Dislaimer : It took me a while to write this article, so I hope it could be useful to you my dear Google slaves !
So just like some day I'd like to tell you, unknown person lost on the same planet as me, about the gems of the early 80s California, let me entertain you with my personal favourite punk records from Maggie's Great Britain. Although some bands formed in the 70s continued to play and release stuff in the 80s, I chose to only include here bands that released major works way after the 1977 wave. So you won't find here any UK Subs, the Carpettes, Stiff Little Fingers or Peter and the test tube babies album. Even though they're great bands to dig, they're a little bit too 70s to be fully part of the 80s wave IMO. And finally, just like in any other list on this shitty blog, you won't find any EPs here, I'm a LP guy deal with it. This the reason why you won't find any Instant Agony, Omega Tribe or Anthrax releases here, even though they're fucking killer !
The 80s in term of punk music started with this very release. When it comes to punk you can't avoid Discharge and their brutal, straightforward angry sound. And they popularized the D-Beat guys ! The motherfucking D-beat ! With the ashes of the Vietnam war still hot at this time Discharge had to tell the whole world all was shitty and especially capitalism and its main consequences : war and social oppression. This record is the first kick of this Dis-thing madness who ended to be plain ridiculous ten years after .
Anti-pasti ain't a band you can talk about with everybody. You have to know your punk before fully embracing Anti-pasti's repertoire but believe me it's totally worth it. Seriously Anti-pasi were precursors be it for the expression of an authentic anarchist propaganda or for their sound pushing the quite lazy 70s original punk one step further. Unlike Discharge they still sound rocky and fresh, sometimes even melodic, making this record the second best to start this decade with a lighter part of the "I wanna know some punk history" 101 catalog.
Unfortunately there were only few bands with female vocals but this is not really the main reason why Vice Squad is unskipable, the band had other enjoyable things to give to the world than an almost sexy singer with blue or pink dyed hair. There's the hypnotic and sometimes Siouxsie-like voice of Bekki Bondage of course, but the musicians mastered to prefection this old and sneaky early anarcho-punk sound England exported world wide. Some songs are morbid as fuck, others dark as hell and the the last ones punk to the core : a must have !
An odd album filled with a lot of non-punk elements (pop, soft rock and can you only believe it some hip-hop rythms) but containing at the same time many features of the coming true early anarcho-punk wave along with a clear leftist if not anarchist point of view on the world. Weird, but not bad, I admit its presence here is somehow debatable.
If all started with Discharge, I have to be fair and admit that the first Charged G.b.h. LP had the same significant impact on me. As I heard it for the first time I was quite happy because I had finally found the very band that uncounsciously embodied the "dumb and dirty 80s punk" I knew from my early childhood memories. No subtly, pure agrresion and discontent that's G.b.h. second to none except Discharge !
RP is one my favourite bands ever because they're madly rotten to the core, overtly flirting with madness and schizophrenia in a more litterally way than any other one on the CRASS catalog. And among their discography this very record is my personal favourite. Society drives you to psychotism ? Then, RP is the perfect soundtrack for your worst moments ! Disturbing, destructured, short, angry, without any joy, a sick album for sick people. But what a good one !
'Orange clockwork' is a film I personally strongly dislike because of its esthetics but it shook the good old Europe back in the days and inspired the quite close in time punk "movement". This said the Adicts would come immediatly in mind but, bad luck, I also strongly dislike them. Major accident shares the same visuals and universe, but THEY knew how to play some ass-kicking punk tracks on their first LP. Underrated you said ?
In Germany and the USA punk has a long tradition of funny lyrics, but it seemed that in the UK life was so awful for the youth back in the 80s that except the Damned no one really wanted to sing about funny stuff.
Pessimistic as hell this record is nonetheless highly enjoyable, even if its drum beats are quite repetitive and that the musicians' technicity level isn't really high. Punk is mainly about telling things that matter, not necesseraly about 5 minutes blues-influenced guitar soli.
Basically they were CRASS' friends worshipping CRASS, but they actually played music a regular human can enjoy, if in a good mood. I usually don't like live album, but it was probably cheaper to record. Despite annoying high-pitched female vocals close to a Vicki Bondage on cocaine, the decaying atmosphere and the catchy riffs this album contains convey what's the early anarcho-punk unique vibe.
