Few genres delve into political problems as often as punk rock, but that doesn’t make every political punk song tolerable. It takes a lot of work to balance political aggression with good lyrics and musical craftsmanship.
Next time you hate authority, the government, or whoever else, here are 10 of our favorite political punk records.
10. Good Riddance - For God and Country
You know when a punk band releases a debut called For God and Country, it’s going to be both ferocious and super political. Good Riddance didn’t disappoint, and they put out an album that’s reminiscent of an angrier Bad Religion (and knocked Bad Religion off this list). Does it sound like a million other mid-’90s punk record? Yep, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
9. Against Me! - Searching for a Former Clarity
Pretty much every Against Me! album has a couple of political songs on it, but Searching for a Former Clarity has some of their best work. While a good portion of the album deals with significant societal problems more than blatant political issues, “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer)” is certainly a political anthem that many bands wouldn’t have the courage to write.
8. Black Flag - Damaged
Alright, so Damaged isn’t that political of a record, but it’s super important in the grand scheme of things. Black Flag has always been synonymous with anti-establishment hardcore punk rock, and they never would’ve gained the traction they did if it wasn’t for the semi-political Damaged. Plus, the bonus version includes “White Minority,” which is one of their best political songs ever.
7. Rise Against - Siren Song of the Counter Culture
Yes, diehard Rise Against fans, The Unraveling is a better album from before they “sold out.” Yes, new Rise Against fans, the later albums have more clear political messages than Siren Song. But no other Rise Against album contains the band’s old angry edge with their later slightly poppy songwriting ability than Siren Song of the Counter Culture. “State of the Union” is a classic political punk jam, no matter how you spin it.
6. Propagandhi - Less Talk, More Rock
Considering they’re Canadian, Propagandhi doesn’t talk too much about American politics, but they have a ton to say about politics on a global scale. With song titles like “The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist” and “I Was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist,” does the political side even need any explanation? And yes, pretty much any Propagandhi record (particularly early Propagandhi records) is a very good punk record.
5. Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come
Not only are Refused anti-authority and anti-government, but they’re also anti-capitalism, anti-pop music, and anti-pretty much everything else. On some level, it’s always seemed like Refused would be just as happy to sit and watch the world burn as they would be to make serious political changes (which is kind of awesome in its own way). That said, The Shape of Punk to Come is one of the all-time great punk records of the late ‘90s, whether you’re for or against politics.
4. Anti-Flag - The Terror State
Like it or not (we suggest liking it, they’re actually really solid live), Anti-Flag is the political punk band of the early 21st century. Yeah, all those other bands are cool, but Anti-Flag’s entire thing is being pissed off about the government and social injustices in the world, and they do a damn good job at it. Whether you’re a fan of The Terror State, For Blood and Empire, or any of the Pittsburgh band’s other albums, you have to admit, they make some pretty powerful political punk music.
3. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine
If it didn’t seem like such a copout, this would actually say “Rage Against the Machine - All Albums,” but it did, so we picked the one that fit the best. You can’t get three songs into the band’s debut album without being pissed off about the way things are, and that’s saying something for an album that came out 23 years ago. Where other political records are indicative of a time and place, Rage Against the Machine works in pretty much any situation, including (somewhat ironically) before and during organized commercial sporting events.
2. The Clash - Give ‘Em Enough Rope
Forget what you learned all of your life, London Calling isn’t the best Clash album. Don’t get it twisted, it’s a great album, but Give ‘Em Enough Rope is better. ‘Tommy Gun,’ ‘All the Young Punks,’ ‘Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad,’ they’re classics. Oh, and there’s no ‘Train in Vain’ on this one. As far as politics go? Yeah, the Clash are one of the most political classic punk bands of all time, possibly beat only by...
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1. Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
Not only did this album make political punk a thing, but it’s really what made the entire genre of punk rock a viable option. The album itself pretty much goes without saying, but "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" are still the blueprints for every political punk song of the last 38 years. The whole “boat concert” ordeal really set the whole thing over the top, because that might be the most political punk move in history.
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