Top 10 Punk Records of 2017

Every year always brings a clutch of interesting punk releases, and 2017 was no different. I’ve listed the ten best punk records that I heard in 2017, but realise that there were undoubtedly a number that slipped through the net. I would therefore be happy for any suggestions from readers as to other 2017 punk records that I should look out for. It’s a mixed list, in the sense that there are a few styles of punk music represented in the selections, ranging from hardcore punk, to 60s garage punk, to post-punk, to trap-punk. It’s also mixed in the sense that it’s a fairly international representation of artists, including Americans, British, Lebanese, Spanish and Norwegian performers. It also ranges from the much-hyped to the truly obscure. Indeed, some of these releases are cassette-only releases in very small numbers, so if you like them, I would hurry up and track them down before they become difficult to find, and ludicrously expensive. Anyway, I hope you enjoy them. (The records are listed alphabetically, according to the artists’ name):

  1. Barcelona – Los Astrados


Ear-bleeding hardcore, sung by someone who sounds like a Mexican serial killer. Unsettling sound and sleeve.

2. The Creation Factory – Let Me Go


Obsessive copiers of the 60s garage punk sound and aesthetic. (The Chesterfields and The Thanes come to mind quickly).

3. Flat Worms – Petulance


New band featuring members with strong ties to Sic Alps, Ty Seagall, and Thee Oh Sees. A bit like a 1970s punk 7″ covered by Pavement.

4. Girls in Synthesis – Suburban Hell


Post-punkish noise merchants on the Blank Editions label. A bit of Swell Maps in there.

5. Haram – Blood


A 1983-ish, Dead Kennedys hardcore sound. Sung in Lebanese Arabic.

6. Ho99o9 – City Rejects


Lots of hype about these guys, and with some justification. This is off the album. Trap  (hip-hop’s even angrier cousin) mixed with punk.

7. Italia 90 – Competition


Art / post-punk. Cassette-only release. (They’ve obviously listened to a few Wire records).

8. Krimewatch – 小便 たれ 


The title means “Pissed” in Japanese. Great hardcore punk.

9. Nekra – Sisters of the Yam


More female-fronted hardcore. Cassette-only release.

10. Purple X – Awaken


Unsettling, tempo-changing hardcore from Norway. Just manages to stay the right side of the punk/metal divide. Cassette-only release.

#29 The Cortinas – Fascist Dictator (1977)

Not in the mood for any musings or content here – I’m too angry. This one is in “honour” of PM Rajoy’s Spanish government, and their fascistic crackdown, using riot police, on unarmed civilians, (men, women and young people), who are trying to vote in Catalonia. The fascist philosophy of Franco clearly lives on in Madrid. Rubber bullets and batons will never beat democracy, you utter tossers.


#28 Rocket Men – Rocket Man (1974)

I decided to post this because the name of the song is topical right now. “Rocket Man”. As in the insult that Donald Trump, the orange-tinted and crypto-fascist President of the US, recently used against Kim Jong-Un, the bat-shit-crazy and portly dictator of North Korea. Seems as good a reason as any. Rocket Men were also the same group as “Rockets”, “Rok-Etz” and “The Rocketerrs”, a French glam and space disco combo from Paris, who appear to have alternated between these names over the years. (In fact, as “The Rocketerrs”, they released a more rocky version of this single in the same year). This song, B-sided by the instrumental version, is a trashy, junkshop glam, electronic disco number, which has the feeling of a novelty record. Nevertheless, it’s a good ‘un. I first heard the record on the Killed by Glam – 14 Euro Glam Rock Gems compilation on Moon Boot Records, and it was the perfect way to kick-off the A-side. The song presaged the band’s most successful era, as “Rockets”, from 1977-1982.


#27 The Raindrops – Hanky Panky (1963)

The Raindrops were a 1960s pop group from New York, associated with the so-called “Brill Building” style of 60s pop. This term referred to pop song-writing which originated in the Brill Building in New York City, where numerous teams of professional songwriters penned material for 1960s pop groups. The term has also become a catch-all for the period in which those songwriting teams flourished.

