20 Best Punk Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

The Albums that Carried Us into the 21st Century

As the first decade of the new millennium draws to a close, I'm looking back at the soundtrack to the past 10 years. So many great and influential punk albums are now 20 or even 30 years old, but that never prevents the newest faces (or even many of the older ones) from continuing to make albums that will define and redefine the boundaries of punk music.

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New York Dolls – 'One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This' (2006)

New York Dolls
One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Roadrunner Records

When the Dolls reappeared with their first collection of new material in over 30 years, I was skeptical to say the least. Could the Dolls reassemble their classic, innovative and influential sound? Fortunately, that answer was a resounding “yes,” and the album is full of the trashy glampunk sound they invented, and the resulting live performances were unpretentious rock and roll parties.

Despite the fact that David Johanson and Syl Sylvain are the only remaining members, the band holds true to their original sound, one that laid the foundations for punk rock in the U.S. And with new material, they prove that the sound is still relevant.

Essential Tracks:
"Fishnets & Cigarettes" Listen/Download
"Dance Like A Monkey" Listen/Download

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Mouth Sewn Shut - 'Doomed Future Today' (2007)

Doomed Future Today. Rodent Popsicle Records

When Toxic Narcotic took a hiatus in 2005, two of their members formed Mouth Sewn Shut, an intense band with an innovative sound - all-out hardcore assaults merged with reggae and ska beats. This bizarre combined sound is a recipe for a great record. It's brutal and aggressive, but you can still tap your toes to it.

With their rhythmic sound, Mouth Sewn Shut is a gateway band to crust and hardcore. Kids looking to explore crust bands would do well to pick up Doomed Future Today, but old-school crust fans are not going to be turned away either.

Essential Tracks:
"Watch Out" Listen/Download
"Doomed Future Today" Listen/Download

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Tiger Army – 'III: Ghost Tigers Rise' (2004)

Tiger Army
III: Ghost Tigers Rise. Epitaph

Tiger Army’s third and most mature record found the band shedding some of the stereotypes of psychobilly rawness, blending it with punk, blues and country. While at its leather jacket-clad core Ghost Tigers Rise remains true to its roots, it dodges the trappings of psychobilly sameness in a way that redefines the genre without showing any disdain toward it. As a result, Ghost Tigers Rise appeals to both those who love psychobilly's formulaic madness and those who may be mildly put off by it.

Essential Tracks:
"Rose Of The Devil's Garden" Listen/Download
"Through the Darkness" Listen/Download

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Spark Is A Diamond - 'Try This On For Size' (2008)

Try This On For Size. Pluto Records

After the breakup of Fall River, Allison Bellavance and Matt Boylan set off in a new direction with Spark is a Diamond. The new band took their hardcore roots and merged them with dance music a la Death From Above 1979. What could have been an unlistenable train wreck ended up being a surprisingly wonderful, innovative record that also rocks really, really hard.

The hardcore elements are all there -- guttural vocals and thick, heavy guitars -- but it's the added electronica and dance beats that complete the package and elevate this record above both electronic and hardcore albums from the same period.

Essential Tracks:
"Check Your Lease, You're in F**k City" Listen/Download
"Look What You've Done To This Rock & Roll Town" Listen/Download

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Towers Of London - 'Blood Sweat & Towers' (2006)

Blood Sweat & Towers. TVT Records

With a sound and an image awkwardly resting somewhere between The Sex Pistols and Motley Crue, Towers of London blew me away on their debut full-length, and this has continued to be a record I’ve returned to for years.

With a sound that combines '70s punk with trashy arena glam rock, the Towers deliver each track fast and furiously, with buzzsaw guitar riffs, punk rock hooks, gratuitous solos and power chords galore. It's a sound that could easily get kitschy, but because these guys seem so serious about their glam-trash decadence, Blood, Sweat & Towers is simply raw rock decadence that still holds onto a modicum of punk sincerity.

Essential Tracks:
"Beaujolais" Listen/Download
"F**k It Up" Listen/Download

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The Briggs - 'Come All You Madmen' (2008)

'Come All You Madmen'. Sideonedummy Records

Hailing from Los Angeles, the Briggs play a brand of blue-collar street punk that owes as much of its sound to Boston as it does to L.A., and bears influences of bands from both coasts as well. At times they sound like Rancid or the Distillers, and at times there are elements of the Ducky Boys or Street Dogs. But whichever sound they seem to be emulating, they almost always do it in an infectious way.

On Come All You Madmen, the band bounces back and forth from coast to coast with their sound, delivering powerful fist-pumping crowd-pleasers and an album that's predominantly fun.

Essential Tracks:
"The Ship is Now Sinking" Listen/Download
"Mad Men" Listen/Download

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New Tomorrow - 'We're Counting On The Youth' (2009)

New Tomorrow
We're Counting On The Youth. Skeleton Crew Records

New Tomorrow's debut on Frank Iero's Skeleton Crew Records, We’re Counting On The Youth, is a blast of old school hardcore that tastes like a breath of fresh air. At times, the album produces blasting drumbeats and buzzsaw guitars that evoke old school influences like Circle Jerks, Black Flag and Bad Religion, and when they dig deep, they sound like they're playing heavily revved-up Less Than Jake anthems.

