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Best Punk Discography of All Time?

Updated on May 29, 2015

The essential punk discography?

By "essential" here, I'm referring to a compilation of a particular individual band's songs, preferably discography type. Here are three very diverse bands whose music has shaped my personal life, both from a musical standpoint and from a political one, into the mature awesomeness it is today.

Operation Ivy

Operation Ivy were a ska punk outfit, some of whose members went on to become Rancid. Op Ivy blended these styles far better than anyone else before or since.

How to put this simply: this is one of the best collections of music assembled anywhere, in any genre. No matter what mood I'm in, when Op Ivy comes on, I feel great after listening! The opening full "Energy" album is a standalone punk classic in and of itself, but this compilation keeps the party going with the "Hectic" and "Turn it Around" EP releases.

Op Ivy live in their prime

Pics of Op Ivy


Why so awesome?

Man oh man, I think there are maybe 2 or 3 other punk rock compilations of any era whatsoever that even compare with this stuff. If you're into ska punk, you almost certainly already know about Operation Ivy (and the band they spawned, Rancid, who are just nowhere near as good as OpIV). Operation Ivy came to the California punk scene in the late 1980s with something wholly original- absolutely frenetic, melodic, high intensity, high octane punk rock that will not only get stuck in your head for days, but will have you tapping your foot and nodding your head even when the music isn't playing.

Jesse's lead vocals (and powerful lyrics) blast out impressive, insightful social commentary about issues that concerned the group at the time. The passion he feels when singing is almost palpable. Whether commenting on society's obsession with physical health while it utterly ignores mental health and what is truly important in life ("Healthy Body, Sick Mind"), commercialism ("Artificial Life"), police brutality and abuse of authority ("Officer"), or how kids are forced to decide what they want to do at an insanely young age ("Knowledge"), you can count on an absolute home run with every single track.

Bad Religion: 80-85

I feel comfortable including this album immediately after the Op Ivy selection for two reasons: its similarities in musical style, and its differences. Bad Religion (or BR) from the early 80s were far less poppy than today's BR, but still catchy enough so that the songs still got stuck in your head. From the self-titled song, "Bad Religion" to "Latch Key Kids" to the super catchy "Along the Way", BR's album resonates with me like few others of any genre. With insightful politically charged (and educated!) lyrics, and just cruchy-enough guitar riffs, this album has it all.

Why so great?

Bad Religion absolutely launched the southern California pop punk sound, but they did it far, far better than any of their imitators (and there were indeed many). Further, BR's lyrics were nothing short of brilliant. Greg Graffin's writing and articulation, even in the very early days, was that of an empassioned pundit, not a screaming, whining punk (although the anti-government, anti-religion, anti-establishment voice was loud and clear).

"How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" was Bad Religion's first full length LP, and it launched the band into modest success. It was recorded in just 2 days, with a brand new drummer (the first one had quit), and you can hear a lot of that raw sound. "Bad Religion" and "Back to the Known", the band's first two EPs, are also included on "80-85." All told, there are 28 songs, and the eponymous "Bad Religion" is on there 3 times total, and all three variations are slightly different. Listening to this early stuff is listening to the formation of a brilliant supergroup.

Rudimentary Peni: The EPs of RP

What an insanely great band, as Steve Jobs might quip if he was into really great music instead of the Beatles and Dylan (no offense, hippies). Rudi P was not only really punk at its outset, but incredibly unique. With a crazy, frenetic pace to their songs on this album, lead singer Nick Blinko's screaming, urgent vocals whip me into a personal frenzy every time, no matter how long it has been since I rocked out to their stuff!

Additionally, Blinko spent some time in an insane assylum, which he wrote about in his "Primal Screamer" book, and he did all of the art in the Rudi P albums. This guy was insanely talented, pun intended, punk intended.


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