I first discovered the magical world of punk rock some 13 or so years ago. Back then, it was all I could do to introduce myself to all the exciting new stuff happening, as well as familiarize myself with the classics that everyone needs to hear. As time has progressed, I’ve judged the classics, kept what I liked, and discarded the rest. I sampled basically any band I could find from any era that could be a potential new favorite, and tried my best to keep up on new stuff at the same time.
It’s not always easy, of course. Punk rock is not a spectator sport. You have to do the research, find the new bands, seek out the shows, etc. And it’s an easy thing to stop caring about. I’m sure we’ve all taken “breaks” from punk rock for a little bit, got immersed in some other weird music, only to come running back as soon as something exciting happened again.
I remember when I first started getting into punk, I’d hear dismayed old punks talk about “back in the day,” how everything was so much better then, and how stuff now (then) was awful, blah blah. I’ve heard that same bullshit speech from the same boring ex-punks every year of my life since. And you know what? Fuck ’em. Punk is no less relevant now than it was when they were still into it, the only difference is their interest. Whatever kind of band you like, there’re new bands now doing the same thing, sometimes to the letter, sometimes as a catalyst, but there’s new stuff out there for everyone, regardless of what they’re into.
That said, I wanted to mention a couple of semi-recent (read: less than a year old) releases that I’ve been excited about lately. Granted, I was never an Exploited fan, so my apologies to all you charged-hairstyle, silver-studded punklets out there reading this. Don’t forget, kids, that street punk and pop punk are the same thing, just with different methods of posturing. Have an open mind about what is and is not OK to like or you’ll be done with punk sooner than you think.
Chinese Telephones are an astonishingly rare breed of band that somehow manages, against all odds, to always do everything exactly right. No exaggeration, there are zero missteps in their music. Democracy is a collection of all their old 7-inches, splits, rarities, etc. They broke up, the stupid bastards, but their legacy will live on here. And, you know, in our hearts (sniff). I’d say this collection is exactly as good as their brain-liquefyingly stellar self-titled debut LP, and features a couple of older versions of some of the same tracks. Good, loud, melodic Midwestern punk rock for listening to in the rain at the bus stop, or on a boom box you’ve duct-taped to your 10-speed. If you can’t find it in yourself to like this, seriously, there’s no way your life can be worth living.
Yes, they’re still together! And no, they don’t sound like NOFX anymore! Propagandhi have long been one of my favorite bands, since back when I first got to hear old fucks whine about punk rock not being relevant. They’ve updated their sound some, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been following them regularly all this time, but seemed to shock a couple of people I played it for. “Wait, so they’re, like, metal now?” Yessir! Supporting Caste is an unrelenting, brutal exercise in punk crossover. Combining the skate-punk melodies of Today’s Empires with the shrieking thrash of Potemkin City Limits, all while retaining their political and ideological sensibilities, it’s entirely possible that, 20 years into their career, Propagandhi have done the unthinkable and released their best album yet. The only downside to this is that some of the lyrics are so powerful they actually bum me out from time to time. But that shouldn’t affect you, YOU HEART-
LESS FUCKING ROBOTS.
These guys have been around for quite some time now, bridging the gap between the lightning-fast garagey pop punk of Scared of Chaka and the juvenile fun of F.Y.P. Their first LP was recorded in an abandoned green-bean cannery, rendering the song “(Ain’t Nobody Rockin’ at the) Vegetable Factory” by Boris the Sprinkler astonishingly inaccurate. This new one is more of the same: super-fun, super-fast, super-poppy, super-loud, super-awesome. Super duper!
These guys actually play around here quite a bit, and this has been out for about a year, so I’m sure you’re all familiar with this record by now. Sort of a hodgepodge of all eras Black Flag with a healthy amount of ’70s guitar wankery thrown in for good measure. Brutal and awesome. And FUN! For chrissakes, a FUN hardcore band! That shit’s barely even allowed anymore!
(Fat Wreck Chords)
Dillinger Four is probably the most crucial punk-rock band around today. Yes, I’m right; this isn’t up for debate. Socially conscious punk punk punk rock that’s still bubblegum as fuck (New idea: I’m gonna get “BUBBLEGUM AS FUCK” tattooed on my forehead. Yeah? No?). Put this on, turn it up super loud, be sure to read along with all the lyrics (very important!), and learn what happens when a perfect band gets all the ingredients just right. •
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