Friday, April 29, 2016

Punk as Seen Through the Metal Mind

I'm a fan of music. Though I came up through my formidable years primarily listening to metal, I always liked classic rock, oldies, punk, even some classical and country. And though I listened to cheesy-ass rap wannabes when I was a youngster, that and hip hop are genres I regard about as highly as soft rock, disco, and bluegrass, which is to say I'm not a fan, with extremely rare exception (I'm looking at you Cypress Hill and Public Enemy!).

All roads lead back to heavy metal (and no, I'm not going to break down the 'types' of heavy metal I like with sub-genres like black metal, nu metal (yuck!), death metal, doom metal, sharp metal, rusty metal, etc.). That being said, it is well known that punk rock has been an influence for many a metal bands, because there's a kinship between the two musical styles. It's the distorted guitars, the speed, the angst, the growling vocals, the trashy swagger, the grit, the general disgruntled outlook and alienation. So this got me thinking: what are some of my favorite punk bands/albums? What kind of stuff turns on the metalhead? Well, here it is, in no particular order. These are the top 10 punk albums/bands that made in impact on my metal mind back when I was a disgruntled teenager, all of which I still listen to from time to time. This is the stuff that stuck with me for one reason or another.

1. Operation Ivy - I love everything they ever did, which wasn't nearly enough material. I was given a cassette tape of their anthology album back in Jr. high school. The tape looked like maybe five people owned it before me. I listened to that thing so much I'm surprised the tape didn't snap. Ultimately the tape was left in a friend's car, which was left in a convenience store parking lot in Oakland where the car died.

2. The Misfits - I'm a fan of pretty much all of the Danzig-era Misfits. This one isn't a stretch for the metal kid to get into, being that Glen Danzig later fronted Samhain and then had a career as a solo heavy metal artist. I think it was the Metallica cover of "Last Caress" that initially got me into them. Who can deny horror/punk? Cheesy as all hell, but I still listen to them to this day.

3. The Dead Kennedys - I'm a fan of all their albums with one exception: Bedtime for Democracy. That one has its moments, but it's not nearly as clever and thought-provoking as everything else they produced, most notably Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. I liked this band from the first time I heard them.

4. The Germs, MIA - This is dirty punk. I hated this shit when I first heard it. My buddy Crazy Chris loved this band back in high school. I heard stories about the singer having to have the mic duct taped to his hands, 'cause he was so fucked up he couldn't preform. That might be 'punk', but shit like that doesn't impress me (GG Allen is a great example of shit that makes me want to puke but was so 'punk'). That all being said, the best of their songs are just so damn catchy (sometimes sloppy, more-so than is necessary in my opinion). I actually think they would have been better with a more coherent singer, because the music end is fantastic.

5. The Vandals, Peace Thru Vandalism - These songs are off the wall stupid and funny and idiotic and just plain out fun. I kind of think they were trying to be a goofier version of the Dead Kennedys. The faux country songs were what caught my attention when I first heard these guys. Everything I've ever heard by them outside of these albums are shit. They went doooown hill fast and never looked back.

6. Rancid - Didn't like them at first. I thought they were a weak imitation of Operation Ivy. I had no idea at the time that Lars and Tim had been members of Op Ivy before starting Rancid. I actually didn't learn that for many years after becoming a fan of Rancid. Their albums are too long. Cut the weakest three songs or so and that would be great. The only exception to this rule, for me, is ...And Out Come the Wolves.

7. The Damned - Love this band! I've seen them live three times. Their albums aren't all punk (there was a goth/rock phase in the 80s with Phantasmagoria and Anything), but I'm a fan of pretty much their entire catalogue. Of the punk stuff, their debut is solid, Machine Gun Etequitte is amazing, and Grave Disorder was a great comeback record in the early 2000's.

8. The Clash, Live at Shea Stadium - I like the Clash, but I can take them or leave them. This live concert seals the deal, though. One of my favorite live albums ever. They're tight and they play a good set list for someone like me who isn't a massive fan. They'd opened for the Who, so I imagine that was a pretty good show back in the day.

9. Bad Brains, Banned in DC - I've never even heard anything else this band has done. I was told I would like this album so I gave it a shot and it stuck with me. Some call it the first 'hardcore' album, but I don't even understand what 'hardcore' is. To me it's just loud, aggressive punk rock and the guitars have an incredible tone...and there are a few reggae tunes in the mix. Not sure what to think about that. Kind of like bad comedy relief in a slaughterfest.

10. Fear, live...for the Record - I lied when I said I listen to all of these bands and/or albums. I haven't heard Fear since I owned this CD and my gutterpunk, asshole roommate stole it (or one of his crusty friends) a good fourteen years ago or so. Truth is, any number of people could have stolen it, I suppose, but the crusty folk had a hankering for this band. I like them because they have a very rock 'n' roll aesthetic that, when blended with general disgruntled rebellion, creates something loud and angry and fun to sing along to. I hate living in the city, but I really dig the song "I Love Livin' in the City", even though I haven't heard it in almost fifteen years.

Honorable mentions? Eh, there's a good Circle Jerks album. If you consider the New York Dolls punk, they're pretty damn good. Sex Pistols. Early Suicidal Tendencies (though they're a waaaaay better metal band). I love the Cramps and they're " half hillbilly and one half punk..." (and way batter than just about ever band listen above, as far as I'm concerned). I'm certainly missing something, but whatever. There it is. Hope I didn't waste too much of your time.