Consequence’s Punk Week continues with a staff list of the genre’s Top 30 bands. Keep checking back throughout the week for interviews, lists, editorials and videos — it’s all things punk, all the time.
The general consensus is that punk music had its transatlantic origins in the mid-’70s, simultaneously birthed out of a junky New York City club under a flophouse at 315 Bowery and an underground London fashion boutique at 430 King’s Road. There was the cheeky, intelligent weirdness of Ramones in the US, and the snarling, aggressive spitfire of the Sex Pistols in the UK — and that was punk rock.
At least, that’s been pinpointed as the dawn of what we’ve come to understand as punk. We can look back a few years and find its genesis in the avant sounds of The Stooges in the late ’60s. Jump forward to the late ’70s, and you get the pop playground of Buzzcocks. Hit the ‘80s, and you run into the hardcore styles of Minor Threat and the ska resurgence of Operation Ivy. Enter the next decade, and you find Green Day reigniting mainstream punk and Bikini Kill pioneering riot grrrl.
Honing in on what punk is has never been easy — probably because the whole idea of punk is to rip your preconceived notions to shreds. At its core, the genre is a foil for whatever is established at the time, whether it be political or pop cultural, societal or sonic. In that way, regardless of what it actually sounds like, punk is the refuge for the DIY rebels and the angry outsiders. All you need are three crappy chords and something to scream, and you can form a band.
Bands that have been molded out of that ethos have impacted decades of culture, with connective threads too long and numerous to properly count. Whether it’s the evolving influence of The Clash or the college rock of The Replacements or the sonic distortion of Social Distortion, each iteration of punk has made its mark on the scene.
That makes it damn near impossible to figure out the best punk bands of all time. Don’t be surprised if your favorite group didn’t make this list; we probably left them off because they didn’t fit whatever arbitrary, self-imposed criteria we came up with when deciding who to even consider. But rest assured, every act included here is worthy of wearing the hastily stitched-on patch of honor as one of the greatest punk bands ever. Scroll to the end to hear a playlist of essential tracks from each act.
— Ben Kaye
Editor’s Note: To keep punk alive even after Punk Week, pick up our new “Punk Is Dead, Long Live Punk” shirt at the Consequence Shop.