Another example of the early street punk, close to Oi sometimes but still punkish enough to be on this list. The lyrics are full of despair and this typical english working class atmosphere and the riffs are just half-way between the older first wave stuff and the then exploding true UK82 sound making a rather interesting record for those who are investigating the evolution process of punk. Not one of the great bands, but a decent record with some catchy tunes.
This record is hard to find today, because it was only distributed as a K7, and that's sad because these tunes here are among my favourites in all the old british punk lost gems since I first heard 'Wessex '82' for the first time. The singer's sweet voice matches perfectly these highly recommended out-of-age primitive punk tracks. I just can't help I love her sweet voice !
Northern Ireland is quite remoted from London, the epitome of the punk rock place and it's not really surprising that only a few anarchist rock bands emerged from this archaic divided hardcore christian nightmare. But as flowers sometimes grow on shit amounts, came this effective quite rocky band with old R'n'R touches and an angry voice. Second rate band, but of the best kind.
The Ramones kicked so many english asses during their first UK tour and indirectly gave birth to half of the late 70s poppish punk bands on the Isles, but surprisingly they were only very few "ramonescore" bands in the old Albion. All fascinated by the Pistols and the Clash the Brits hopefully went in their own evolution and shaped angry rock for ever. Except this weird band that happened to be the second oldest european, after the renowned Lurkers, ramonescore band I ever found. Not bad for sure, but all this sounds disturbingly american !
Another great band with female vocals you won't forget. Not very angry but still excellent, especially if you like it rather old school ! By the way the fact I only wrote three sentences for this record doesn't mean this is some kind of second rate old punk single, oh no !
Although the cover might be more associated with cheesy stupid german heavy metal from the late 80s/early 90s acts that pretend to be frightening but ends to be only ridiculous, or just a local shitty death metal band from every time era, you'll find here stright-in-your-face british punk with the right amount of anger and melodies.
Born from Vice Squad's first version ashes, this band invented the whole insult-punk thing who'll later degenerate into porno-grind, a genre most of us might never fully understand. It all started as a parody mocking many bands on this list, but ironically the result was really good and even better sometimes than the originals. With a title summing up perfectly what punk really means for many on this planet, it's always sad to see they aren't most known today. Well "Fuck the world !".
Nothing too crazy here, but the band who brought us 'Megalomania' happened to record a quite decent album with even some great moments. If you're into old street shit with barely epics riffs, then this for you.
If you're into the EPs CRASS records massively released and that shaped anarcho-punk for ever, you'll probably know this one too and somehow worship it. Grimmy, nasty but far from any metal crossover, this classic basically helped to defined anarcho-punk as we can enjoy it today. Disturbed, frantic, acid, uncompromissed with mainstream society, this is pure puke with a heavy british accent telling you the world is fucked up thanks to the capitalists. The worst might be that today almost everything's still makes sense...
Alright the cover is quite lame, even a low rank local death metal band wouldn't accept it but the music is quite good on this one. You'll find some angry and pissed street punk going right in your face just like you like it. The sing alongs are moving, the punk ethos is expressed in its purest form... and there's a fucking killer bass player ! What else do you need in a punk record, huh ?
After the 70s punk split in different directions, among them anarcho-punk and post-punk. I love both but for pratical reasons I didn't include here post-punk records, otherwise the list would have been filled with UK Decay, Killing Joke and their dark arty friends. But there's one record that could be considered as a real link between those two realms. Still closer to a post-punk album, this one contains enough agressivity to be considered as a punk record at the same time and that's precisely what's so great about Cult Maniax. But sure, there's more serious issues in life than classifying old 80s underground records by genre...
In 1983 the original 80s punk still had some bright days but as always there are the guys who invent the following trend. Introducing the world to what we know today as "the dark shit", here is the crust album released before crust even existed ! No doubt it inspired some Scandinavians.
Anarcho-punk can be really smooth some times. Having close ties with CRASS (yeah, again...) the british Mob chose to play something opposite to Discharge and really softened and slowed down their sound, making them something not so far from a goth or post-punk band. Their music sounds more like a Siouxsie/Killing Joke/ the Smiths production who derives from an old 77 punk band, but what made me introduce them in this list is their influence on the early anarcho-punk scene as well as their despaired lyrics reflecting their true punk origin. It was written on the first paragraph : punk has many faces.
