Treble’s Top 100 Punk Albums

top 100 punk albums The Slits30. The SlitsCut
(1979; Island)

On The Slits’ 1979 debut Cut, the post-punk foursome emerged as the quintessential act that connected the dots between British reggae and punk. Later felt on Vivien Goldman’s Resolutionary Songs compilation and The Raincoats’ self-titled debut, the reagge-influenced approach on Cut resonated deeply among women in music, coming forth with a brash and expansive take on the current socio-political climate of late-’70s Britain. Though later issues added a bonus track—their memorable cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”—Cut gave a much needed voice to women in punk, ripping and tearing its way through a male-dominated creative space. – Timothy Michalik

New York Dolls essential proto-punk tracks29. New York DollsNew York Dolls
(1973; Mercury)

Fed by and feeding into the mania of lower Manhattan, the New York Dolls’ beautifully disheveled debut is both confrontational and classicist, made by street toughs in dresses, aware of and indifferent about the paradoxes they dished out. The Dolls took the Rolling Stones’ musical blueprint and ran it through a mash pump. David Johansen’s yelps at the top of “Personality Crisis” promise a barbarous night out, as Johnny Thunders’ and Sylvain Sylvain’s rudimentary guitars sound like they’ve cornered a terrified paper boy. But the rest of the album reveals emotional dimensions as informed by the drama of the Shangri-La’s as the toughness of Hubert Selby Jr. “Lonely Planet Boy,” “Subway Train” and “Private World” search out for some kind of understanding, even as “Trash” and “Bad Girl” try to squeeze the most out of their swagger. The New York Dolls earned their obstinance, but in retrospect it’s interesting how let their guard down just a bit. And eventually they set the paper boy free on his own recognizance. – Paul Pearson

top 100 punk albums The Clash28. The ClashThe Clash
(1977; CBS)

The Clash’s debut album is a crucial LP for a lot of reasons, notably that it was one of the first UK punk full-lengths (being beat out by The Damned by just a couple months) as well as a front-to-back killer set of songs. But while the band was laying the foundation for archetypal punk aesthetics and viewpoints—bored with the status quo, untrusting of authority, condemning upper middle class privilege—they were already pushing punk into more experimental directions not long after this rowdy, rebellious sound had been given a name. In 13 tracks, the group goes from the two-minute energy blast of “Janie Jones” on up to the skanked-up take on Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” bridging the gap between punk and reggae. There are few ideas in punk that can’t be traced back to these two sides. – Jeff Terich

top 100 punk albums X27. XLos Angeles
(1980; Slash)

Abrasive, rambunctious, and—surprisingly—produced by ex-Doors keyboardist/organist Ray Manzarek, X’s debut album Los Angeles was a swinging entry-point to the future relationship of punk rock and rockabilly. Most notable for the title track and a cover of the Doors’ “Soul Kitchen,” Los Angeles not only inspired the following decades of punk rock, but the 21st century phenomena of music supervision in television and video games. Few punk rock albums still sound as groundbreaking as Los Angeles, let alone any debut album. – Timothy Michalik

albums produced by Brian Eno Devo26. DevoQ: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
(1978; Warner Bros.)

Having your debut album produced by both Brian Eno and David Bowie is a feat only the men of Devo could achieve. Moreover, Iggy Pop and Robert Fripp expressed interest in working on the project as well. A brilliant expression of new wave, Are We Not Men’s 11 tracks are electrifying, a heavy set of fresh material, true to the band’s vision—Eno had difficulty getting them to stray away from their original ideas. As their debut and following albums would prove, Devo had a knack for creating wiry dance music for the nonconformist. – Virginia Croft

Refused - Shape of Punk to Come25. RefusedThe Shape of Punk to Come
(1998; Burning Heart)

It really wasn’t just the future of punk. It was a blueprint for almost the entirety of post-hardcore acts from the late ’90s on. It was a monolithic tome of power, aggression and brain-combusting dynamism that still sounds wildly unique. Refused’s third effort is why they will be remembered within the canon of punk; when a band manages to put out a punk fusion that effortlessly blends jazz, hardcore, metal and post-punk without breaking a sweat, there’s something special going on. The Shape of Punk to Come is album that is often referenced and imitated, but never duplicated. – Brian Roesler

suicide24. SuicideSuicide
(1977; Red Star)

Suicide is not exactly a punk album. It’s not exactly an “electronic” album either, despite fitting that label’s requirements more easily than others, with all its sounds emanating from Alan Vega’s vocals or Martin Rev’s synthesizers and drum machines. Contradictions abound on the New York duo’s first, epochal record: “Cheree” and “Girl” are ostensibly rockabilly-indebted love songs (they’re quite literally that in their lyrics), but sound like the devil crept in and distorted them due to Vega’s voice sounding a liiiiiiittle too happy-go-lucky and Rev’s soundscapes being reduced to minimalism by the limitations of his 1977 equipment as much as his own musical instincts. “Johnny” evokes the tough guy/loser hybrids Eddie Cochran wrote tunes about, but dark synth notes occupy spaces where the jangling guitar would be and something…just…seems…wrong, about the proceedings in general. The high-key hook on “Girl” should be jaunty, but evokes madness on the horizon.