The Raindrops existed from 1963 to 1965, and was made up of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, who were also both famous songwriters in the Brill Building mode. Barry and Greenwich wrote Hanky Panky when they were in the middle of a recording session for the Raindrops, and realised that they needed a B-side to the single, That Boy John. Legend has it that they penned this song, Hanky Panky, in 20 minutes. Some unkind souls might say that it sounds as though they had spent only that amount of time on it, because it is an unbelievably straightforward piece of music – but that’s kind of the point…It’s a lightweight, fun, smutty piece of candyfloss 60s pop, which gets people on the dancefloor. Job done. Even Barry and Greenwich themselves, however, were among those who didn’t rate the song, and deemed it inferior to the rest of their work. Barry commented to Billboard’s Fred Bronson that, “As far as I was concerned it was a terrible song. In my mind it wasn’t written to be a song, just a B-side.”  (The status of the B-Side has surely never been so cruelly dismissed!) Nevertheless, I love it, and I’m not the only one, because the song has been covered a few times, by the likes of Tommy James & Shondells, and the Summits, to name but two.


#26 La Düsseldorf – White Overalls (1978)

La Düsseldorf were a German Krautrock band, who released three albums in their lifetime. The band, which was made up of former Kraftwerk drummer and Neu! multi-instrumentalist, Klaus Dinger, and Neu! collaborators Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe, came together after the break-up of the legendary Neu! in 1975.

This track, White Overalls, is taken from the band’s second album, Viva, released in 1978 on Teldec Records. A proto-punk sensibility had first begun to develop on Neu!’s Neu! 75 album, and White Overalls represents an interesting point in time, when Krautrock began to cross over more fully into New Wave, with washed-out synthesizer sounds combining with trademark Krautrock 4/4 Motorik rhythms. Indeed, there is an unmistakable Plastic Bertrand sound to the song, but there are also still influences from a previous era working away too – namely Roxy Music. (There seemed to be a mutual love-in at work, because Brian Eno considered the band to be influential on him). Great stuff.



#25 Disco Reggae Band & Black Slate ‎– Sticks Man (1977)

Black Slate was a roots reggae band formed in 1974, including musicians from England, Jamaica, and Anguilla. Having backed Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe on their UK tours, they had their own reggae-chart hit themselves in 1977, (teaming up with the Disco Reggae Band), with this anti-mugging song, Sticks Man. The record was a hit the Dutch and Belgian charts, (after becoming a surprising underground hit in Antwerp nightclubs). Listening to it now, you can hear the musical DNA of the soon-to-be Two Tone movement in the UK.

They toured the UK for the first time in 1978, and formed their own TCD label.  They also backed reggae legend, Dennis Brown when he played in the UK.  An album, Amigo, was released in 1980, followed by Sirens In The City in 1981, on Ensign. The band released two further albums in 1982 and 1985, but little was heard of them after that. However, a new album, World Citizen, was released in 2014 after the band reformed in 2013.


#24 T. Rex – Chariot Choogle (1972)

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic death, at 29, of Marc Bolan in a car crash. There isn’t anything that I can say about Bolan and his band T. Rex that hasn’t been already written 100,000 times, but I just wanted to pay tribute to him on this significant date, by selecting a lesser-known T.Rex song, (if there is such a thing), and sharing it. It’s a track from their 4th album, The Slider, and demonstrates how far ahead of his time Bolan was as a songwriter, arranger, and musician. It still has a freshness to it, even in 2017. I got into T.Rex relatively late in the day, when my copy of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s heavily Bolan-influenced 1988  single, Sidewalking, sparked an interest in me to get to the DNA of the track. I’ve loved T.Rex ever since, and have often wondered what Bolan might have gone on to do had he lived. T. Rex’s final two albums, Futuristic Dragon (1976) and Dandy in the Underworld (1977), are still not really like any other albums I’ve ever heard, and indicate perhaps that he could have taken rock into wildly new and uncharted territory. Sadly, we shall never know. So much potential. Only 29.

RIP #Forever29trex

#23 Hüsker Dü – Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely (1986)

This blog post is intended as a tribute to Grant Hart, drummer of Hüsker Dü, whose death I have just heard about. The reason I chose this song, apart from the fact that I love it, is that it showcases Hart’s fast drumming style. I probably could have chosen better examples of his musicianship, but this is the song that came to mind – it was, after all, the first song I’d ever heard by Hüsker Dü – a joyous highlight of an awful time in my life.

Born Grantzberg Hart, March 18, 1961 in St. Paul, Minnesota, in addition to being drummer of Hüsker Dü, (meaning “Do you remember?” in Danish and Norwegian), he was also a  co-songwriter. Hart formed the band in 1979 with Bob Mould and his friend, Greg Norton. The band were initially  part of the American hardcore punk movement of the early 1980s, but their song-writing ability and musicianship marked them out as different from the majority of such bands, who usually sank into obscurity after one or two singles/EPs. In 1986, Hüsker Dü became the first significant band from the American indie scene to sign with a major label, (Warner Bros.).

