10 classic punk records that are actually awful
Courtesy of the Dead Milkmen The Dead Milkmen: Bad? No. But classic? Also no.
I put on the Ramones' classic 1977 record Rocket to Russia recently in an attempt to join all of my Facebook friends in their collective sadness at the recent death of Tommy (Erdyli) Ramone. I used to love this record, but now, even though I wanted to feel some sense of loss, it became more and more apparent that after their eponymous first record, the Ramones just kept trying to make the same record over and over again.
This, of course, isn't really news, though -- and the Ramones will always be considered to be the epitome of punk -- but it made me think. Curiosity, as they say, kills the cat, and even though I should know better, my epiphany about Rocket to Russia has led me down the following path: What other classic punk records have not aged well?
I decided to look at my own collection, as well as Rolling Stones' Top 500 record list, some lists I found on LA Weekly, and a few other websites.
I decided that some of the 10 records I am going to discuss actually sort of suck when I listen to them with my adult ears. And to be honest, some of them I've never even really liked, but according to the pundits, they are classics. Sadly, I have realized that some of these records are really just one or two good songs with a bunch of filler surrounding them.
10.) The Dead Milkmen - Big Lizard In My Backyard (1985)
I loved this record in the mid-'80s. Truly. It was snotty, brash, and full of spunky tunes that were fun to listen to while skateboarding with friends. In 1989, though, they came to Phoenix and played the Underground, which was a short-lived venue on the west side. Their show was about as inspiring as heating up yet another bowl of ramen (a typical meal for me in those days), so my enthusiasm for the Milkmen began to wane. Over the years, I listened to this album less and less and what I realize now is that the Dead Milkmen were just a snotty punk version of the Violent Femmes. While the Violent Femmes' first record has remained a classic that kids are still probably discovering, I doubt the kids are clamoring for Big Lizard In My Backyard, even if "Takin' Retards to the Zoo" is still worthy of a sing-a-long.
9.) Operation Ivy - Energy (1989)
This is one that I've never gotten into and really don't think is very good at all. I know I have friends who will give me a hard time about this, but this silly punk/ska hybrid is on a lot of the lists out there on the interwebs and again, I just don't get it. Maybe it was the timing of it coming out because in 1989, when this record came out, I was definitely not into the safe, watered-down punk that this album offers. Another sticking point, at least for me, is the fact that most of the live footage I have seen of Op Ivy, as the real fans say it, is pretty great. The production on the album clearly doesn't do the band justice, and in many ways it completely galls me that it helped spawn two other albums on this list.
8.) Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation (1977)
Inspiring: check. Old, from New York, and certified founding father status: check, check, and check. Blank Generation is brilliant in its noisy discombobulating sloppiness, and it has spawned tons of stuff I truly enjoy, like Half Japanese and Sonic Youth, but if I'm honest, despite some great parts, there are not a lot of really good songs on this record. Robert Quine's guitar sound has been copied so many times that many of the folks ripping him off now probably don't even know who they are truly ripping off. If you are a fan of early Phoenix punk, you probably recognize a lot of this record in the first and second wave recordings of bands like Killer Pussy, Feederz, and even the Meat Puppets, but just because something is old or influential, doesn't mean it deserves to be listed as often as it does in top ten lists.
Which brings me to a salient point we must address. One of the great arguments for music fans is what artist/band invented whatever particular genre they are discussing. For punk enthusiasts, you can dive extra deep and try to figure out who the main influences were on the holy trinity, The Ramones (the fathers), Sex Pistols (the sons), and The Clash (the holy ghosts). If we can agree that said influences were probably doing their thing from, at very least, the mid-'60s, then punk and its roots are getting closed to 50 years old and there's been a ton of great records in that time. Heck, Fugazi alone has seven or eight releases better than everything on this entire list.