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Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

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The history of Los Angeles punk is largely composed of a series of brief, but brilliant, flashes in the pan. Since its inception in the late '70s, the genre has been consistently livid, often funny, rarely commercial, but always socially relevant. From the British-influenced first wave, to the violently political hardcore scene that followed to the revival in the late '90s, the music remains irritated, youthfully temperamental and unmistakable for anything else. Without question, L.A. punk is an undeniable part of the story of American music. Now if only they would play it on the radio. --Kai Flanders

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

20. Angry Samoans

Back From Samoa

Normally, punk bands trying to be cute is a nonstarter, but it somehow works for Angry Samoans. Back From Samoa features blazing punk rock with titles like "They Saved Hitler's Cock," "Tuna Taco" and "My Old Man's a Fatso." Their secret? The emphasis is always on the rocking, not the mocking. They weren't trying to be funny, they just were. --Nicholas Pell

19. The Minutemen

Double Nickels on the Dime

It's like someone sent descriptions of punk and funk music to Mars, the signals got jumbled and this is what the Martians perfected and beamed back. Fortunately, "Mars" was just San Pedro, and we get to call this album our own. At an average of two minutes apiece, the songs on Double Nickels run the gamut from Beefheartian absurdity to blue-collar alienation to literary pedantry to, uh, farts. The title flashes a big middle finger to the banal rebellion of pop rock. You say Hagar's going to break the speed limit? Well, we're going to go exactly 55 (double nickels) and save the rebellion for the music. --Paul Bradley

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

18. Despise You

West Side Horizons

Despise You's stature keeps increasing, largely due to this career-spanning document incorporating early EPs and tracks from a previous abortive attempt at an album. In a sense, the record is something of a spiritual successor to Black Flag's Damaged; looking to metal as much as punk, both records are what happens when rage meets perfectionism and adds up to something more than the sum of its parts. For proof of its influence, just hit up a backyard powerviolence show some time and see what folks are into. --Nicholas Pell

See also: Our feature story on the band: Despise You Are More Hardcore Than Hardcore

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

17. Social Distortion

Mommy's Little Monster

OC will cry foul - we don't care, we're borrowing Social D. Both a love letter and a character study of the '70s-'80s SoCal punk scene, this album tells stories about angry people getting thrashed and boldly trashed. Even though the titular Mommy's Little Monster now shops at Target for Ramones T-shirts, her kids will still get the point. Punky frustration gives way to more twang and less musical anger as the record closes, hinting at the band's evolution toward punk-a-billy. --Paul Bradley

16. NOFX

Punk in Drublic

Where would we be without the skinhead WeHo Hebrew thugs' anti-Swastika tattoos terrorizing goyim from "The 'Brews," Rabelais-esque "Reeko" parties or Jeff (from "Jeff Wears Birkenstocks") and his tie-dyed Rancid shirt? Holding a shit-specked funhouse mirror to the entire scene, Punk in Drublic flashes the hilarious images of stinky scenesters and post-adolescent frustrations that were crucial to '90s punk. Their hook-heavy pop and ska-based tunes left an entire generation of happy-go-lucky poseurs in their wake. --Paul Bradley

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

15. The Nerves

One Way Ticket

You can't discount the impact that The Nerves' Paul Collins, Peter Case, and Jack Lee had upon L.A. punk. The best EP in their paper thin catalogue, One Way Ticket is four tracks of perfect power pop. The Nerves take four-chord punk and add sharp melodies, harmonic choruses and a touch of pop sensibilities. One can hear One Way Ticket's influence on current L.A. acts like Pangea, White Fence and Hunx & His Punx, all of whom contributed to Volar Record's recent tribute to the trio, Under the Covers Vol. 2. --Kai Flanders

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

14. Circle Jerks

Wild in the Streets

Another legendary hardcore band from Hermosa Beach, The Circle Jerks' second full-length release, Wild in the Streets is a prime example of the special brand of hardcore developed by Keith Morris. The frontman of The Circle Jerks and founding member of Black Flag -- and currently carrying the torch for L.A. hardcore into the 21st century with OFF! -- has a "screw bullshit" attitude and songs that are over before you can catch your breath. It is 25 minutes of power (and Morris' trademark political ranting about the "moral majority") packed into 15 tracks. --Kai Flanders

See also: Still a Malcontent: A midlife crisis spawns Keith Morris' new band Off!

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

13. T.S.O.L.

Dance With Me

T.S.O.L.'s debut EP was a vitriolic blast of political hardcore. But on Dance With Me, the group eschewed political ranting in favor of songs built around topics like necrophilia ("Code Blue") and vampires ("Silent Scream"). The latter, slower-paced goth jam and the ebb-and-flow build of the title track displayed a level of craftsmanship that was still undeniably punk. In the end, Dance With Me influenced mainstream acts to come like AFI and My Chemical Romance. --Jason Roche

12. The Vandals

Peace Thru Vandalism

For 30 years, The Vandals have proven that punk doesn't need to take itself seriously. While other members of the genre in the early '80s were singing about socio-political issues, The Vandals peppered Peace Thru Vandalism with humorous odes to being fucked up on LSD at Disneyland ("Pirate's Life") and songs lampooning big-city cowboys like "Urban Struggle." "I can ride that phony bull so damn good," we were told, "sometimes I think I'm Clint Eastwood." --Jason Roche

11. Suicidal Tendencies

Suicidal Tendencies

"Institutionalized," for which the album and band is most known, is the punk rock version of the talking blues. Instead of "mama's in the kitchen fixing biscuits," it's "momma's in the kitchen tryin' to get me to take my Ritalin." The work is in the very DNA of every subsequent hardcore kid, punk, anti-social shitfit misfit who wanted to piss off their parents by doing something different. Suicidal Tendencies is filled with serious speed and aggression, but punctuated and occasionally slowed for effect -- making its politically charged, humor-tinged lyrics entirely intelligible. That's not often the case in hardcore. --Paul Bradley

