1986 was a turning point for punk rock. Some people thought it should stay frozen in beer-soaked amber or it should sit the hell down. For a culture that proclaimed there were no rules, it felt like the punk-rock rulebook was going to go into its second or third editions. Fortunately, there were plenty of bands willing to push back against the tired rubric. Which is why we consider these records the best punk albums of 1986.

The year was notable in a few ways. First, it seemed that the lines of demarcation between punk and metal were beginning to erode. The metalheads were wearing Misfits shirts and one of hardcore’s legendary bands would help bridge the gap the following year. Secondly, pop-punk enjoyed a wider dissemination with some crucial releases. But the most important thing might have been bands having the fortitude to do whatever the fuck they wanted. Even if that meant listening to the true “enemies” of punk. (Read: progressive rock, jazz or anything else that required more than just barre chords and the truth, maaaaan…) Which explains how the best punk albums of 1986 have a wider sonic breadth with all of the attitude.

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The best punk records of 1986 came from unlikely corners. One record listed here had great songs and a less-than-stellar mix. A bunch of sadists from New York City made one of their defining records while jamming screwdrivers in the bridges of their guitars. America’s punk-rock icons made a semi-serious album that has held up. One Midwest outfit dared to mix jazz and prog sensibilities into their rough-hewn rock.

1986 was a crucial year in the underground’s development. It smelled like smoldering amps and a bonfire of punk-rock rulebooks. By that time, many people had stopped reading them, choosing instead to leave hardcore’s sense of Xerox. It was perfect timing.