the best punk records of 2024: january - march

To give an idea of what to expect, here’s a special first edition on 20 records that shook me back to life this winter.

the best punk records of 2024: january - march

Looking back at the first three months of this year is an oddly loaded way to start this newsletter. There’s a version of this paragraph that reads like the overwrought personal essay intro of every single recipe on the internet, but I’ll spare you the autobiographical beats of my winter. One nugget: Before I got the chance to tell her about it, my Wisconsin therapist heard what I’d been going through from reading one of the many “RIP Pitchfork” news stories. Suffice to say it hasn’t been chill over here, though it has been nice to spend more time with the music I love.

In February, my friend Kevin and I drove the three hours round-trip out to Minneapolis to see local crazy punks Neo Neos headline this new small venue called Cloudland. I picked up the band’s album on Under the Gun from Extreme Noise and loved it, but I’d never seen them live. The singer, this gremlin named Connie, skulked around the front of the crowd, moving like he was actively being electrocuted. He spilled beer all over someone’s jacket they left on the floor before putting the can in his pants, pouring beer down his crotch, and then yelling “Kobe!” before chucking the half-full beer at some dude in the crowd. (Half full! Things can’t be too bad over here.) The band was otherwise airtight, ultra fast and laser precise while their frontman gleefully melted down. They closed with a wonderfully sloppy cover of the Kinks’ “Victoria.” On a four-band bill, Neo Neos played the least and packed up. 

I walked to the car energized, beaming, shaken loose, vibrating from cranked amps that overwhelm in the best way. It’s corny to call music therapeutic (no disrespect to music therapy), but there’s no denying the revitalizing impact of wild, blown out rock’n’roll. This is why I became obsessed with music in the first place: Going on deep dives in Bandcamp, finding some real heads’ YouTube mixes, watching a brand new band and wondering if they’ll be around for a while or flame out within the year, hearing something awesome and laughing and saying “holy shit” to nobody at all.

Future installments of this thing will have blurbs recommending a couple new releases; there will be interviews, essays, and other stuff, too. (Eventually those will go behind a paywall; read the intro post, there will still be free things to read.) To give an idea of what to expect, here’s a special first edition on 20 records that shook me back to life this winter. 

Abe and the Shits: “LOVE” [self-released]

Japanese punks Abe and the Shits have a perfect band name, and on their first demo, they stick that landing with an unrelenting banger. On “LOVE,” vocalist KRS gives an unhinged wail about money, money, money—a “love letter” in hard sarcastic quotes to capitalist excess.

Alien Nosejob: Cold Bare Facts [Anti Fade]

The prolific nature of Jake Robertson’s Alien Nosejob means each record is a grab bag. I prefer it when he goes a little harder. The vintage garage rock LP he did on Goner was alright; the hardcore 45s and AC/DC worship were tough to follow. This one’s on the heavier side, two songs based on true accounts of cold-blooded police violence. 

Antenna: Antenna [Urge]

At last, a post-Royal Headache project worthy of Shogun’s unbelievable talent. (I did not love Finnoguns Wake.) Sydney’s Antenna put muscle behind their chugging, breakneck power pop riffs—catchiness that careens near out of control. The showstopper is “Lost,” a genuinely beautiful song buoyed by heartland rock synths and one of Shogun’s best vocal performances ever.

AWFUL: 4 SONGS [Deluxe Bias]

A truly impossible-to-search band with an excellent lo-fi punk tape on Deluxe Bias. Their blown out sound is so elastic—the bass is probably the best thing here, bouncing all over the place. The shouted vocals are expressive, and the band is unbelievable. These four are wall-to-wall flawless; I’ll take another 20 if you’ve got ’em.

The Chisel: What a Fucking Nightmare [Pure Noise]

This is easily the biggest record on this list in terms of public reception; improbably, it charted in the UK. An oi! band with catchy-ass songs featuring the talents of Chubby and the Gang’s Charlie Manning-Walker. This band has steadily gotten better; What a Fucking Nightmare includes their best songs yet. Jonah Falco’s influence as producer is once again palpable, an anthemic sound that pretties up the grit.

Dollhouse: I Hate You Don’t Leave Me [Toxic State]

Equal doses goth, power pop, and hardcore, the New York City punk all-stars of Dollhouse rollick through the mire on their new 7”. Michelle Caiazzo screams about toxic codependency and crippling depression, a ragged cry for help while Margaret Chardiet (Pharmakon), Hank Wood, Sasha Stroud, and Tye Miller have the time of their lives bashing out wild earworms for the severely depressed.

Elmos: Elmos [Earth Girl]

Blown out and gleeful hardcore from down Hattiesburg, Mississippi way. These six minute-or-less jams pack so many swerves, like the time I saw a bunch of kids in Matewan, West Virginia speed downhill in the wrong lane without regard for the multiple blind curves. Elmos aren’t those kids though: they hate cars.

