2017 has been full of great, epic and poetic moments in music. And it’s nice to end it with a party! Let’s review which have been the most energetic, infectious and funny punk rock albums of the year. The recipe here is simple, the mission effective: rock fast, rock hard, no compromises.
You will find in this Top Ten a bunch of different styles of punk, from the street punk of English veteran street bands to the interesting mix of punk with ska or Balkan music. In each of these different types of rock you will find however the same passion and the same will to give strong emotions, direct, without too many filters.
And to better complement the experience, here you can find a mixtape with the best punk of the year, selected and mixed into one single stream of energy. I’ve made many mixes in 2017. I’m proud to say that this is one of the best I did! Enjoy it, and see you next year 😉
MOMENTUM by GBH
One of the most pleasant surprises of the year was to find out that GBH, the band of English street punk veterans, was about to release a new studio album. Momentum, their twelfth studio album, arrives seven years after the previous LP, Perfume and Piss, and it’s nice to see that over the years their music still doesn’t lose interest at all.
The music played by GBH is raw, genuine and fresh as only old school punkers can do nowadays. As their fans know well, the band’s sound has undergone a series of changes over the course of their long career, incorporating over time a range of influences from other genres, such as metal. In the last couple of decades their sound has stabilized over a special kind of dirty and abrasive street punk, able to generate a very impressive level of power. Sparse into the album we also find a couple of more accessible and captivating tracks with anthems and catchy riffs.
GBH is one of those rare bands for which it can be said that there is no bad album in their discography. And their latest work certainly does not change the rule.
FOREVER by Cock Sparrer
It almost seems that members of the club of British punk veterans have agreed to present themselves together in this ranking: after the legendary GBH, we have in the next position another historical band from England. Cock Sparrer is a band of punk rock veterans that was formed in 1972 in the East End of London. The band has released in 2017 a new album, called Forever, which arrived 10 years after their previous LP. The lineup of the band is almost stable since 25 years, and these rockers managed to realize a strong, vibrant, and damn enjoyable compilation of punk songs.
After so many years spent together playing their favorite music, Cock Sparrer clearly don’t feel the need to change their winning formula: honest and genuine street punk enriched by an enjoyable melodic lines and mature lyrics. And listening to the songs on Forever, we clearly realize that groups like these are used to release a record only when they recognize that they have quality material in their hands. It is no coincidence, in fact, that although their first record was released about 40 years ago, with the last work their discography marks the relatively small number of only 7 albums.
WILD CAT by Danko Jones
Wild Cat is the eighth studio album by Danko Jones, which is the Canadian rock trio led by vocalist and guitarist Danko Jones supported by John ‘JC’ Calabrese on bass guitar and Rich Knox on drums. The band is active since almost 20 years, and this is one of those groups that didn’t reach the attention of their fans because of changes and innovations in their music. And this last album is no exception. Wild Cat gives us in fact just another bunch of furious and totally enjoyable “macho” rock-party anthems. These guys draw on an inexhaustible source of catchy rock melodies and they just keep doing what they can do best, without too many frills or ambitions for musical evolution.
In addition to this successful and field-proven recipe, the Canadians have understood very well how important may be an excellent production for the success of an album,especially if accessibility and immediate enjoyability are among the main features of your songs. Wild Cat benefits from a perfect recording which is consistent with their style and which gives an further element of merit to their work.
AMERICAN BEAUTY by CJ Ramone
CJ Ramone was the “young guy” within the Ramones and also the last one to join the legendary band in the last ten years of their influential career. After the American punkers retired, CJ for some time played and singed in a few Ramones’ cover band and he eventually started a solo career, which as per today has already generated a few albums. American Beauty is the last release of CJ Ramone’s solo production and the third album of his studio discography.
As you might expect, CJ has kept the Ramones in his heart and the music he plays is basically what his fans want to hear: simple and straight punk rock. It would be really a complete madness to compare CJ’s songs to those of Ramones: there is honestly an abyss that can’t be filled even by calling the support from other punk veterans as his backings. But at the same time it’s not crazy to say that American Beauty, judged as a stand-alone product, doesn’t look bad when compared to today’s rock scene, where it rather brings a breath of freshness and immediacy.
SEEKERS AND FINDERS by Gogol Bordello
Gogol Bordello, the gipsy punk rockers from Manhattan, have crafted and consolidated through the years a unique musical blend of balkan beats and gipsy melodies played with a punk rock attitude. Their last album, Seekers and Finders, doesn’t find the band moving away from this succesful formula and it has been recorded in a way that reproduces, to some extent, the sound and vibrations of their legendary live gigs.
This group is certainly neither the only one nor the first to blend punk rock with other musical genres. Their technique, in any case, is one that manages to preserve the emotions and the beauty of the starting genres, producing a result that is typically something new and extremely interesting.
From a musical point of view the songs of this album settle on decidedly moderate rhythms, diluting in this case the original dynamics of street punk into structures that are more typical of ballads and blues. It must be said, however, that music played by Gogol Bordello is certainly unique and there are no others aroun who play (or who can play) this type of songs. Their style is recognizable from afar, always interesting and engaging. As a matter of fact, this is an approach to rock that only such an heterogeneous group of immigrants could develop.
11 STORIES OF PAIN AND GLORY by Dropkick Murphys
Hardcore Celtic-Punkers Dropkick Murphys shoudn’t need too much introduction. These guys from Massachussets have been rocking the scene for over twenty years and their last album, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, is the ninth of their long career.