However, this did not herald a new period of success for the band. In fact, tensions developed in the band after this time, largely because of issues surrounding Hart’s heroin addiction, (which he never really fully recovered from), and he even accused Mould of ensuring that he could not have more than 45% of the songs on each of the band’s albums. The band broke up acrimoniously in 1987 after releasing ten albums, Hart stating that Mould’s songs had become increasingly “square.” (See Michael Azerrad’s book,  Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991). After the band’s breakup in 1988, Hart formed the alternative rock trio Nova Mob, where he moved to vocals and guitar. Hart’s solo career became his main focus after the dissolution of Nova Mob in 1997.

There is a forthcoming 3-disc release of Hüsker Dü’ s earliest material, entitled Savage Young Du, which shows what prolific songwriters Hart and Mould were, and how influential they were on the American underground music scene in the 1990s. Indeed, the Chicago Tribune say that the band, “cast a wide shadow over American rock of the ’80s and ’90s and beyond, influencing untold thousands of fans and musicians, not least Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl.” This was echoed by Hart himself only recently, when said of Savage Young Du: “Hearing this stuff for the first time in a couple of decades, I [was] realizing the historical significance of what we were doing at the time. Of course, at the time, we were a bunch of kids playing rock ‘n’ roll in the basement. But the potential that Hüsker had showed right out of the gate.” RIP.


#22 Bubblegum Splash! – Plastic Smile (1987)

Bubblegum Splash! were a short-lived indie band from Salisbury, England. The band featured Jim Harrison, Alan Harrison, Dave Todd, Marty Cummins, and Nikki Barr. The group disbanded in 1988. They recorded for indie label, the Subway Organisation, and their only release, (apart from an appearance on a split flexi-disc with the Darling Buds), was the 1987 EP “Splashdown”. Plastic Smile is taken from this EP.

The record showcases the typical sound, image and approach of the so-called post-post-punk “twee”, “shambling” “anorak” or “C86” movement, which churned out short, sweet and almost childlike pop melodies usually sung by girls, set against knowingly sloppy, fuzzed-out and feedback-seasoned guitars, and primitive drumming and tambourines. The sound had its roots in the Ramones’ minimalist three-chord structures, 60s girl group meldoies and harmonies, the buzzy punk-pop of the Buzzcocks, the DIY post-punk pop of Glasgow’s Postcard scene bands, (like Orange Juice), the Jesus and Mary Chain’s feedback-drenched melodies, and the melodic but raw sounds of early 80s bands like the Pastels and Television Personalities. The Scottishness of some of the key influences, (Postcard, Orange Juice, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Pastels), perhaps explains why a plethora of these bands came from Scotland – e.g. the Shop Assistants, Jesse Garon and the Desperados, the Clouds, the Soup Dragons, the Fizzbombs, Baby Lemonade, the Bachelor Pad, Rote Kapelle, to name but a few. Supported by a virtual industry of DIY pop fanzines and free flexi-discs, both the bands and fans tended towards a certain look – 60s-style bowl-cuts, anoraks or leather jackets (not the punk or biker kind), stripey t-shirts (essential), tight black trousers and winkle-pickers. This scene, which only really lasted a couple of years, and ran out of steam by around 1989, (being the key influence on the so-called “Shoe-gazing” scene of the early 90s), is catalogued in Sam Knee’s A Scene in Between book. I was very much part of it, back in the day, (complete with bowl-cut, etc, etc.), and had a great time following all these bands around with my goth girlfriend, (who moderated her black lacquered look at these gigs).

But what always annoys me is that there is no settled name for this musical movement, (a fact perhaps demonstrated by the prosaic title of Sam Knee’s book), and the various names that we do have are either pejorative or inaccurate. “Twee” and ”anorak”, make it sound like the scene was a long children’s birthday party, and ”shambling”, (a John Peel-coined description, celebrating the deliberately sloppy nature of the music), suggests the music was crap, which it certainly wasn’t. “C86” is a lazy and inaccurate title, given on the back of the C86 cassette compilation released by the British music magazine NME, featuring new bands licensed from British independent record labels of the time.  (The tape was a belated follow-up to C81, a collection of new bands’ songs released by the NME in 1981 in conjunction with Rough Trade). It is stupid, however, to apply this name to the scene described in this blog post, because the C86 tape had a track list made up of various bands with very different sounds and influences, and cannot be shoe-horned into one scene. Anyway, if anything, bands like Bubblegum Splash! belonged to the class of 1987. So, we need a name for this “Scene in Between”. Any suggestions?


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