14 best punk albums of 2005, from Fall Out Boy to Against Me!
2005 began with a sick hangover, otherwise known as facing four more years of President George W. Bush’s administration, compounded by the erroneous war in Iraq. And that queasy stomach and headache never subsided. Is it any wonder the year’s best punk music was overwhelmingly bright and cheerful, even if it pounded like a jackhammer? It was as if the angriest of political artists understood listeners could no longer take any more shocks to their senses.
Singalong melodies were needed, whether it came from pop punk's dominance, the most rampaging of old-school punk or gutbucket of garage bands or the second wave of post-punk, which gained chart traction at the same moment the garage revival became commercial. Not that social protest had disappeared. But the bitterest of pills required a lot of sugar to go down.
Bearing this atmosphere in mind, these are 2005’s best punk albums, from Fall Out Boy to Against Me!
Adolescents – OC Confidential
It had been 17 years since Adolescents — who helped pioneer the hard but highly musical Orange County punk sound with 1981’s Adolescents, aka The Blue Album — had cut a studio LP, in this case 1988’s Balboa Fun Zone. For their fourth album, original Adolescents Tony Reflex, bassist Steve Soto and guitarist Frank Agnew were joined by OG Social Distortion drummer Derek O'Brien to cut 13 of the toughest, most political songs to bear Adolescents' name. And for all the crush-guitar muscularity of new anthems such as "Hawks And Doves" or the title track, bolstered in the studio by Social Distortion’s Jonny Wickersham, OC Confidential boasted some of the most lilting melodies and Beach Boys-perfect harmonies of their careers. Every bit as classic as The Blue Album and shamefully out of print.
Kaiser Chiefs – Employment
Pithy songs, terse guitars and bags of energy will get you everywhere. Leeds, U.K.’s Kaiser Chiefs certainly benefited from the space the Libertines had opened for guitar-based groups steeped in late ‘70s punk and new wave. Debut album Employment was chock-full of chain drive guitar and carnival keyboard anthems such as "I Predict A Riot" as British as punch-up in a chip shop, steak and kidney pies flying all over the joint. It made them the worldwide darlings of music fans who adore B-sides by the Jam, Elvis Costello, XTC and the Kinks, delivering the sort of career momentum the band still enjoy to this day.
Alkaline Trio – Crimson
Crimson, the fifth studio album from Alkaline Trio, would prove to be their most polished production. Jerry Finn (Green Day, blink-182, Jawbreaker) put in extensive preproduction time with the band in their native Chicago, before they flew to Los Angeles to track at Conway Recording Studios from November 2004 to January 2005. The album was the richest and most expansive of their career to date. The sonic layers were thick, with keyboards here and there, and strings on "Prevent This Tragedy." But the material was darker, of course, than your standard pop punk. For one thing, would your typical Warped Tour act write a song about Manson Family member Susan Atkins (aka Sadie Mae Glutz)? Yet there it was — "Sadie," for your singalong pleasure!
Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better
Franz Ferdinand made the radio safe for post-punk-influenced/guitar-driven pop music via their 2004 self-titled debut album. It was filled with such hits as the utterly ubiquitous "Take Me Out," selling 3.6 million copies worldwide and taking them to award shows from the Mercurys to the Grammys. But as bassist Bob Hardy told Rolling Stone the next year, "There's more to life than disco-beat guitar music." Yet follow-up LP You Could Have It So Much Better was brimming with three-and-a-half-minute spiky guitar hits set to Giorgio Moroder beats such as "Do You Want To." It wasn’t a blockbuster like the first album, but it did well enough to keep them international hitmakers for a good while longer.
The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
For Get Behind Me Satan, the fifth studio album from Detroit garage-punk superstar duo the White Stripes, Jack White was looking to shake up their entire musical world. His fret-busting guitar work was barely present, save for such exceptions as warm-up single "Blue Orchid," where his trademark red plastic National is so heavily processed it damn near mimics a synthesizer behind his falsetto vocal. For the most part, he created a set of heavily rhythmic pop songs for Satan, relying on drummer Meg White’s metronomic bashing and instruments like marimbas ("The Nurse") and upright piano (second single "My Doorbell" and virtually half the record). The White Stripes had driven out of the garage and were vrooming down other streets.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
If Franz Ferdinand’s take on post-punk involved tangy Fender guitars set to disco beats, then Bloc Party’s version set similarly tart six-strings to mutated electronica and house grooves. This made Silent Alarm a tense debut, with tracks such as "Positive Tension" and "The Price Of Gasoline" startling eardrums and piquing interest. They’d been active since 1999, and only moved to the next level after singer/guitarist Kele Okereke handed Franz Ferdinand mainspring Alex Kapranos and influential BBC Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq copies of their 2003 debut single, "She's Hearing Voices." It was reprised for Silent Alarm, its sequencer-like guitar hook and blockbusting drums heightening the urgency of the entire enterprise. A potent new player had entered the world stage.
