London Calling and Nevermind the Bollocks are both great, don't get me wrong, but for me...these are the true greatest punk albums of all time.
1. Black Flag- The First Four Years
this album is what it says...a collection of all Black Flag's singles/eps/etc. from their first four years as a band. all of it is pre-Henry Rollins. the band went through several different vocalists (their 1st one Keith Morris does a pretty fucking good Johnny Rotten impression). every song on this is a hardcore punk classic with "Nervous Breakdown", "Wasted", & "Six Pack" being some of my favorite songs ever written. this is the sound of Hardcore being born. nihilism, paranoia, depression, isolation, despair, the sound of the city of LA closing in around you. whenever i put this on i just wish i was a 15 year old skater who could go out and vandalize something.
2. The Stooges- Fun House
recorded in May of 1970, Fun House was the Stooges 2nd album. the band recorded everything live in the studio with no overdubs, so it's the closest thing to capturing their live fury of any of their other records. after their debut's basic garage/psych approach (if you could really call it basic) the band decided to indulge in their love of free jazz. most of the songs are basically just a riff with the rest of the band and Iggy just doing whatever they want. this is the sound of the apocalypse and next to the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat is one of the first truly punk records ever recorded. "Tv Eye", "Loose", & "1970" are the highlights...but honestly every fucking song on this album is a chaotic masterpiece.
3. Gang Of Four- Entertainment!
okay, so this is more of a post-punk record to be honest, but there's enough punk rock attitude on this album to let that slide. equal parts political manifesto and dance record, Gang of Four took the sound of 70s punk and mashed it together with funk to create a sound totally original. they influenced the likes of the Minutemen, REM, & Fugazi and basically spawned an entire genre of music (Dance Punk) that exists today. "Anthrax", "Damaged Goods", & "At Home He's a Tourist" are some of the highlights...but every song is memorable.
4. Suicide- Suicide
has there ever been an electronic record that sounded darker, scarier, and more punk rock? Ministry and Nine Inch Nails can go fuck themselves. Suicide pre-dated the New York Punk scene by a number of years and their live shows were the thing of legend. singer Alan Vega is like an Elvis on bad cocaine and Martin Rev just keeps the drone going. they influenced EVERYONE. the Jesus & Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire, Spacemen 3, Chrome, Big Black, The Screamers, Bruce Springsteen (yeah the Boss credits them for the inspiration to Nebraska), and every single band that ever decided to make music with just a singer and a drum machine. "Ghost Rider", "Rocket USA", and "Girl" are among the best tracks on this album and the 10 minute plus "Frankie Teardrop" is one of, if not THE, most fucking harrowing songs put to record.
5. Wire- Pink Flag
easily one of the most original bands of the UK punk explosion, Wire are part art project, part lesson in minimalism (in both sound and song length), and part fucking awesome. this record is the beginning of indie rock as it's pretty obvious that Pavement were fans of this. intelligent, strange, catchy, sometimes abrasive...a true classic. "three girl rhumba", "strange", and "ex lion tamer" are my favorite tracks...but honestly there isn't a single song of the 21 on here that aren't awesome.
6. The Clash- The Clash
the Clash's debut record combines the band's love of reggae, 50's rock and roll, and British pup-rock and delivers one of the greatest records of all time. London's Calling gets all the press, but THE CLASH is the album that defines who the band are and what they've got to say. both the US and UK versions of this album are both chock full of classic hits. the US version has a couple of UK singles added and a few album tracks missing from the UK version. honestly it's just better to buy the US one and download all the missing tracks from the British version.
7. The Birthday Party- Prayers On Fire
take the Stooges noisey freakouts...add an even darker and crazier frontman (a young Nick Cave), stick it in a meatgrinder, crank the murder/sex/death/rock up to 11 and then you've got the Birthday Party. this is as punk as goth ever got.
8. The Misfits- Static Age
sounding like a scary version of the Undertones and Ramones...Static Age is the ultimate Misfits album. horror cartoon punk. the soundtrack for any high school kid worth a shit's night on the town. EVERY SONG IS A CLASSIC. "attitude", "hybrid moments", "last caress", etc....
9. The Gun Club- Fire Of Love
swamped out hill billy punk...like of Creedence Clearwater Revival had grown up Black Flag fans. this is LA roots punk at it's finest. better than anything X ever recorded by a mile. this album had a huge influence on the coming Alt.country scene as well as The Meat Puppets, The Flaming Lips, & the Pixies....plus the White Stripes owe them a dept as well. "sex beat" (which has maybe the best line ever: "we can fuck forever but you'll never get my soul."), "she's like heroin to me", and "for the love of ivy" are the choice cuts.