We’re Counting On The Youth is a flawless example of what hardcore has been, and will hopefully continue to be: music that's equally at home in a circle pit or in a stereo.

Essential Tracks:
"The Royal Salute Tastes Like A Smack In The Face" Listen/Download
"There’s A Rumble Behind Admiral Twin Drive-In, 10 O’Clock" Listen/Download

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Anti-Flag – ‘For Blood And Empire' (2006)

For Blood and Empire. RCA

Anti-Flag drew major criticism for this album from fans that feared a major-label release would water down their strong political stance. Those fears were unfounded, and For Blood And Empire remains the band's most musically diverse album without distilling their anger, diminishing their charged political stance, or making them major-label clichés.

The band actually benefited greatly from major label production values that allowed them to create a strong record, and the major-label exposure allowed them to take their message to the masses. For Blood And Empire allowed Anti-Flag to preach to the world, not just their die-hard followers.

Essential Tracks:
"This Is The End (For You My Friend)" Listen/Download
"The Press Corpse" Listen/Download

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Dresden Dolls – 'Dresden Dolls' (2001)

Dresden Dolls
Dresden Dolls. Roadrunner Records

When this Boston duo was starting out, pianist/vocalist Amanda Palmer attempted to avoid being described as a “gothic” musical group by describing the band’s style as "Brechtian punk cabaret.” An emerging musical movement latched on that moniker and the punk cabaret was born.

Consisting almost exclusively of drums and pianos, the pair plays dramatic, often dark tunes with a twisted black humor, and they're known for the theatrical nature of their performances (which include a wide variety of performance artists) as well as for their frenzied, spastic tunes.

Essential Tracks:
"Girl Anachronism" Listen/Download
"Coin-Operated Boy" Listen/Download

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Fucked Up - 'The Chemistry of Common Life' (2008)

Fucked Up
The Chemistry of Common Life. Matador

I find it absolutely hilarious that this Canadian hardcore band has attained such critical acclaim, despite having a name that many publications are loathe to publish. Then again, they earned all of the acclaim they've received. Despite the band's controversial name, The Chemistry of Common Life was an artistic masterpiece wrapped up in a hardcore album, full of instrumental experimentation, artfully constructed songs (with as many as 20 tracks per song!) and the requisite gut-wrenching guitars and grating vocals. This is the record that made hardcore an art.

Essential Tracks:
"Son the Father" Listen/Download
"Black Albino Bones" Listen/Download

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Kid Dynamite – 'Shorter, Faster, Louder' (2000)

Kid Dynamite
Shorter, Faster, Louder. Jade Tree

This short-lived Philadelphia band has a solid cult following -- and for good reason. They helped define the latest face of hardcore at the turn of the century. Shorter, Faster, Louder is comprised of 18 tracks that roll through in under 25 minutes, and the band punches you in the face with ‘80s-influenced hardcore that just tears it wide open, driven by the guitars of Dan Yemin, who perfected his sound with the seminal hardcore band Lifetime. While Kid Dynamite was gone all too soon, they left a pile of addictively great, if incredibly short, songs as their legacy and as a guiding light for hardcore bands to follow in their wake.

Essential Tracks:
"Living Daylights" Listen/Download
"S.O.S." Listen/Download

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Bouncing Souls – 'The Gold Record' (2006)

The Gold Record. Epitaph

Oftentimes, a band approaching 20 years together has settled into a distinctive sound, which rarely promises any surprise. This is not the case with the Bouncing Souls, who continue to explore newer sounds and still are incredibly cohesive as a band, even after all these years. Whether or not it was meant to be a statement on the quality of its music, calling this album The Gold Record was appropriate, because it’s the best Bouncing Souls album yet. It's filled with fist-pumping punk anthems, melodic nostalgic-sounding punk rock, and even some acoustic guitars.

Essential Tracks:
"The Pizza Song" Listen/Download
"The Gold Song" Listen/Download

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Flogging Molly – 'Drunken Lullabies' (2002)

Flogging Molly
Drunken Lullabies. Sideone Dummy

While the Pogues may have created the Celtic Punk sound, Flogging Molly was their stateside counterpart, separated by miles and years. The band’s sophomore release was more raucous and energetic than their debut, Swagger, and featured more memorable, varied songs that blended punk energy with traditional Irish song structures, all of which invite you to sing along.

For fans who are not Irish, there are some albums that make you wish you were, and there are some that make you feel that even if you're not, it doesn't matter, you're still welcome. This one is one of the latter.

