is impossible to pick a couple of favourite songs. This album is addictive from the first note! Most of the songs are too fast and intense for the time the album came out. In their slower and more atmospheric moments, they share common elements with the Zounds. I think that together with ‘Wire’, ‘Gang of Four’ and ‘Clash’ they are the band that influenced the new wave of uninspired pop-rock british groups of the last decade (i.e. franz ferdinand, and hundred more). Other times I think that this band introduced a style in rock music that died with it.

10. The Damned – Machinegun Etiquette (1979)

The third album of the Damned is among my favourite for several reasons. First of all, it is lightyears ahead of its time! It is fast and furious, progressive … or in just two words: open minded. Every song is completely different from what the damned had ever done. Every song is different from what other bands had done. Take for example the bass-line and the rhythm of “love song“. Was there anything similar back then (1979)?! I don’t think so. What about the melodies of “Anti-pope” or “Melody Lee”. Pure inspiration. Even though their first album is equally loved, the reason I choose this one is because it is has variety and is 100% original. The first album is indeed a masterpiece, but sounds a lot like the ‘New York Dolls’.


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