10. Bad Brains- Bad Brains
the holy grail of hardcore punk was created by four black kids from Washinton DC who decided to take their jazz chops and play the fastest punk rock music ever at the time...and with some little reggae numbers thrown in to change things up a bit. Bad Brains moved to New York and basically changed the punk scene to hardcore overnight. LA metal and thrash owe a huge dept to Bad Brains as well. "attitude", "banned in DC" & "pay to cum" are the hits.
11. The Damned- Damned Damned Damned
the first UK punk band to hit the airwaves and easily one of the best. thrashy rock and roll and Stooges influenced garage rock. "Neat Neat Neat", "New Rose", and "Stab Your Back" are classics. they also do a Stooges cover for good measure.
12. The Nation Of Ulysses- Plays Pretty For Baby!
teenage rebellion as a political manifesto. the band's 2nd album took their love of the MC5, free jazz, artrock, and hardcore punk and then just took the whole thing up about 20 notches. angry, witty, and full of passion. Image isn't everything...it's the only thing. listen to "shakedown"...if you don't get it after that then you never will.
13. New York Dolls- New York Dolls
predating the punk scene by a few years, this American glam band took what T.Rex and Bowie were doing in England and made it seem dangerous. Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry riffs being played over songs about sex, decadence, drugs all done sloppy and violent. THIS IS THE MOST ROCK AND ROLL ALBUM EVER. The Dolls were New York's first and their finest. "personality crisis", "lookin' for a kiss", "trash", "jet boy"...every single song is perfection.
14. Ramones- Rocket To Russia
the 3rd and the best of all the Ramones albums. cleaner production and more hooks plus the best songwriting to date. iot's the perfect combo of their love of 60s girl group pop, surf rock, and chuck berry. "rockaway beach", "sheena is a punk rocker", and "teenage lobotomy" standout...but every single song is a classic.
15. Black Flag- Damaged
the band's debut album with Henry Rollins as it's full time vocalists. their sound now was perfected after years of writing and touring. the strongest lineup the group ever had with 2 guitarists and a killer rhythm section. every song is like an angry man balling up his fist and then fighting in a blind rage anything that comes near it. "gimmie gimmie gimmie", "tv party", & "rise above" can peel paint off the wall and "depression" is the birth of noise rock.
16. The Wipers- Is This Real?
mostly unheralded Oregon punks whose first 3 albums are basically the sound of Grunge being invented. Seattle was paying attention. this album is their first and best. tons of great songs, "Return of the Rat" and "D-7" (both covered by Nirvana) are the best known, and "Mystery" is a perfect little power pop love song that clocks in under 2 minutes.
17. Stiff Little Fingers- Inflammable Material
Belfast punks who took the Sex Pistols sound and cranked up the political unrest 20 notches with their debut record. probably the angriest UK punk record of the 70s. "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster" are the hits, but every song is a classic. "Barbed Wire Love" being my personal favorite.
18. Mudhoney- SuperFuzz BigMuff
combining Mudhoney's first EP with their early singles, Sub Pop released the definitive grunge record of all time. Mudhoney combined their love of the Stooges, Northwestern garage (the Sonics), and hardcore punk into a fuzzed out, primitive, feedback drenched sound. 12 songs of perfect rock and roll...with "Touch Me I'm Sick", "In and Out of Grace", and "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More" being the most well known. this is the album that made me fall in love with garage punk.
19. The Saints- Eternally Yours
the Saints 1st record is a classic of punk rock/garage energy, but it's the follow up that shows off that they could do equal parts oldschool rhythm & blues and even shameless power pop. the song "This Perfect Day" may very well be the greatest punk anthem ever written. "Lost & Found" is a pure garage burner and "Know Your Product" sounds like a soul record on speed with big horns and mighty hooks. Nevermind the Sex Pistols...it's the Saints who showed punks how to rock and roll.
20. The Cramps- Bad Music For Bad People
most people would probably pick their debut album as the place to start but for me this collection of singles and b-sides released in 1984 is the perfect intro to the kings of garage trash punk....it probably has something to do with me hearing this first. it's just 31 minutes and full of debauchery and everything is a fucking gem. the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valetnine, The Dwarves, the Horrors, and every band who ever played garage trash afterwards owes this band a lot. classic cuts "human fly", "garbage man", and "new kind of kick" all fucking rule.
21. The Zeros- Don't Push Me Around
i hate to put a compilation cd on this list but for The Mexican Ramones i will make an exception. Bomp records collected this comp of Zeros recordings from 1978-1980. if this isn't the best pop punk of all time then it's right up there with anything the Undertones, Buzzcocks, or Ramones ever committed to tape. includes the classic cuts "Don't Push Me Around", "Wild Weekend", and my personal favorite..."She's Just A Girl On The Block"