Essential Tracks:
"Drunken Lullabies" Listen/Download
"Rebels of the Sacred Heart" Listen/Download

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Green Day - ‘American Idiot’ (2004)

Green Day
American Idiot. Reprise Records

No matter your opinion on Green Day and what they have/haven’t done for punk rock, this album warrants a spot due to its commercial success alone. It debuted at number one on multiple charts worldwide, achieved multiple platinum albums, and won a Grammy for Best Rock Album.

Inspired by various musicals and concept albums, American Idiot is a “punk rock opera” that relates the story of the Jesus of Suburbia as he traverses a bleak landscape punctuated with the colors of the eccentric characters he encounters. It's heavy with the tight, fast pop punk that Green Day is known for, and the power pop sounds that they're progressing toward.

Essential Tracks:
"American Idiot" Listen/Download
"Holiday/Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" Listen/Download

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Lucero – ‘Tennessee’ (2002)

Tennessee. Madjack Records

This pure cowpunk album is packed tightly with punk rock restlessness and twangy rhythms that would fit well in either a punk club or a honky tonk bar, and draped in melancholy lyrics that make you debate whether you want to order another drink or just cry in the empty glass in front of you.

At the front of this great concoction is Ben Nichols, a poetic lyricist who sounds like a twangier, coarser version of Kurt Cobain, providing the punctuation mark at the end of a perfectly crafted paragraph.

Essential Tracks:
"Nights Like These" Listen/Download
"Chain Link Fence" Listen/Download

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Andrew WK – 'I Get Wet' (2001)

Andrew W.K.
I Get Wet. Island Records

Andrew W.K. is classically-trained musician who chose to use his talents for good, and while he may not have invented the “party hard” punk rock sound, he certainly perfected it on I Get Wet. This is an album almost entirely composed of “party songs” -- upbeat, positive energy-fueled tunes that employ liberal use of said word in both song titles and lyrics.

It's not easy to pinpoint what makes this album so good; the lyrics are simple, and while the music is complex, it's complexity takes place well beneath the surface. The album's inherent greatness comes from the positive energy it exudes.

Essential Tracks:
"It's Time To Party" Listen/Download
"Ready To Die" Listen/Download

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My Chemical Romance - 'Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge' (2004)

My Chemical Romance
Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. Reprise Records

My Chemical Romance’s major label debut is an album that alienated as many of their old fans as it gained new ones. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is an album that found the band transitioning toward a more pop punk sound and image than they’d previous displayed. Despite the criticism from fans who called them sellouts over the change, Three Cheers is a stronger album than their first, showing a band that had figured out who they were, shedding some of their post-hardcore elements and creating a more complete sound, punctuated with snappy hooks and memorable choruses.

Essential Tracks:
"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" Listen/Download
"Helena (So Long & Goodnight)" Listen/Download

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Alkaline Trio – 'Maybe I’ll Catch Fire' (2000)

Maybe I'll Catch Fire. Asian Man Records

While it’s not A3’s best album, it is their best release in this decade, before they started the abysmal slide into mediocre oddness that would plague them from them on.

Maybe I’ll Catch Fire captured the last time that Alkaline Trio was truly amazing, with perfectly written, introspective lyrics and the raw buzzsaw guitar sound mixed with screaming vocals that Matt Skiba has made his trademark. Later releases would find a band that was more melodramatic, less abrasive, and more commercial, catering to a much younger demographic. In short, they went from being their own blink-182 to Angels and Airwaves without breaking up.

At least we still have the old stuff, though.

Essential Tracks:
"Radio" Listen/Download
"Sleepyhead" Listen/Download

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Against Me! – 'Searching For a Former Clarity' (2005)

Against Me!
Searching for a Former Clarity. Fat Wreck Chords

Perhaps the biggest argument for inclusion on this list would be for Against Me!; the point of contention not being their inclusion, but rather which album would make the cut. Against Me!’s anti-folk punk sounds and anarcho-punk politics have been a staple in the punk scene for the past decade, and their songwriting is consistently solid.

Searching For a Former Clarity was a breakaway album for the band. While it retains much of the passion, energy and punk rock anger of their previous records, Clarity found a band that was more musically diverse and disciplined, with their energy channeled into bursts rather than scattered in all directions.

Essential Tracks:
"Don't Lose Touch"

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Gogol Bordello – 'Gypsy Punks: Underground World Strike' (2005)

Gogol Bordello
Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike. Sideonedummy

Like an Eastern European version of the Pogues, Gogol Bordello breaks out at frantic pace, blending punk with traditional Gypsy instruments. Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike is an incredible album that is both melodic and spastic, fueled with the raw energy that can only be created by combining accordion and fiddle with electric guitar.

At the forefront of the band is Eugene Hutz, an Eastern European immigrant who assembled a United Nations of stellar musicians and brought worldwide attention to a wide range of traditional sounds mixed with punk energy, and giving a name to the sweaty, exotic international dance party that is now know as Gypsy punk.

Essential Tracks:
"Start Wearing Purple" Listen/Download
"Immigrant Punk" Listen/Download