The central message of 1977 punk may have been "No future", but 45 years on, the genre's finest bands refuse to accept that the world - and its citizens, institutions and structures - is beyond reform, much less beyond redemption.
Here are the 10 best punk albums of the past 12 months, each one proving that the global punk scene is more engaged and enraged than ever.
10. Soulside - A Brief Moment In The Sun
The first Soulside album in 33 years had no business being this good, this urgent, or this relevant. In a short summary of the album's genesis on their bandcamp page, the Washington DC quartet reference the fact that this is Soulside picking up where they left off "but with zero nostalgia in the mix."
With Bobby Sullivan's lyrics addressing matters personal and political, spanning historical racial oppression and the Capitol insurrection, A Brief Moment In The Sun is a powerful, incisive critique of America's past, present and future.
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9. Meryl Streek - 796
If you imagine a state-of-the-Irish-nation companion piece to Gallows' Grey Britain, delivered by a one man Sleaford Mods, with the anger dialled up to 'apoplectic', you'll have a rough idea of where Meryl Streek's debut album 796 is coming from. "There's stuff happening in Ireland right now that needs to be addressed, and I just thought, Fuck it, I'm going to put my head in the guillotine and say what needs to be said," Streek told us this year.
Mixing electronic beats, TV news samples, grinding riffs and spoken word rants, this is a raw, visceral and utterly uncompromising debut from a welcome new voice in Irish music.
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8. Special Interest - Endure
Incorporating disco and funk beats, sweet pop melodies, and elevating dancefloor dynamics, on a surface level Endure sounds like a party album... but on closer inspection the New Orleans band's third album is closer to a requiem for the American dream of liberty and justice for all.
"Liberal erasure of militant uprising is a tool of corporate interest" runs one lyric on the seething Concerning Peace: "Black blood washes the concrete of my beloved city's streets," Alli Logout sings on Kurdish Radio. There's murder on this dancefloor, and Special Interest aren't afraid to call out self-satisfied liberals for their complicity in the maintenance of a status quo which facilitates oppression and discrimination.
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7. Hammered Hulls - Careening
Likely to be the last album ever recorded and mixed at Inner Ear, the legendary studio in which Minor Threat, Rites Of Spring, Fugazi, Jawbox, Nation Of Ulysses and more recorded classic albums, Careening is a superb addition to the Dischord catalogue.
The voice of the Untouchables, Faith and Ignition, and arguably even better known as the teenager on the cover of Minor Threat's self-titled 1981 EP, frontman Alec MacKaye is a DC hardcore veteran, but his new band's first album has all the righteous fire and fury of the most incandescent punk debuts.
6. Petrol Girls - Baby
Did anyone really imagine that we'd emerge out of lockdown into a kinder, more compassionate world? Dream on. On Baby, Petrol Girls' third album, vocalist Ren Aldridge has no shortage of bones to pick, whether critiquing police brutality (Violent By Design), highlighting attacks upon abortion rights (Baby I Had An Abortion), or calling out holier-than-thou attitudes in left-wing communities (Preachers). Pushing the quartet's sound into new territories, Baby is the sound of a re-energised band ready for battles old and new.
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5. Bad Breeding - Human Capital
The central tenet of Human Capital - that individuals are more than mere fuel to keep the fires of capitalism burning - is hardly a novel idea, but Stevenage punks Bad Breeding explore the theme with impassioned zeal on their ferocious fourth album.
The artwork of Human Capital resembles an anarcho-punk fanzine from the '80s, and many of the themes here - British nationalism, the casual cruelty of Conservatism, the exploitation of the working class - are the same which preoccupied the likes of Crass, Flux of Pink Indians and Rudimentary Peni in Thatcher's Britain. The fucking cunts still treat us like pricks, but Bad Breeding aren't about to accept that there's no other way.
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4. Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems
“I would say the main themes in my writing are self-analysis, mental illness, racism, interpersonal violence, state violence, abuse, capitalism – living under it,” Soul Glo vocalist Pierce Jordan told The Guardian earlier this year. One of those rare punk albums which transcends the community and attracts rave notices from mainstream publications, Diaspora Problems is an instant classic: hardcore, hip-hop and a whole lotta heart.
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3. High Vis - Blending
Influenced by Fugazi, Echo And The Bunnymen and Ride, High Vis' second album finds the London band easing away from their deep-rooted hardcore origins without sacrificing passion or power.
With frontman Graham Sayle addressing politics, inter-personal relationships and emotional landscapes scarred by lies, betrayal, fear and hatred, Blending is a fierce, resonant and vital document from a resurgent UK punk scene. "We're destitute and we're demoralised / Our suffering disguised as pride," Sayle sings on the brilliant 0151. "If you won't give it, then we'll fucking take it." An inspirational record.
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2. The Interrupters - In The Wild
LA ska-punks The Interrupters have yet to release an album that failed to hit the bullseye, but even by their own ridiculously high standards, In The Wild is a special record. Few albums are so relentlessly upbeat while laying bare such painful, brutal truths, as vocalist Aimee Interrupter shares the story of her life with astonishing candour and courage.
From escape anthem Anything Was Better to the unflinching self-analysis of In The Mirror ("Took me a long time to come clean / To be honest, the truth's so ugly") to the cathartic Let 'Em Go this is an album of rare, raw honesty. ‘Love is an action, start with yourself!’ Aimee Interrupter sings with mentor Tim Armstrong and Two-Tone icon Rhoda Dakar on As We Live: let's hope this fearless emotional inventory has brought the singer true peace at last.
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1. Bob Vylan - Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life
Back in 2020, Bob Vylan were introduced to visitors to this website as "the grime-punk duo the music industry didn't want you to hear", their debut album We Live Here having been deemed too "extreme" by cautious major label A&R scouts. Fast forward to November 2022, and the still-independent Londoners made history as the first band to lift the MOBO Awards' inaugural Best Alternative Music Act trophy, a fitting acknowledgement of their rising profile and the impact made by their stunning second album, Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life.
Hailed by Classic Rock as "an incisive, furious, electric wake-up call", the 14-track album draws upon punk, hip-hop, grime, and metal as a launch pad for a searing indictment of modern Britain, calling out racism, police brutality, a corrupt, corrosive Tory government, the marginalisation of the working class and discrimination in all its forms. This isn't an album tilting for mainstream acceptance - “No liberal leftie cunt is going to tell me that punching Nazis ain’t the way," spits Bobby Vylan on Pretty Songs. "If you wanna hold hands and sing, go do it over there while the big boys play…” - but this fiercely confrontational collection seals the duo's status as the UK's most important punk activists.
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