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10 punk tracks to cope with our crumbling democracy

A graphic depicting a gramophone playing music with he words "Collegian Playlists" coming out of it. Music notes float around in the space
(Graphic illustration by Abby Flitton | The Collegian)

Whether it’s watching the federal government fumble handling the pandemic like a newborn giraffe trying to play football, your Aunt Lisa getting slowly drawn into the rampant conspiracies of QAnon or the lifeless dread of scrolling through your super left-leaning friend’s anti-voting rants on their Instagram story, it’s indisputable that 2020 was filled with a steaming heap of bureaucratic incompetence with a side of corruption. 

Luckily for us, generations of punks saw this coming and had the insight to create an entire genre for you to channel your frustration into an impromptu mosh pit in your living room. Grab your roommates, local car dealership tube man, arthritic cat or just your sad, lonesome self, and get ready to bang your head until the pain goes away.

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1. ‘Rise Above’ by Black Flag

Starting off with a classic, Black Flag’s “Rise Above” is a high-energy protest song just vague enough to apply to any political issue. “Rise Above” is a great introduction to punk in general, featuring all the bells and whistles, including pick slides, fast-paced guitars and drum fills signature to the ’80s hardcore sound. 

2. ‘Red, White & Brainwashed’ by Anti-Flag

“Red, White & Brainwashed” is just one of the many Anti-Flag tracks from 25 years ago that still tackles relevant issues. The song is a critique of American nationalism as a tactic of manipulation, drawing parallels to the Nazi party. 

3. ‘F*ck You Donald Trump’ by Sharptooth

This song is hardcore through and through, with Lauren Kashan’s screeching vocals gnashing through the mix like a rabid dog. Many songs carry the same name, but none embody the rage that comes from listening to the incoherent ramblings of reality TV star Donald Trump so well. 

4. ‘The Only Good Fascist Is A Very Dead Fascist’ by Propagandhi

The bouncy, gritty bass of this song will have you bobbing your head along in seconds. Plainly anti-racist and inclusive lyrics make sure you won’t have to stop and think to yourself, “Wait, is this homophobic or not?”

5. ‘Nazi Punks F*ck Off’ by Dead Kennedys 

A quintessential Dead Kennedys track, “Nazi Punks F*ck Off” puts it plain and simple, right there in the name. Though it doesn’t feature the witty and satirical lyrics found in many Dead Kennedys songs, “Nazi Punks F*ck Off”  was meant to communicate a simple message: The punk community rejects intolerance and bigotry despite its loud and sometimes violent nature.

6. ‘Protest and Survive’ by Discharge

A precursor to modern metal and the punk subgenre D-beat, “Protest and Survive” is propelled forward in every beat through a driving, distorted layer of guitars so deep in the mix, it’s almost indistinguishable from the accompanying bass. This heavy track embodies the spirit of metal while featuring more approachable punk vocals.

7. ‘Freedumb’ by Suicidal Tendencies

“Freedumb” is the title track of Suicidal Tendencies’ 1999 album that features their signature skate punk and thrash crossover sound. The song mocks one of the vague token words used to display American values we’ve all heard a million times from politicians, nationalists or both.

8. ‘Fight Back’ by Big Boys

“Fight Back” opens with the slow groove of this song’s leading bass line overlaid with a slow burning vocalization that walks the line between growl and scream. The song alternates from this powerful but slow section into a raw, classic hardcore sound, complete with call and response vocals and speedy guitar riffs, giving the track a nice balance that lends itself to both listening and moshing.

9. ‘Big Take Over’ by Bad Brains 

This Bad Brains track provides a little variety to the mix, both in the abstract tonalities of the guitar in the intro and solo, and lead singer Paul Hudson’s distinctive vocals that bob up and down, showcasing his vocal range. The track appears on their 1982 self-titled albuma popular LP among punk fans and “the best punk/hardcore album of all time,” according to Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch.

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10. ‘Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)’ by The Vandals

OK, I’ll be honest, the main reason this song is listed here is that I think the title is hilarious. The song pokes fun at the utopian idea of anarchy that some punks have idealized, imagining a world where you can piss on deli cheese and swear in front of your mom.

Max Hogan can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @macnogan.

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