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The Ten Best American Hardcore Punk Albums

Here's what Black Flag looks like in 2013.
Here's what Black Flag looks like in 2013.

Seeing that a form of Black Flag is touring right now (and playing Trees on Friday), we thought it a good time to investigate American hardcore punk rock. For all practical purposes, the beginning of hardcore in the states happened in the early 80's. While many hardcore acts were inspired by the Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Clash, bands such as Minor Threat, The Misfits and Bad Brains were far more extreme and intense.

Throughout the 80's, two highly competitive scenes emerged in American hardcore punk: one in D.C. and one in L.A. And although the styles of the bands from each coast were markedly different, the power on display was a universal constant. So much so that this list could easily be doubled or tripled without any diminished greatness.

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10. Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster Released in 1983, Mommy's Little Monster was the debut full length from Mike Ness and Social Distortion. More influenced by rockabilly and country than any band of the era, Monster none-the-less rocked hard from start to finish.

9. The Descendents - Milo Goes to College Smartass and just plain smart, Milo Goes to College was the wonderful debut from The Descendents. 15 songs and not a bum note in the batch and "I'm Not a Loser" is one of the great American punk rock anthems.

8. The Germs - (GI) Although this album was released in 1979, the spirit and intensity fits comfortably with 80's hardcore. The late Darby Crash was the model for many singers who came after him and his seething performance on (GI) is still remarkable three decades later.

 

7. Fear - The Record Fear's performance on SNL in 1981 is one of the touchstone events in American punk rock and the band's debut album matches the shambolic absurdity of that night. Lee Ving was the obnoxious bully of a frontman who could pull off shit like "Beef Bologna" and "I Don't Care About You." Juvenile, offensive and catchy, Fear never sounded better.

6. Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables Jello Biafra was less of a singer and more of a rabble rouser. His lisping, leftist attacks were borderline clever, but the backing of guitarist East Bay Ray and bassist Klaus Flouride saves the day in standout songs as "Holiday in Cambodia" and the classic "California Uber Alles."

5. Bad Brains - I Against I D.C.'s Bad Brains featured the best musicians in the punk rock genre and I Against I is the band's signature statement. Fusing punk and reggae wasn't exactly a new idea, but Bad Brains took it to a new level by incorporating flashes of metal and soul. Songs like "Re-Ignition," "She's Calling You" and "Sacred Love" took American punk to a whole new level.

4. Husker Du - New Day Rising Fans may prefer the double album Zen Arcade , but for my money, the best punk record made by Minneapolis' Husker Du was New Day Rising . The subject matter of songs written by Grant Hart and Bob Mould was world's away from what most punks were yelling about, but the sheer raucous power of songs such as "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" and "I Apologize" is deafening and demanding.

 

3. Minor Threat - Complete Discography It may be cheating to include a compilation on this list, but hardcore punk was all about the EP and this fantastic collection includes everything Ian McKaye and crew released between 1980-83. Nothing in punk rock was as visceral as what Minor Threat produced. Songs like "Small Man, Big Mouth," "Bottled Violence" and "Salad Days" set the standard for straight edge punk that has yet to be equaled.

2. The Misfits - Walk Among Us We all knew that a lot of punk rock singers couldn't sing. That's part of the genre's charm. But it was refreshing to hear Glen Danzig's baritone roar when he fronted The Misfits. Walk Among Us is a goofy horror punk record that has brains and balls. You may chuckle when you listen to "I Turned Into a Martian," "Devil's Whorehouse" and "Astro Zombies," but you cannot deny the songs' relentless muscle.

1. Black Flag - Damaged When Henry Rollins moved from D.C. to L.A. and joined Black Flag, the band became a different beast. While still capable of genuine humor, Black Flag with Henry Rollins was a seething bundle of noise and nerves. Damaged is simply the best album ever released by an American punk band. It's funny, shocking, abrasive and poignant. Songs such as "Rise Above," "TV Party," "Six Pack" and "Gimme Gimme Gimme" are as anthemic as they are joyfully messy.

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