And then there is “Frankie Teardrop.” I’ve written about this song before and listened to it dozens of times, yet it’s lost none of its horrific power. If the bare synth tones were replaced by more abrasive electronics—like Skinny Puppy, or the nastiest parts of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral—that might actually diminish its impact. But this tale of working-class despair taken to its worst extreme (the double-murder/suicide of a family by a father who’s lost his mind due to poverty) has a chilling relevance given the state of so many in our nation. Since Suicide first hit shelves, other groups have played harder and screamed louder. But no one has ever screamed with the same abject horror and rage at an unfair world as Vega on “Frankie Teardrop.” No one ever will. – Liam Green

essential gothic Americana tracks Gun Club23. Gun ClubFire of Love
(1981; Slash)

Punk was born of rock ‘n’ roll. And rock ‘n’ roll was a product of the blues. Los Angeles’ Gun Club skipped step two entirely and made their punk rock out of blues itself, covering vintage Delta blues tracks by the likes of Robert Johnson while staying true to a raw, ragged and haunted sound so intense it was just a hair shy of hardcore. Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s vocals howled and hollered like he had seen the Holy Ghost himself, seeing ghosts on highways and even conjuring up a fucked-up narrative in the name of The Cramps’ guitarist, Poison Ivy. This is punk-blues’ point of origin, soulful, weird and more than a little terrifying. – Jeff Terich

top 50 protest songs X-Ray Spex22. X-Ray SpexGermfree Adolescents
(1978; EMI)

One of the most underrated and under-recorded acts of punk’s second wave, X-Ray Spex became a piece of musical mythos after a fleeting existence sealed in one landmark full length. Founding members Poly Styrene and Lara Logic crafted taut and bold, brass-laden ditties, spitting fiery and pungent takes challenging themes of society, identity and consumer culture, specifically in relation to feminism in late 20th century London. Germfree Adolescents takes on cultural fads (“Obsessed With You”), societal conformity (“Artificial”) and the depiction of a materialistic apocalypse (“The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”), themes still easily interchangeable within modern capitalist societies. – Patrick Pilch

The Stooges Fun House review21. The StoogesFun House
(1970; Elektra)

Arguably punk rock’s most essential and influential album, Fun House—The Stooges follow-up to their 1969 self-titled studio debut—found Iggy Pop, David Alexander, Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton at their finest and purest form as artists, digging deeper than any band before them, channeling slow-rolling jazz with gritty blues guitar licks, psychedelia with spurts of hammering drum fills, and licentious screaming and hollering with bass lines groovier than the bulk of Motown’s discography. Often credited as being a “Detroit” band, the Stooges discovered their roots at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a city then jam-packed with civil rights activists, strung out hippies, and elitist intellectuals, although much hasn’t changed. What separates Fun House from literally any “punk-rock” album isn’t necessarily the sound, but the track lengths—some lasting well beyond seven minutes and the sort of improvised, “fuck, let’s record this idea now!” feel they so proudly flaunted, live and in the studio. – Timothy Michalik

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View Comments (12)
  • This is not the top 100 punk bands this is a joke you guys don’t know punk rock if it slapped you in the face some of the band’s are punk rock but most are not I have love that life for over 38 years And all my life I have ran into people like you on the streets get your facts straight green day is not punk iggy pop is not punk and over half of you bands are not punk so you should of called it too 100 rock bands so fuck off with this shit

  • Not much punk on this list. Treble is pretty close minded. Won’t touch the big boy punk bands. Didn’t even touch the punk band Big Boys. HAHA OH MAN.

  • Just when i thought metalheads were the close-minded…It turns out that title is already taken by the punk rednecks. Congrats, Pig Pen 😉

  • Ramones first album should be first. Most of punk was made off that album. Ramones are the founding fathers of punk

  • Disappointed to not see 7 Seconds somewhere on the list. The Crew and Walk Together, Rock Together were on pretty heavy rotation with many of the records.listed here.

    Was also hoping to see The Dead Milkmen, as it was the goofball entry point to punk for myself and many friends in the mid to late 80’s. Not the musically, or intellectually,
    challenging stuff but still had a noteworthy place in punk history

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