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

10. The Dickies

The Incredible Shrinking Dickies

The Dickies' amphetamine-soaked covers of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and The Monkees' "She" provide an insight into the heart of punk: speed it up and get to the fucking point. Reacting to the ballads of long-haired troubadours of the '70s, The Incredible Shrinking Dickies injects quickness where there was once excess. They never take themselves too seriously; on "Poodle Party" they sing "You're the easiest except for me." In the end, the group were never scared to break any of punk's unwritten rules, even allowing for a variety of instrumentation, including a sax solo on "Shadow Man." --Kai Flanders

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

9. Wasted Youth

Reagan's In


Ole' Ronny took office in 1981, the same year this vitriolic gem was released. Its ten tracks last barely that many minutes but, along with the terrific cover art -- where the band's logo is carved into Reagan's forehead -- they get you terrifically angry. In a way, Reagan's America both spawned and destroyed hardcore punk. In their review of the documentary American Hardcore, Slant Magazine wrote that the late president "figures prominently in the film's explanation for domestic punk's birth... and unceremonious disappearance shortly after Reagan's reelection." --Kai Flanders

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

8. Black Flag

Nervous Breakdown

Every ten years or so, a band comes along that just blows everything all to hell. In 1978, Black Flag became that band. They didn't completely crystallize until Henry Rollins came aboard for 1980's Damaged, but the effect of the Nervous Breakdown EP can't be overstated. The opening riffs of the title track sound like a bomb dropped on tepid, skinny tie bands like The Cars and Blondie. This wasn't cutesy retro pop rock & roll. Instead, it feels like the full-throttle scream of an anxious, unmedicated teenager punching a hole in the wall. --Nicholas Pell

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

7. X

Under the Big Black Sun

Some bands come out of the gate with both barrels blazing, while others hit their stride later in their career. X somehow managed to do both, releasing three spectacular records in three years, each better than the last. Under the Big Black Sun, however, stands out by incorporating country, '50s vocal pop and straightforward rock elements into the mix, all the while keeping their trademark dual-sex moaning and wailing. --Nicholas Pell

6. Circle Jerks

Group Sex

Group Sex is not subtle, but there's not much time for subtlety when your longest song clocks in at 1:36. No intros, no bridges, no bullshit, just Keith Morris' whiny scream. The Circle Jerks aren't as overtly political in their song-writing as some of their contemporaries, but the core fury is there. "Beverly Hills" and "World Up My Ass" are as antagonistic and irritated as anything you'll find. --Kai Flanders

See also: Still a Malcontent: A midlife crisis spawns Keith Morris' new band Off!

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

5. Bad Religion

Suffer

"Melodic hardcore" sounds like a contradiction until you hear Suffer. Its slick production doesn't detract from the band's fury -- it adds to it. The drums sit high in the mix, but eschew the heavily reverbed sound of later records like No Control. Lead vocalist Greg Graffin is on point with incisive lyrics and a fast-paced, spitting delivery that rivals anything from the world of hip-hop. Over 20 years later, the record is still the gold standard for the suburban discontent and malaise of young kids too clever by half. --Nicholas Pell

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

4. Descendents

Milo Goes to College

You're in high school. You're angsty because girls don't like you. Your parents don't get it. You're really smart but your teachers don't realize it; they are dickheads. And your copy of Milo Goes to College has been played enough to where it skips on "Hope." Every song speaks to your teenage fucked-up-ness, from feeling incredibly horny to just wanting to hit someone for no reason. High school sucks, and if Milo's story is any indication, college isn't going to be much better. --Kai Flanders

3. Germs

GI


In the classic documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, Germs frontman Darby Crash has an infamous scene where he makes a hot mess of the stage, demanding beer from the audience while stumbling violently. GI conveys that violent energy -- the title stands for "Germs Incognito," as they often were barred from venues -- but in a tightly controlled manner. Predating the hardcore scene by almost two years, every one of the sixteen songs contains bottled fury and depravity, though none perhaps as well as "Lexicon Devil" or "We Must Bleed." --Kai Flanders

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

2. X

Los Angeles

Released in 1980, and produced by Ray Manzarek, X's Los Angeles is a searing critique of a city under economic siege and engaged in changing racial demographics. Simultaneously, its slice of life poetry about the angry new youth enlivened a burgeoning L.A. punk scene. Los Angeles plugged these first wave punk listeners into their city, gave them something that was their own and made them feel like members of a growing tribe. Exene Cervenka's voice carried an urgency that demanded attention. The album defined its moment and set the bar for other L.A. punk bands that followed. Like the striking image of the burning X effigy on its cover, 32 years later the music inside is hard to shake. --Nikki Darling

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

1. Black Flag


Damaged

"We. Are. Tired. Of. Your. Abuse!" The chorus of Damaged's opening song "Rise Above" immediately declares a vicious contempt for America's social and political environment, circa 1981. Reagan was in office, police brutality was seemingly unchecked, and people seemed to be coping with it by having a "TV Party." Following on the heels of excellent EPs like Nervous Breakdown, Hermosa Beach-based Black Flag's full-length debut manically articulated youthful aggression toward rampant commercialism, eager consumerism and a serious lack of autonomous thought. There is real, unbridled anger at work here, but also a sort of prophetic wisdom, as if they know that if we blow it all up we're going to have to rebuild it. In an odd way, it's a hopeful record; Henry Rollins himself has said, "Hope is the last thing a person does before they are defeated." That's the ethos that's at work here, though on Damaged, they don't yet know if they're going to win the battle. --Kai Flanders

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