Against Me! – Searching For A Former Clarity
Against Me! had gotten simultaneously harder and hookier, and slowly built a growing grassroots following, one show and record at a time. It had increased to the point that third album Searching For A Former Clarity was their first to bother the Billboard 200. It surely wasn’t due to Jawbox's J. Robbins’ granite-tough production, which leader Laura Jane Grace claimed in her 2016 memoir Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout was one of many reasons Fat Wreck Chords chief Fat Mike hated the record.
If he’d cleaned his ears out, he’d have heard the band’s most fully realized set of songs yet. No single style dominated the record, as Against Me! pummeled their way through old-school punk ("Mediocrity Gets You Pears (The Shaker)"), Franz Ferdinand-style disco-punk ("Justin") and a spaghetti western-flavored barroom ballad ("How Low").
Dropkick Murphys – The Warrior’s Code
The Warrior's Code was album No. 5 for premier Celtic street-punk band Dropkick Murphys. With boxing legend “Irish” Micky Ward — the subject of The Warrior's Code’s piledriving title track — delivering a punishing blow on the cover, it was evident that this was a tough record. The LP's centerpiece, "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," the biggest single of the band’s career, employs unused Woody Guthrie lyrics the Murphys set to music. It puts one in mind of the Sex Pistols or Cockney Rejects playing an ancient sea shanty. The Warrior’s Code is Dropkick Murphys’ all-time best-seller, earning them a gold album certificate for 500,000 copies sold.
The All-American Rejects – Move Along
The All-American Rejects captured both hearts and ears the world over with the 2003 reissue of their self-titled debut album, with its chugging hit single "Swing, Swing." The planet was ready for heartland pop punk perched somewhere between the Cars and Def Leppard. With second album Move Along, producer Howard Benson buffed the already-existing AOR sheen to a high-gloss. It resulted in three massive radio hits — "Dirty Little Secret," "Move Along" with its Bo Diddley beat, and the piano-driven power ballad "It Ends Tonight." The result shipped 2 million copies, certified double platinum by the RIAA.
Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree
Fall Out Boy evolved out of several Chicago hardcore bands in 2001, producing a slamming 2003 debut LP, Take This To Your Grave, that became an underground sensation. Now they were under prestige major label Island Records and had to come up with the follow-up. With several publications hyping them as the “next big thing,” Pete Wentz felt the pressure. His anxiety and depression culminated in an attempted Ativan overdose, which became the subject of "7 Minutes In Heaven (Atavan Halen)." Killer singles "Dance, Dance," "Sugar, We're Goin Down" and "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'" aptly demonstrated their knack for spinning gold out of burly guitars and complete sentences for titles.
Sleater-Kinney – The Woods
As Sleater-Kinney holed up in Cassadaga, New York’s Tarbox Road Studios with producer Dave Fridmann to track their seventh studio album, they hardly knew it would be their last for a while. In 2006, they announced a hiatus. But The Woods would be their rawest, most rock-oriented album to date. Fridmann brought all of his experience recording such alt luminaries as Flaming Lips to the mixing desk. He limited studio time to one month, starting in November 2004, capturing them live on the floor with precious few overdubs. They got as close as possible to their live sound — dense, barely processed, loud. Best moment? The howling flight of Hendrix-ian guitar fancy in the thick of "What's Mine Is Yours."
HorrorPops – Bring It On!
Hell Yeah!, the first album from Danish punkabillies HorrorPops, dropped in 2004 like the mutant, questionably legitimate offspring of Gene Vincent and Misfits. Or perhaps a more apt illustrative image would be a Cramps/Damned jam session fronted by Wanda Jackson, if she could double on upright bass? Barely one year later, Bring It On! is beautifully, deliciously more of the same. And few album covers have more perfectly captured the music it accompanies than this: frontwoman Patricia Day, face frozen in a feral expression, smashing her tattoo flash-festooned bass.
The Pink Spiders – Hot Pink
The viciously melodic Pink Spiders may call Nashville home, but there's no room for a fiddle or steel guitar in their brand of tuneful raunch. One listen to Hot Pink, their self-produced debut LP, indicates their communal record collection must have consisted of nothing but late ‘70s punk and power pop 45s. Which means the Pink Spiders — singer/guitarist Matt Friction, drummer Bob Ferrari and bassist Jon Decious — were perched to assume the power-pop/punk throne sadly vacant since the Exploding Hearts’ tragic end in 2003.
Randy – Randy The Band
Randy The Band was actually the sixth album from Swedish garage-punk juggernauts Randy. Sadly, it was their last full-length, though they apparently remain active. Intriguingly, it plants one Dr. Marten in the la-la-la skate punk sod where they initially germinated, and the harder garage/’77 stylings marking them since 1998’s third LP You Can't Keep A Good Band Down. And for all their whoa-whoa Misfits-style choruses, Randy The Band works the best on the tracks that emphasize harder guitars and drums, such as "Razorblade." So what do you say, Randy? When do we get a follow-up?