This record is one of those I -musically speaking- masturbated on the most since I discovered punk as a teenager. One way System is a band that gives the word "underrated" its true significance. Those little songs are just halfway between the early anarchist stuff and the raw and dumb street punk shit. This contribues to make this record one of those prefigurating what only a few months later some Yankees started to play millions away from Britain. Something called thrash metal. Along this you also have great lyrics most of the time against the old point of view on life going straight and right to the point. Again folks, do we need more ?
Discharge and the Exploited had their own wannabes but unlike some folks bashing this band for its whole existence I quite enjoyed these noisy and dirty punk tunes. The Varukers never cared, and that's why I recommend you this record who now seems generic among the records it contributed to partly inspire. An other perfect example of the "old raw and dumb 80s british punk".
Chaos UK didn't talk that much about chaos or anarchy but they were nevertheless very pissed. Fast, nasty and agressive Chaos UK had an irrepressible need to tell the whole world it sucked ! A pure adrenalin rush in your ears, except the song about the farmyard who really is out of place here.
Maybe the only intersting album from this band, it contains some goddam anthems. Alterning mid-tempos and insane tracks close to the faster Chaos UK ones the Skeptix had all that ardour and the anger only young people with no future can have.
When you arrived here you expected some dark, lo-fi, old anarcho-punk right ? Then get what you deserve with this really enjoyable lost gem. It always amaze me to find such masterpieces, long forgotten, by 99.99% of the world. Highly recommended near the more classic stuff.
This record has a special place in my collection. It constitues the last of the true records labelled decades later as "UK 82". Punk had arrived a crossroad and at the time most bands chose to harden their sound, giving slowly birth to grind, crust and even death metal, the Partisans released one of those gems that came after the battle. Frantic, anarchistoid but still fresh, you'll got here your dose of old school european punk ! Highly recommended.
Nothing outstanding here but if you love the good old UK stuff with the round kind of bass sound and that almost hiphop way to spit verses that distinguish second wave punk rock from all the other 80s extreme genres, then go for it ! Slow tempos are also part of the old school punk agenda.
Yup the picture's gross that's for sure. Because it was designed to be gross. But refined melomanes know this kind of crappy cover can sometimes hide something worth to listen to, and once again it is here the case. Under those swines (representing the whole mankind or something like that, cerdos con ropa huh ? ) you'll find one of the record that shaped the sound of most of obscure current street punk bands across the world, even if they don't know it. Those who like their punk mixed with Oi! should check Red Alert, a band I didn't include here because their sound's way closer to old school Oi! than old school punk. Those who like it mixed with old thrash should check English Dogs' next records. I don't like them but maybe you will.
1984 was the last year punk really musically meant a thing in the UK. The anarcho-punk died on its own after CRASS harakiried and the street punk slowly became boring as fuck. Riot Squad's first release is one the last sparks of the initial 80s punk style and attitude. Sometimes redondant this record still shows the teeth the right way and is above the lame shits that came just a few years later. For all those who are searching a second 'Punk's not dead' with a better sound and a little bit more of complexity... but not too much more.
Disorder has a very special place for me, it was the very first anarcho-punk band I ever listened to. At a time when I had no Internet the punkest stuff I could find in the french hole I lived was the Offspring or old 77 UK punk samplers. I loved both and still do, but Disorder introduced me to a totally different kind of punk. Frantic, destroyed, containing highly anarchist lyrics, I met anarcho-punk in all its glory thanks to the Bristol guys. Punk rock then started to ruin my brain and later my whole life but I couldn't help this record was too good ! Just like some half-dumb teenager could say it : "Disorder fucking rules", listen to this and appreciate the REAL hardcore punk millions miles away far from the lame suburbian american bands.
Good old punk rock with lyrics talking a lot about war. Nonetheless some melody is burried within this wall of destruction. I don't agree with everything said on this LP (the afghan rebels, come on...), but this record has a distinctive cold war touch making it an object of nostalgia today.
Once again, some CRASS friends (even if they're shouting "Punk will never die") who gave us a definitive early anarcho-punk classic . One of the monument of the subgenre, no more, no less.
