Best Punk Album Year in Review 2003
Published Jan 01, 20061. Turbonegro Scandinavian Leather (Epitaph)
Back after a bad break-up, Turbonegro's first new album in four years has transformed them into the biggest cult/punk band around. Asked about his band's place on this list, guitarist/keyboard player Pal Pot Pamarious summed it up in classic death punk style as he walked the streets of Norway on his cell phone. "Frankly, I don't give a flying fuck, but hey, good news is good news."
Known as much for their outrageous homo-erotic image as their tireless recording ethic, Scandinavian Leather's magic stems from the fact it took almost three months to record, an eternity compared to most underground punk. "We're a band that likes to be in the studio. It's like a boy's club for us to hang around in, drink beer, do drugs in and try to be creative. We'll work until seven in the morning, have a sleep for three hours, then come back and keep going."
As the recording experience has evolved, so has the band's live performance. "It's changed a lot from when we started out. People used to throw bottles and shoot flare guns at us. Now every night is just a huge explosion, and people just come to see a great show and that's what we deliver."
With a core audience that's been typically male, lately groups of women can be seen singing along to songs like "Sell Your Body (To The Night)." "Everybody is always welcome, but before it was mainly just drunk punk boys, but now we're getting a lot of girls at the shows too. Maybe they're just trying to convert us from our little homosexual adventure. Pretty girls are nice to have around and talk to, but it all stops there!" Not content to only bridge gaps of gender and sexual orientation, the band now boast a special chapter of their now-famous Turbo Jugend fan club. Pal Pot Pamparious boasts "The new Turbojugend Primate Chapter is now open at Monkey World outside London, England. The president is an orang-utan named Gordon, and the vice pres's name is Paul. Apparently there is chimpanzee that really wants to join, but the orang-utans keep kicking the shit out of him. I pray for all of them every night before I go to sleep. Like I said, everyone is welcome."
2. Thursday War All The Time (Island)
A heartbreaking portrait of the wars we wage in our everyday relationships, War All The Time finds Thursday experimenting with intricate song structures, unique guitar interplay, and new levels of poetic lyricism. "For The Workforce, Drowning" paints an epic picture of the struggles we face as we work to maintain our humanity in the face of an increasingly mechanised world. While they have been the object of mounting criticism since leaving Victory Records, Thursday's immense growth over three album has proven that their greatest work is likely yet to come.
3. Brand New Deja Entendu (Triple Crown)
One of the year's best in the oft-maligned emo genre, Deja Entendu shows a band tired of the restrictions imposed by a single, creatively stifling style. A far cry from the straight-ahead pop-emo/punk of their first full-length, this record explores more Elliott Smith-like waters, connecting perfectly the balladry of singer-songwriter with the energetic push of punk rock. Songs here teeter on a world of depression, while hanging on by a thread of passion.
4. NOFX The War on Errorism (Fat Wreck)
On this first full-length album for their own label since their debut, the undisputed kings of melodic fun-core got all political. No longer content with singing about fat lesbian fantasies and the array of odd-ball characters that inhabit his world (although he does that here too), Fat Mike turns his pun-gun on the American establishment both corporate and political. Like the soundtrack to a Michael Moore rant, the band uses intelligent humour, irony and caustic wit to skewer their country's obsession with being number one.
5. Coheed and Cambria In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3 (Equal Vision)
Building on the unlikely success of their debut, the New York quartet proved that their attempts to bring Rush-inspired prog rock to the punk rock masses was no fluke. With a disc that thematically continues the story of the love-among-the apocalypse exploits of characters named Coheed and Cambria and musically runs the gamut from layered, Journey-derived pomp-rock to straight ahead Jimmy Eat World emo pop gems. It's an odd combination that, for whatever reason, works incredibly well.
6. Further Seems Forever How to Start a Fire (Tooth & Nail)
The long-awaited return from Florida's Further Seems Forever proved triumphant. Many had a hard time seeing past the departure of former lead singer Chris Carrabba, but new vocalist Jason Gleason brought raw passion and fervour missing from a lot of emo releases this year. Whether they are generating melodic rock anthems or branching out to progressive noise, Further Seems Forever are back for good.
7. Armor For Sleep Dream To Make Believe (Equal Vision)
Distilling the harder-edged moments of bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Armor For Sleep offered up yet another example of how being soft-spoken can pack as much emotional punch as the most gut-wrenching scream. With stellar songwriting that belies their youth, Armor For Sleep make use of this album's magnificent production to create starkly fragile portraits of loneliness, adolescent confusion, and loss. Beautifully simplistic without being monotonous.
8. Rocket From the Crypt Live From Camp X-Ray (Vagrant)
Not a live album at all, but a reference to the U.S. Army camp in Cuba where alleged Al-Queda operatives are imprisoned, this ten-song blast found the revved-up, horned-out San Diego-based bashers delivering their pummelling brand of 50s rock'and'roll-inspired garage punk. Since leaving their ill-fated major label experiment behind them, RFTC have produced some of the most inspired music of their career.
9. Strike Anywhere Exit English (Jade Tree)
Strike Anywhere strike back with an impressive sophomore release. The band employs its forcefully melodic musical platform to convey an insightful social and political message. The assault that ensues is seething, addictive, and monumental even while it resides in a mid-tempo furrow. This album will stand taller than Dag Nasty's, Can I Say, or Gorilla Biscuits' Start Today, in the hardcore annals of time.
10. AFI Sing the Sorrow (Dreamworks)
Out of all the major label "hardcore" releases this year, AFI's Sing The Sorrow was the best produced, and the most successful. By glorifying hardcore dance moves in the video for "Leaving Song Pt.2" or by allowing Davey Havok's crucial vocals to make him the new Ziggy Stardust on "Bleed Black," AFI rocked. Beneath the MTV hype and Butch Vig production is the same group of amazing punk songwriters that we all grew to love in the first place.