THE CLASH, London Calling (SONY/EPIC)
WHY: Punk dudes (and it’s always dudes, right grrls?) who are long in the tooth like to dismiss everything after 1992, as if punk wasn’t susceptible to mutation and the influence of succeeding generations the way other genres are. Clearly, said grump-sacks forgot how U.K. punk avatars the Clash changed the game with the ambitious and resonating London Calling. You got funky chicken-scratch Motown-sound guitar (“Clampdown”), menacing reggae (“The Guns Of Brixton”), ska (“Rudie Can’t Fail”) and at least one unapologetic, unvarnished love song (“Train In Vain”). While “harder, faster, louder” is a pretty good ethos, the Clash had already did that years prior. Clocks and calendars don’t have rewind switches, friends.
TURN UP: “Clampdown.” If you don’t get a chill up your spine when Mick Jones sneers, “It’s the best years of your life they want to steal,” you’re terminally hopeless and should go join the Tea Party.
THE JESUS LIZARD, Goat (Touch And Go)
WHY: When the rest of America were embracing the “genius” of bands like Third Eye Blind, Candlebox and whatever label wrote checks to MTV and America’s radio promoters, the Jesus Lizard were creating highly propulsive and gloriously caustic tracks several parsecs ahead of anything being run up the alternative flagpole. Elements in a lot of today’s so-called “hotness” were done much better by these dudes more than 20 years ago. (Full disclosure: This writer was asked to write liner notes to the 2009 reissue of this album, a record he loves more than some members of his extended family.)
TURN UP: “Mouth Breather,” one of the best singles to come out of the ’90s underground, period.
MINOR THREAT, Out Of Step (DISCHORD)
WHY: You can’t talk about trends in punk (or classic 12-inch-sized vinyl artifacts) without acknowledging Minor Threat for igniting the straight-edge movement. While the band released a number of great 7-inch singles and comp tracks, the Out Of Step EP remains a cohesive smattering of heart, soul and passion from the nation’s capitol—a list of attributes that have eroded significantly over the years.
TURN UP: The title track, which encapsulates the whole sXe manifesto in no uncertain terms while still telling the calendar to fuck off, three decades later.
NIRVANA, Bleach (SUB POP)
WHY: It’s the album that set up a genre (grunge) and helped three dudes (okay, two; Grohl’s not here yet) bring other elements and participants of underground culture into the mainstream.
TURN UP: Nothing like the ugliness of “Negative Creep” to appeal to disaffected youth and outlaw bikers alike. Do you see why nobody expected this band to do what they did?
RANCID, …And Out Come The Wolves (EPITAPH)
WHY: This was the glass-ceiling-smashing record that nodded toward British punk history (from the Clash to Angelic Upstarts) and the SoCal scene. The world noticed as the band played the game by their rules, from a crucial Saturday Night Live appearance to sold-out gig notices all over the planet.
TURN UP: Tough one to call: “Roots Radicals” feels like a psychic blueprint to earnest-punk scenes far and wide. But “Ruby Soho” is considered the punk-lifer fave. Put it this way: Which body part are you okay with us removing? There’s your answer.
THURSDAY, Full Collapse (VICTORY)
WHY: More so than any other album (or band for that matter) coming out at the time, Thursday’s crucial sophomore release defined the synergy of passion and musicianship we now define as “post-hardcore.”
TURN UP: “Understanding In A Car Crash.” Because you should get your water from the moving stream where it’s fresh, not from the well.