Visually on the brink of the early death metal or even black metal imagery, the music in itself is still pure punk rock puke. The year punks began to play really brutal shit, this band managed to keep recording still melodic yet destroyed tracks filled with morbidity but also leftist rethoric. Only great tunes here !
This band embodies the turning point between UK hardcore punk and thrash metal. The border is very very thin but there's still vocals similar to Discharge and G.B.H and a dirty backstreet feel here, even if you'll hear way more guitar soli on this LP than on a regular punk record. US original thrashers did it right and have been heavily influenced by this now half-forgotten band giving us the late 80s thrash we all know. Hopefully they didn't judge a record by its cover back then...
If you ever wondered which album is the key in the evolution process from the early rotten morbid crust to the almost second wave of true norwegian black metal, then I'm glad to tell you that 'Arise!' might be one of the good answers. Still punkish by its general attitude you can find some impressive things who'll only a few years later set the standards for the orthodox black metal scenes.
With such a name everyone can easily conclude the lyrics won't be about poneys and butterflies. Raw, agressive, and totally desperate about our nuclear world this record is made with pure negativity, anger and hatred to the point neonazis look like hippie lesbians living in perfect harmony with Mother Nature. One of the true last products of the original punk fire that once burnt in Britain exempt from heavy/thrash metal influences.
Today it's all about crust punk in my hipsterish neigbourhood. But did you guys realized that crust has been here for a while ? One of the forgotten founders of this obscure and dirty subgenre is Sacrilege. Yup that's right Sacrilege. Sounds like a cliché 90s death metal name ? This is no coincidence since you'll find here a very dark and heavy atmosphere who might have inspired the death dildos in the UK (there's even a track about the LOTR...), but at the same time you can feel the punk touch underneath it all. One of the keys between the old UK punk scene and the wide-spread death/black scenes that rule extreme rock for more than 20 years.
British hardcore punk that came a little too late in order to be really relevant featuring some weird communist beliefs and symbols in a scene filled with Anarchy A's everywhere. Some songs on this one have a rather depressed atmosphere that makes it a cosy and numb record, perfectly fitting rainy autumn days at home.
Everybody seems to worship CRASS nowadays but the truth about them is that their sound is fucking lame ! Thus although Conflict emerged from the same environment as CRASS and even shared members with them, they're still one of my favourite bands and among the best when it comes to pure anarcho-punk. My favourite release is this one who makes some kind of testament of the 80s punk thing with some ass-kicking tracks you won't forget, as well as deep and rich lyrics and a sense of what's grandiloquent and what's from the gutter.
What a sick band ! Those british geniuses had the guts to make a whole record with a real anarchist attitude against nearly everything supported by this shitty global capitalist society, including take-your-guilt-away-mascarades like Live Aid with what seems to be pop music (decent pop music I might add). When you first hear it, it appears as another shitty pop band having remote punk roots. In clear words, total sell-outs assholes. But if you give it a second chance you'll notice how close to CRASS and Conflict they are in their way to write songs. Too bad the whole world remember them as a 90s one-hit wonder with a light song about alcohol.
What lacked in golden days UK punk was good love songs and funny stories. I mean, that's great to be the most anarchist band ever and to talk about how cruel capitalism and death are on every record, but sometimes lighter stuff doesn't make any harm. The 77 pioneers had a serious sense of humour while being totally legit. I mean no one can say the Damned ain't punk as fuck, even if their lyrics are filled with crappy jokes. In Germany and in the US there's a long tradition of fun punk bands, and I never found them weak or irrelevant. I discovered the Toy Dolls in Germany and because they influenced so much early 90s german fun punk acts, I thought for a long time they were from that time and place but happened to sing in english because "it's always cooler than german you know". Seriously their stupid sound and their singer ridiculous voice are real earworms traps.
Did you expected 'Punk's not dead' to be on the top of this list ? THIS is the best Exploited record of the decade and lemme tell you why. On this one you have an innovating and dark sound, making it somehow the perfect nuclear holocaust soundtrack. Clearly influenced by Killing Joke, it is a very intersting album when it comes to the drums and the atmosphere. Then on this record you'll find what's probably the best lyrics Wattie Bucchan ever sang, with a real reflection about life and death, along with a sincere expression of feelings in a almost leftist way. Something unique in the Exploited discography, innit ?
