A few weeks ago, we wrote about some of the most underrated post-punk bands. The post was pretty popular, so we figured we’d takes things back a bit, and write about our favorite underrated punk songs. Enjoy!
At the heart of the punk rock scene lies a rather troubling paradox, and it’s one that I believe most followers of the genre avoid acknowledging at all costs. Simply put, punk rock is a genre that very much celebrates exploring one’s musical and nonmusical interests with little to no regard for society’s opinion. It’s an individualistic genre to be sure.
That being said, it seems that across the world, gathered under the banner of being “the counter-culture”, punks have gotten into pretty much the same music. Ask any typical punk kid what his favorite acts are, and chances are his answer and the next five kids’ answers will all be remarkably similar.
For a genre that celebrates choosing one’s own culture and rejecting the influence of others, there’s a hell of a lot of people out there that seem to have chosen the exact same path, often entirely because it’s what their friends or family are into.
Deep down, I realize this is because at this point in its history, punk and the culture surrounding it is just another clique, just like the ravers, hipsters, and rappers. Punk has lost it’s counter-cultural status; punk is dead.
…or maybe it’s simply because not enough people are aware of the fantastic punk music that exists under the radar. In order to educate our readers in some decent punk they may not have heard of, I’ve compiled a list of the most underrated punk songs of all time. Some are popular, some are underground, and one is simply a tune I happen to be fond of, but whatever. Let’s get to the list.
1. “Girl Parts” – The Static Jacks
Across all genres, no musical skill is as overlooked as singing punk. To the layman, the vocal abilities of most punk bands sound like nothing more than “some dude screaming”, although to be fair this assumption does fit many underground punk acts. However, some of the more established groups prove that maintaining a wide dynamic range and interesting melodic pattern can improve tracks. The 2011 track “Girl Parts” by the Static Jacks is an example of such a vocal tactic.
The song features two singers, Ceci Gomez of Beast Makes Bomb and the Static Jack’s own Ian Devaney, each of whom plays off the others’ lyrics throughout the track. Truthfully, it’s a rather simple arrangement, though compared to most of their contemporaries, the tune is rather complex.
In particular, this song should be on your radar due to it’s impressive ability to bridge the gap between pop-rock and punk vocals. Both Gomez and Devaney have the prowess to sing far more difficult tunes than the punk rock their band plays. However, when the music kicks up, each is capable of breaking their voice and going for a more classic punk sound. This type of versatility is rarely seen in the punk scene, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
2. “More Beer” – Fear
The last entry focused on the impressive vocal abilities of the Static Jacks, which is great and all, but try to draw your attention to another aspect of this entry’s track, 1985’s “More Beer”. The track (and frankly the rest of the identically named album) are chaotic, erractic, and rock like nothing else of its time.
Fear was infamous in the 80’s for being a party band; likely the peak of their career came during their performance in a 1981 Saturday Night Live episode during which they caused $20,000 worth of damage to the set. That’s exactly the kind of punk band that Fear was: the musical talent was questionable, but their ability to party was absolutely legendary.
That’s where “More Beer” comes in. If any song can simultaneously be awful and yet intoxicatingly fun, it’s definitely deserving of a listen. “More Beer” fits that bill nicely, and exemplifies a band who had a fairly significant effect on the West Coast punk scene back in the day, much like our next overlooked act…
3. “Pipeline” – Agent Orange
Agent Orange was likely the most successful group on this list, even scoring a track on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 soundtrack (and really, what could be a higher honor for a punk band than that?). The group was the prototypical surf-punk band, injecting a healthy dose of sunny California into the classic punk formula.
Living in Darkness was released in 1981 and features most of the group’s most popular tracks, including the one we’ll focus on, “Pipeline”. This tune is instrumental, an anomaly for this group, but that only lets the surf-iness of the instruments shine brighter. In particular, focus on the phased out guitar lines, which can only be described by the adjective tubular.
Most of Agent Orange’s music is more traditional punk tunes with surf undertones, but when the group allows that influence to shine, it’s really something spectacular. There’s little doubt that this group will go down in history as one of the great punk bands of that era, and luckily enough, they’re still playing shows, though we can’t say how much age has tarnished their punk attitude.
4. “Why Are We Sleeping?” – The Urinals
One of the best parts of punk music is the awful, grimy underground acts that constantly proliferate the scene. While most of these acts are fantastic to see live, their recordings are generally awful, low quality, and for the most part pleasant to the ear.
Every so often, however, the DIY approach works. For whatever reason, in one out every one hundred cases, the clanging drum beats, overly distorted guitars, and drunk sounding vocals clicks, and the product is quite energetic and cool. “Why Are We Sleeping?”, the 25th track of the Urinals’ Negative Capabiltieis…Check It Out! album, is one such case.
The song isn’t particularly well-written, but frankly it doesn’t need to be. It’s loud, fast, and makes you want to punch somebody in the face, which I’m sure is the exact three goals the Urinals had in mind when making this track. This would be a great one to throw on at a party, especially towards the peak of the party, when the beer is almost gone and the vibe has reached a climax. You know the moment I’m talking about, because it’s the exact moment this song was written for. It’s the moment when things seem to be all the way up, but then the drum track comes in, and all of sudden things are about to go so much higher.
5. “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” – Dillinger Four
The defining reason that “Why Are We Sleeping?” works is because it’s too fun not to work, which is the exact reason “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” was added to this list. The band plays simple, masses-friendly punk music, which rightfully makes most purists shudder. However, there’s no denying that “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” has a certain magnetism to it that few other songs from this era can match.
There is, however, one other reason that one should be aware of “Doublewhiskeycokenoice”, and it’s Green Day. The ultra-popular pop-punk stars supposedly copied this song when writing their track “American Idiot”. Now, this blog does not support plagiarism in any form, but frankly, it’s hard to give a shit if Dillinger Four copied Green Day or vice versa. What’s most ultimately more entertaining (and more telling of the punk scene) is the massive online debates surrounding this topic.
Seriously, go to a punk rock forum, or to YouTube, the mecca of stupid comments, and do a search for this song. You’ll find hundreds of individuals from across the world taking advantage of the breathtaking connectivity offered by the internet to relay but one message: “D4 can sux dicks, Green Day 4 life.”
Don’t feel bad about laughing at these idiots, wasting their time debating who wrote what. It’s a three cord riff; it’s been written by thousands of people over the history of music, but don’t tell them that: I’m still enjoying laughing at their stupidity, and if there’s one thing that punk music is really about, it’s laughing at stupid people.