My Top 10: Influential Punk Albums

In honor of Emo Night going down at The Chance in Poughkeepsie in a couple weeks, I decided to look back and compile a list of my favorite formative records from when I was younger. As you can tell, I thought punk and its subgenres were all that mattered when I was a teenager and didn’t believe anyone who said otherwise. Without further ado, here are my top 10 “influential” records.

Glassjaw – Worship and Tribute

It’s unclear to me how I discovered Glassjaw, but as soon as I heard the first 30 seconds of “Tip Your Bartender,” I knew it was going to be a special album. The band’s frontman Daryl Palumbo’s frantic yet fierce vocals really shine through on Worship and Tribute, a much more cohesive album from front to back than their first release, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence. While GJ has slowed down quite a bit due to Palumbo suffering from Crohn’s disease, the band has put out a few EPs, but nothing quite matches this album released 15 years ago. I still vicariously live through the fans in the Warped Tour 2003 video during “Ape Dos Mil.” 

Rise Against – Revolutions per Minute

While Siren Song of the Counter Culture has leapfrogged Revolutions per Minute as my all-time favorite Rise Against album, the latter will always hold a special place in my heart for what sparked my love for the band. Frontman Tim McIlrath has such a way of hitting home with his lyrics, and that holds true with this record especially. Rise Against has shifted gears quite a bit in recent years, but their first five records are albums I can still go back to even today. 

Brand New – Deja Entendu

Back when FYE was the main source of buying CDs to burn onto my computer, I found a lot of albums that meant a lot to teenage me. None more so than Deja Entendu, which I credit as the record that changed it all. I loved this release by Brand New so much, as it opened the door to a whole new range of artists. If you’ve only heard of “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” listen to the album in its entirety on an aimless car ride through the lenses of a 16 year old and you will understand why it’s such a formative record.

Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance

This is one of the best post-hardcore records out there. It’s even more incredible when you realize that frontman Dustin Kensrue was only 23 when it came out and that it’s the band’s third release. The Artist in the Ambulance is when Thrice really came into their own. As an angsty teenager, I craved what these California boys delivered both lyrically and instrumentally. In the song “Hoods on Peregrine,” the line “You think they’re selling you truth, truth is they’re selling you out,” followed by a filthy bass rift used to send chills up my spine. If I’m in the mood for something heavy, this album always satiates my desire. 

My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

If you’ve never teared up during MCR’s “The Ghost of You” music video then you’re doing something wrong. The Black Parade is ultimately what propelled Gerard Way and crew into the spotlight, but it was their previous release that goes down in my book as the Jersey emo outfit’s best album. What’s so awesome about this release is that each song is just hit after hit. “Helena,” “Give ‘em Hell Kid,” “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and so on. Though the band’s first three records have a very gothy aura around them, My Chem went with a more dancey, optimistic for their final release in 2010. While I will forever miss this gem of a band, I am thankful I got to see them when I was 16 alongside blink-182 (with Tom DeLonge, not the frontman of the next band on my list).  

Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary

Before the aforementioned pop-punk legends, blink-182, Matt Skiba fronted a little band called Alkaline Trio. Being a teenager searching for who I was, the Chicago punk rockers were able to make me understand that it was okay to not know what I was doing with my life and to be okay with feeling lost. From Here to Infirmary is widely considered one of their weaker albums, but it’s one that I really appreciated as a teenager because it deals with heartache and angst but has a subtle optimism to it.  

Anti-Flag – For Blood and Empire

Keep in mind, I went to a small Catholic institution for high school. Most of the people I went to school with weren’t into punk music, so Anti-Flag really blew me away with their outspoken, politically charged lyrics. In hindsight, most of what they have to offer is pretty simple and a little bit cheesy, but getting to meet their frontman Justin Sane and their drummer Pat Thetic at 15 years old was a pretty surreal experience. What’s ironic about this album is that it was released on RCA, one of the biggest labels in the world. Can’t blame the Pittsburgh boys for wanting a little scratch. 

AFI – Sing the Sorrow

This is easily one of the most beautiful albums from beginning to end that you will ever listen to. Plug in your headphones and let Davey Havok bless your ears with a delightfully cinematic yet still very much punk album. Prior to this, AFI was a predominantly hardcore band, but the tides turned when Sing the Sorrow was released in 2003. They really put themselves on the map when “Miss Murder” from their follow up album Decemberunderground appeared in Guitar Hero III, but if you really want to see some serious elbow throwing, watch their music video for “The Leaving Song Pt. II.”

The Bouncing Souls – Self-titled

When you listen to The Bouncing Souls, the atmosphere of cool nights down at the Jersey Shore will never leave you. Native to Asbury Park, The Bouncing Souls make light-hearted punk jams that anyone can jive to. They’re still kicking after being around for almost 30 years and will still melt your face off with their live shows. It was hard to narrow it down to which Souls record I appreciate the most, but I went with this one. After reading this, go home and listen to “Shark Attack” and you will understand what they’re all about.

The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past

Remember how I was talking about when I first listened to Glassjaw and I knew I was going to love them 30 seconds into their first song on the record? The Menzingers are the only other band for which this holds true. I discovered them when I was a senior and they helped me get through my time at community college. When you are a commuter, you’d better have a lot of listening material in your car, because you are driving quite a bit. I played this record in my beat-up Volkswagen Jetta 300 times, easily, and I still get chills to this day when “Good Things” kicks off the album. “I’ve been having a horrible time pulling myself together. I’ve been closing my eyes to find why all good things should fall apart,” was my favorite thing to belt out after I turned my car on after class and hit the road. An eternal classic.