Enemic Interior: Enemic Interior III [self-released]

On their third EP, the Barcelona band once again finds a meeting point between post-punk and hardcore. Everything here is equal measures aggro and dreamy, music with so much bark but a glossy pop center. The shout-along gang vocals on “Mágia de Sang” are gorgeous. If you thought you were done with post-punk bands, you’re missing out on this one.

The Gobs: The Gobs [self-released]

After putting out a truly absurd number of demos, Olympia’s Gobs have put out an album that’s an absolute blast. “13 tall boys” is a rager, speed punk with synths where they literally count how many tall boys are on order this evening. Elsewhere they make SNES boss fight-core and indulge in multiple psychedelic guitar freak-outs. A wildly fun record.

Grazia: In Poor Taste [Feel It]

Grazia is a London band that makes jagged, pop-forward new wave. The debut release from Heather Dunlop and Lindsay Corstorphine features dispassionate vocals that contrast with tambourines and bubblegum riffs. They’re the life of the party, but you wouldn’t guess it from their demeanor. 

I.L.L.O.: 10 Ill Songs [Spared Flesh]

I’ve had a DRINKS-shaped itch for minimal psychedelia for some time now. Onyon’s Ilka Kellner did the trick with the new project I.L.L.O. This collection is jangly and wiry and subtle. Her voice is doubled and muffled as she sings about the natural world, each track wielding a strange surprise like “Way of the Shrimp”’s recorder solo. This would be a great record for camping.

Itchy & the Nits: Worst Of [Total Punk]

A proper LP release of their demo means a proper outing for Itchy & the Nits’ band theme song where they demand you “scratch your bits.” Pre-packaged for a gritty animated sitcom, the Sydney band’s ramshackle garage rock brings to mind Thee Headcoatees and other Nuggets revivalists. “Beat it, Bozo” is an equal doses tough and hilarious demand, a shouted missive across their dance party for itchy weirdos. 

Lysol: Down the Street [Feel It]

The four latest from Seattle’s Lysol is relentless sleaze. It’s howling rock’n’roll, tough-as-hell hardcore via glam rock. A while ago the band cited Raw Power as a touchstone, which comes through here, in part because Noah Earl Fowler is a charismatic beast—growling and screaming, each line just oozing personality.

Pleasants: Rocanrol in Mono [Under the Gun]

“Cheap 'n' cheerful rocanrol” is how the Perth band Pleasants describe their sound, and that’s definitely the size of it. It’s power chord power pop (and I was going to write the word “party” in there but the alliteration was getting absurd) without skips. “Karaoke Booth” is an excellent place to start, where scuzzy guitars barrel relentlessly and while a synth melody injects the entire operation with technicolor joy. 

RONi: Demo [Loopy Scoop Tapes]

Thick scuzzy guitar and digital budget percussion give this NWI project a strange kind of intimacy. The hooks are simple and sick, and the approach has that homespun “your buddy’s demo” vibe. Meanwhile, the dude from RONi (short for pepperoni, not a wild spelling of Ronnie) sounds like Cookie Monster’s vocal cords have been coated in pizza grease. 

Split System: Vol.2 [Goner/Drunken Sailor/Legless]

In their brief history, Melbourne’s Split System have yet to miss. Arron Mawson and Ryan Webb’s twin guitars provide so much melodic texture, a churning power chord base with clean elegant leads soaring overtop. Jackson Reid Briggs’ voice is unbelievable—expressive, tough, a little crunchy.

Spodee Boy: “Procedures” [self-released]

“Procedures” is a loosie from Nashville’s Spodee Boy with perfect balance. Minimal guitar strums rev to a full distorted chug while languid vocals become suddenly intense. Sparse and huge, an earworm roiling in dirt. 

Unicorn Fart Sugar: Snack of Plates [Runny Bum]

Unicorn Fart Sugar started as a pandemic project when Rhodes from the Domestics enlisted his kid Eliza to front a new band. The new EP is unpredictable and neon and all the adjectives we use for hyperpop. It’s a kid singing about noodles over hardcore riffs, saxophone bleats, and eventually, hair metal guitar heroics.

Uranium Club: Infants Under the Bulb [Static Shock/Anti Fade]

Every Uranium Club album feels like a labyrinth, where you could wander for days and keep finding new lines to obsess over.  There’s rock’n’roll immediacy to the drive of “2-600-LULLABY,” while “Tokyo Paris L.A. Milan” develops gradually. The three dudes you hear singing all write their own stuff, and their disparate approaches means this thing is teeming with ideas. There are skits, too!

Vaxine: Frontal Lobotomy [Discos Enfermos]

This Brooklyn punk band’s sound is rooted in oi! and UK82, and with fiery solos and screams designed to amplify any pit, their cause appears to be a righteous one. “Presence of Oppression,” “Glorified Violence,” and “False Integrity” all direct their rage with a sharp point. “Frontal Lobotomy” opens with the sound of a drill and a screaming man, and who among us isn’t conditioned to love punk music about being lobotomized?