Once again a band closely associated with CRASS, not really surprisingly sharing striking common traits with the most famous hardline anarchist activists from the punk spheres. Not as good as Conflict for example, it is still an interesting record for those who like the frantic, disturbed, anarcho-punk tunes with a dirty english accent. Even though their 1994 record is way better.
Crust punk like you like it : raw, rubbish, straight outta the gutter, lo-fi and destroying the last brain cells society left in your head. What you expect from a modern angry crust record, making this horror a precursor of the genre. And there's even some damn good solos, proving that the late 80s british crusties could play well if they wanted to. But this just didn't.
For a very long time I ignored Oi Polloi. They seemed to be another second hand raw punk band from Spain, hum wait no... from Euskadi or something like this... but when I heard this one I understood why they have such a huge following across the world : they don't fucking care ! They play their dirty and ultra-left songs in an uncompromising "fuck this shit" attitude forcing respect.
Doom's 'Police Bastard' EP is beyond the cult status, giving crust its officially recognized birth but the record that came previously contained all what made 'PB' cult. Raw to death, dark as hell, this is one of basics for any crust fan ! Since Doom and the swedish wave european hardcore punk has never been the same.
You can imagine I was surprised to learn that punk legends from the Partisans and X-Ray Spex were behind the record defining the sell-out concept. While still retaining many early punk elements and way to play, think about the female-fronted bands on this list or event the Partisans themselves, it combines them with so many 80s pop or hair metal gimmicks it becomes quite disturbing. The idea's roughly the same than the one behind Nightwish's birth : bad boys and a hot chick playing rock music for the dumb masses, diluting what was once a true rebellion against the System. In 1988 british punk died becoming in one hand grind, crust, death metal and in the other hand this kind of alternative pop rock who'll define most of the early 90s productions. By the way Transvision Vamp went even further in 1989 and released with 'Velveteen' one of pionners of the early 90s shit the world had to bear. See Bush.
I didn't include Napalm Death here because their sound is definitely more grindcore than anything else, but this wasn't as obvious as it seems, because grindcore originally had very close ties with anrcho-punk in England. In fact grindcore gradually got separated from anarcho-punk, and flirted with the early british death metal acts before finally finding its own way. The edgde is unclear between the late 80s metal and punk scenes, and bands often shared members. This rivalry and the unexpected success of Napalm Death's 'Scum' led to some angry reactions and among them this rotten gem. Sore Throat published pure grindcore stuff but with one has a definitely striking CRASSy crust/ anarchopunk flavour, what made me include it down here.
Crust antiquity with thrash influence that happen to sometimes sound like black metal. Sick shit illustrating this key period when punk became crust punk as we know it. Meaning rotten, fast, violent and on the edge of extreme metal.
Although technically released by the end of the century every track here comes right from th early 80s. With mostly a nice clear female vocals between Vice Squad and Siouxsie you'll find everything that made the soft side of the british second wave highly enjoyable. Bitter lyrics, fine melodies looking some times to the pop field, pseudo D-beat and the fucking acid sound you came for, everything is here. Hum, did I already mentioned I'm love with the female singer's voice ?
Hailing from the Exploited's motherland -Scotland- the Threats used to be quite something. Imagine a singer just like any other good UK82 singer but with a little Johnny Rotten touch and a scottish accent. Then imagine him singing mostly politic angry lyrics. Then imagine his voice on old fashioned melodic punk rock, just like if Green Day had some balls and grew up away from Suburbia in a place called Real Life. You have the Threats and now you do understand why to miss them is so sad !
Well that's all folks. Exploring all this 80s british punk madness gave me some serious headaches but while writing this looooooooooong article I encountered many amazing 70s records from Britain and even some great 80s tunes from 'Murica. As a 90s youngster I grew up with some of these tracks nobody seemed to know at school and I found that all what was sung was fucking true. I looked at my peers with their lame metal bands and their even worst pop/hip-hop anthems, and I 've since always felt uncomfortable with this haunting question : why did punk died in Britain after the 80s ? Why nobody continued ? Did the oppressive leaders of society won against the last true rebellion after all ?
I don't have the answers, but what I can tell you is that if you want punk to survive, go move your ass and form your own local band ! Some Yankees and Krauts managed to keep playing this kind of music and gave some of the best records recorded since 1989, so why not you ?