Musically speaking, this work presents their signature irish-inspired rock sound, without any particulr innovation or diversion from the winning recipe that they have been perfectioning through time: catchy anthems, celtic rocking melodies, fast and fun energetic song.
Beyond the purely musical aspect, it shall be said that the album is inspired from the efforts that the band have spent in support of the “The Claddagh Fund”, a charity organization which the band established since 2009 for actively helping the drug recovery community and other children’s and veteran’s organizations. As a result, most of the tracks are permeated with a sense of positive energy, a sort of encouragement to go beyond the little or big failures that we may encounter in our lives. And if this is not going to be the best album ever released by the band, it’s still a solid and valuable work which contains quite a good number of very high quality songs.
IN THE END by Nothington
In The End, which is the most recent studio album from the San Francisco alternative-punk rockers Nothington, is another album of this chart which interrupts a long period of silence from the band. The LP terminates a hiatus of almost five years since their last studio release and it arrives when the band is celebrating ten years of activity. Not so much compared with other veteran bands of this list but still relevant in the rock scene.
Born on the ashes of their former band Tsunami Bomb, Nothington’s founders Gabe Lindeman and Jay Northington have developed through the years a special and successful mix of catchy end energetic rock which allowed them to gain a relatively high commercial success and which also elevated them as one of the most important rock groups coming from the Bay Area.
In this new work the two musicians resume exactly from where they left, with the same winning formula of radio-friendly catchy rock and melodic punk-rock anthems. There are a few moments in the album where the tones are a bit more thoughful and introspective, but the essence of the album is definitely on the energy side.
LAUNE DER NATUR by Die Toten Hosen
I was honestly surprised when I first heard Laune der Nature (Freak of Nature), the new album from German punk rock veterans Die Toten Hosen, which is the seventeenth studio album from the band. I was fascinated by the freshness and immediacy of the songs, and it’s clear that the guys from Dusseldorf still have a lot to say after so many years of playing together.
The band became famous for their heavy political approach to punk. Their last album, however, seems less involved with politics and more focused on the music itself. Initially regarded as a curiosity because of the language and the particular kind of melodic punk played by the German rockers, all the other qualities of the album emerged after repeated listens and it’s no coincidence that slowly but steadily this record has climbed the various rock charts that were regularly published on the blog, winning at the end a prestigious position among the best three albums of its genres.
Laune der Nature may be really regarded as one of the best and most refreshing album of 2017 and it’s a recommended listen in particular for those that are not familiar with these German punkers. Sehr gut!
AMERICAN FALL by Anti-Flag
I am very well aware of the risk that I take by presenting at the beginning of the chart a pair of albums from historical groups of English street punk like GBH and the Cock Sparrow, and placing in the highest positions two American groups like Anti-Flag and Goldfinger. and somehow I am ready for the criticisms that I may receive from the extremists and purists of punk rock, those who surely would never put on the same level (or even on a higher plane) groups with cultures and musical approaches that are so distant.
But for a whole year I chose the best songs to be included in the rock playlists and mixtapes, and I know very well that there have been a few records from which I could pick up an impressive number of excellent songs. I’m not ashamed to say that the best results in rock are achieved when beauty, energy and pleasantness manage to be married with a more mainstream approach.
American Fall, the latest album by American punk-activist Anti-Flag, has received so far mixed reactions from music criticts. Some are not completely convinced of the way in which serious and complex issues such as those addressed by the songs of the band are conveyed with such catchy and immediate kind of music. The style of the band, indeed, has lost part of the abrasiveness and low-fi spirit of the beginnings, but the overall impact remains one of the most energetic and engaging of the current scene.
The overall offer of this album does not differ from the music that we would have expected from the band, at least with their latest works in mind. But being able to toss out infectious and explosive songs like the ones that these guys from Pennsylvania keep grinding on their albums is something absolutely incredible, at least to me.
THE KNIFE by Goldfinger
What can one expect from a rock formation which spent the last nine years without any new music and in the meantime 3 of the original 4 members were kicked out from the band? These were the premises for The Knife, the new and long-awaited studio album by Goldfinger, the rock band from Los Angeles which gained quite a good reputation around the turn of the century for the relevant contribution that was given to the ska-punk sub-genre. But once I started listening to the songs in this LP, I found myself literally embarrassed for how good this album was and I ended-up literally seduced by the energy and the freshness emanating from the album.
The Knife, released on last July, is formally the seventh LP from Goldfinger and it succeded in wiping out in a matter of seconds all the skeptikism that one could have on the album.
After the last internal revolution, Goldfinger is today a rock “supergroup” with a new line-up consisting of the band leader John Feldman, who’s also the only remaining member of the original formation, supported here by Blink-182’s Travis Barker (who’s likely the best drummer of modern times in punk rock), talented bassist Mike Herrera and Story of the Year’s rhythm guitarist Philip Sneed.
The songs in The Knife provide the listener with a wonderful mix of melodic punk, alternative rock and ska. The music composed by Feldman for this album manages to combine funny and catchy choruses with interesting musical structures. The ska elements are very well balanced and as a matter of fact you can listen to the album over and over again without any effect of saturation. This is an instant classic, one of the most refreshing and anjoyable albums of the year – even beyond the boundaries of punk.