These 12 punk albums of 1981 are rich in sound and fury
Hardcore plays a big part, but mutant strains of country blues, funk and art-school damage figure big, as well.June 13, 2020
Welcome to our look-back video at some of the best 1981 punk albums. While the foundation of punk rock was already in place by the late Seventies, there were still possibilities to be explored. We’re still thanking all the deities for that.
Historically speaking, the Eighties have been frequently referred to as “the Me decade.” There was an almost maniacal emphasis on acquiring wealth, status and clout (long before social media). This was further compounded by President Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the White House. But when it came to underground culture, it was incredibly exciting. This rundown of 1981 punk albums is all the evidence you need.
But here’s the thing. The best 1981 punk albums weren’t entirely based on hardcore’s velocity and acceleration. For all intents and purposes, hardcore’s fury and frustration were still in their nascent stage. However, a lot of creative souls realized there was more to be explored sonically than the endless fuck-you-tivity that powered the genre. So while this video certainly acknowledges true hardcore classics, there’s plenty of mutant strain. Rockabilly-rooted rave-ups and wild country blues hybrids are in bloom here. Jagged funk workouts blew minds. There’s weird European art-school damage and some feral insanity that hasn’t diluted with time. Why, there’s even a foretelling of emo here, albeit marinated in alcohol.
Yes, the Eighties had bullshit like “trickle-down economics” and some of the worst music ever. But there was a legion of listeners who demanded more from art and humanity. In hindsight, the people who were part of its evolution should be tagged “the We generation.” Because there was clearly an “us vs. them” mentality that informed both politics and culture. These 1981 punk records are certainly part of music history. But it’s really hard to imagine a world without them.