If I actually kept careful track of how I spend my days, I am sure the result would be that I overwhelming pass through twenty-four hours by reading and listening to music (usually both at the same time). As I reflect on my rapidly-ending year, then, I figure the best way to capture this moment is to take stock of my all-time favorite albums and books. Aside from the sentimental value, there’s also the future hilarity of it: I can already look at my old journal and enjoy a hearty laugh at the crap I used to listen to (and how much of it is the same crap I still listen to). I’m also inspired into doing this by this really cool blog by the lead singer of the band Paint It Black, who is introducing his newborn daughter to punk rock with one seminal record per day.
1. Bad Religion – Suffer
What other band in the world could write these lyrics and still sound cool: “I am just an atom in an ectoplasmic sea / Without direction or a reason to exist / The anechoic nebula rotating in my brain / Is persuading me, contritely, to persist”? Although the fact that this album spawned literally hundreds of So-Cal punk bands counts too, I think the use of “anechoic” earns it a place in and of itself.
2. Against Me! – Reinventing Axel Rose
“Let’s make everybody sing / That they are the beginning and ending of everything / That we all are stronger than everything they taught us that we should fear.” With their recent major label 10-track-long-vomit-attack, Against Me! are now betraying their own commitment to relentlessly DIY music, but that still hasn’t ruined this cowboy/anarcho/acoustic-fusion punk album for me. If I ever drove off a cliff, I’d want to be listening to track three: “We Laugh At Danger and Break All The Rules.”
3. Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation
“I’m no good / You’re no better / Wouldn’t we be perfect together?” Although the Bouncing Souls are a solid twenty years older than me, I feel like we’re growing older together: songs I used to think were juvenile now strike me as heartfelt and profound. They capture perfectly the tension between becoming more mature and thoughtful and wanting to stay a goofball. It’s also hard for me to separate their music from how genuinely loveable they are onstage. So rad!
4. The Unseen – State of Discontent
“Stumble and fail or reach the sky / You’ll never know unless you try / Dealt misery while some are blessed / Who measures failure, what is success?” This may rank, to the lay-person, as the most unlistenable of my favorite albums (you should hear their earlier stuff…). The first time I heard this album, I was driving through the desert and could afford to crank the volume up to near maximum. It remains a fantastic scream-along for all those moments when the world just deserves to be yelled at.
5. The Gaslight Anthem – Sink or Swim
“As heard by my wild young heart / Like directions on a cold dark night, Sayin’, ‘Let it out… You’re doin’ all right.’ / And I carried these songs like a comfort wherever I’d go.” Gaslight’s lead singer, Brian Fallon, has an eternal place in my heart for a) mentioning several Northeast Corridor Jersey Transit stops in a single song and b) taking Jackie’s song request during his acoustic set.
6. Propagandhi – Supporting Caste
“A piece of advice / If you’re cast on thin ice / You may as well dance.” Propagandhi pulled off a perhaps unparalleled feat in their recent album by singing about anarchism and not seeming stupid while doing it. They also wrote a song about (humanely) killing and eating Michael Pollan and Sandor Katz, two prominent advocates of post-vegetarianism. I’m pretty sure that’s the secret fantasy of most frustrated vegan activists.
7. Rise Against – Revolutions Per Minute
“In a world void of feeling or heart / I know that we are the torches in the dark.” My freshman summer, Matt, Joe, and I half-seriously attempted to start a band in my garage, without a proper drum set, amps, or a microphone. I did it in part with the hope that someday I would be able to play songs like Rise Against and have the impact on a crowd of kids the way they impacted me. I didn’t discover them early enough to say they were the soundtrack to my growing up, but I wish they had been.
8. Conflict – Deploying All Means Necessary
“When life’s not making any sense and you’re filled with anger and resent / Remember love can conquer all / It is the start of state hates’ final fall.” Get this: I moved to the United Kingdom about fifty percent because I got a scholarship to study something that fascinates me at a renowned university, and fifty percent because I wanted to go see Conflict live. And yet, somehow, shortly before my arrival, Conflict—a punk rock institution that has transcended line-up changes and state repression for 30 years—broke up. Bullocks.
9. Andrew Jackson Jihad – People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World
“Rejoice despite the fact this world will kill you / Rejoice despite the fact this world will tear you to shreds / Rejoice because you’re trying your best.” AJJ get points for the ridiculous band name, possibly more ridiculous album name, and simultaneously absurdly pessimistic and heartening lyrics. The fact that a guy with an acoustic guitar singing about god backed up by another guy with an up-right bass can be considered a “punk band” is, in my opinion, a true testament to the scene.
10. Rancid – …And Out Come The Wolves
“Destination unknown.” Tim Armstrong wins the award for simultaneous worst / best / no, actually worst voice in punk rock. And yet somehow, between the mumbled lyrics and Tim’s apparent unwillingness to play his guitar onstage, they totally rock.
Hono(u)rable Mentions: Strike Anywhere – Iron Front, Subhumans – Worlds Apart, NOFX – The Decline, Bomb the Music Industry! – Goodbye Cool World, Minor Threat – Complete Discography, Alkaline Trio – Goddamnit.
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Oh! Also, in an effort to improve this blog’s procrastination utility (for me, that is) I have decided to add in the “feature” of my old live journal – current music! This will provide more irrelevant information no one cares about (is there any other kind on here?).
Soundtrack: Strike Anywhere – Postcards from Home