One of the most curious things in the world of music is to see how the quality of the releases for the various genres seem to follow a regular pattern of highs and lows, like the coming and going of the waves on a shore: in some periods we have a flourishing of excellent albums, at other times we have to dig much deeper just to find a handful of nice records. Punk rock apparently has followed the same trend. The year 2017 was definitely a good one for punk: an astounishing sequence of very good albums and also lots of bands which came back to action after many years of silence. The year 2018, on the other hand, started in the opposite way: we had a couple of excellent publications – both of which, however, can be hardly categorized as “classic” punk – and little else. In the last few weeks, however, we’ve seen a few sign of change in this trend and I took the opportunity to assess the status of punk rock just before what could be a new phase of good releases for this genre of music.
Let’s see in the following which have been the most interesting punk rock bands that were active in the first months of 2018. At the end of the article you’ll find also the link to the playlist which I maintain on Spotify with the best of punk rock. Enjoy!
Rocknroll Machine, which is the new LP released by Norwegian legendary band Turbonegro, breaks a period of silence of many years from their previous work, dated 2012, and at the time of its announcement there was the curiosity to see if these guys used this long time to modernize their style and make it more appealing for the new generations. Once we had the opportunity to listen to the new album, we immediately discovered two things: first, no substantial change was made on Turbonegro’s signature style (something which the band describes as “deathpunk”) ; second, there was no need to do it! This is really one of the few bands in the music scene that gives no attention to trends and fashions, and which carries on its particular vision of rock and roll without any additive or any necessity to insert elements of “modernity”. Rocknroll Machine offers that special kind of catchy and straight-up rock that easily becomes addictive. And in the short time span of barely 40 minutes we find ourselves invested by the energy and the passion that shines through everything that Turbonegro decide to play. This is timeless rock and roll, with no frills, easygoing and energetic. Just play it loud and enjoy the music.
Jeff Rosenstock is an american rocker from Long Island who’s playing punk since a couple of decades. He started singing in a few relatively influential local bands such as The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry!, Pegasuses-XL and Kudrow. After the breakup of Bomb the Music Industry!, in 2013, he eventually began a solo career which generated already three full-length albums. The last one, POST-, was published on January 1st, 2018 and is available for free download on Rosenstock’s bandcamp page. The structure of this LP is completely out of the standard: there are two masterpieces – and also the longest and deepest tracks – that open and close the album. And in the middle we have an handful of quick punk sketches that flow away one after the other. Crazy? Brilliant? It’s up to you to decide, anyway it works! As a matter of fact, the music produced by Jeff Rosenstock and his bandmates is the truest version of punk that is in circulation today. Not the street punk which tries to imitate the atmospheres of the 70s, and not even the ska-punk which has been so much succesful in the last years. This is a raw and honest music that speaks from the heart.
Cancer Bats are a well-known Canadian band that have achieved a certain notoriety during the last fifteen years thanks to their intriguing and effective mix of hardcore punk and crossover. Since the beginning of their career the group has released their LPs with a good regularity and this year, at three years from the previous album, they released the sixth record of their interesting discography, named The Spark That Moves. If on one side it must be said that these guys owe a lot of their success to the unique style of music that they managed to craft and refine, which consists mostly of a base of hardcore enriched with many elements of southern rock and metalcore, on the other side it must be said that this trio has shown the ability, and the willingness, to try to evolve their sound and keep it fresh at each stage of their career. In this respect their last works maintain a notable richness of musical expressions. Most of the songs, although marked by the same level of sonic violence and musical aggression, are sufficiently varied and different one from the other so that in the end the record is definitely enjoyable and nice to hear.
Pennywise, from California in the U.S., achieved in their 30 years of career the status of one of the most successful independent punk acts of all time and therefore, once arrived at the the twelfth album of their discography, they can play their music free from any worry or the need to prove anything to the critics or the music world in general. And this is not by chance, therefore, that Never Gonna Die, which is their last record, results fresher and more spontaneous than many records that are made today by much younger bands. From a musical point of view the new album presents that special version of punk, alternative rock and hardcore that gained popularity in California during the nineties and which led to the success of many other bands such as Blink-182, Green Day, and The Offspring. Compared to the recent releases from Pennywise, Never Gonna Die is is also one of the finest and more inspired works of the last decade and it will surely provide many contributions to our playlists and mixtapes, for both punk and alternative rock.
Taking advantage of a period of pause that the iconic U.S. band Green Day decided to take after the efforts of the last few years (a new album, a collection of hits and of course many concerts), the frontman Billie Armstrong has found the time and inspiration to ener the recording studio to produce a handful of new punk songs. This experience lead to the birth of a new musical project, called The Longshot, which sees in addition to Armstrong also the participation of Green Day’s touring guitarist Jeff Matika and Prima Donna’s members Kevin Preston and David Field. Armstrong’s new group released this year’s their debut LP, Love is for Losers, which looks definitely as an attempt to return to the roots of American punk, with simple and catchy riffs, moderate rhythms and choruses that seem to some extent derived by the pop-rock tradition of the 60s. The experiment was partially successful. We can for sure appreciate the will of Armstrong to try his hands with a more essential and immediate style of music. On the other hand, however, many of the songs on the album flow without leaving any mark in the listener’s attention. What we have in front of us, in the end, is a nice and enjoyable compilation of easy-listening songs, a simplified version of punk that can meet the taste of many casual listeners but which certainly doesn’t belong to the masterpieces of the genre.
Other notable releases we had so far in 2018 for punk rock:
Flashes of Competence, the new album by Thrashed Ambulance (from Alberta, in Canada).
Sick and Suffering, the new EP by Doc Rotten (from New Jersey, in the U.S.)
You’re not Alone, the new LP by Andrew W.K. (from California, in the U.S.)
Keep Them Counting, the new LP from The Last Gang (from Orange County, in the U.S.)
Finally, as promised at the beginning of the article, here is the link to the playlist “REBEL INSIDE” which has been created on Spotify to collect all the best punk rock singles as they are released. Enjoy and rock it!