The top five debut albums in punk rock history

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The top five debut albums in punk rock history

Words by Joe Hansen

The five debuts that slapped harder than expected.

Radio Birdman – Radios Appear (1977)

One of the first, and arguably the most influential, Australian punk rock albums, the 1977 debut full-length from the Sydney icons remains to this day one of the most powerful and genre-defining records this country has produced. With the natural evolution of the sound already carved out by American bands such as The Stooges and MC5, Radio Birdman stripped it back and upped the energy even more. To this day, the influence of Radio Birdman and this album, in particular, is heard in countless punk rock and garage bands around the world. Absolutely essential listening.

Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

When punk rock had firmly established itself as a new sound and scene around the world, England’s Wire had already deconstructed it and brought a level of sophisticated minimalism to the already simple style. With the average track length remaining steady at around 1:30 and with riffs encompassing two chords or less, Wire had paradoxically both rejected and rejuvenated the punk rock style, foreshadowing the innovation and experimentation within the sound to come.

Descendents – Milo Goes To College (1982)

While the style of pop-punk was already established with bands like Ramones and Buzzcocks, California’s Descendents modernised it and drew attention away from the main epicentres of New York and the UK. With the band arguably as popular as they’ve ever been right now, their strength of songwriting and influence on essentially all modern pop-punk bands is unquestionable.

Ramones – Ramones (1976)

Including this one on this list somehow feels like cheating, yet it would be impossible to reflect on perfect debut albums without including this milestone. Every song is a perfect punk rock standard and the record has everything it needs. The Ramones might only have one song, but it’s the best punk rock song you’ll ever hear.

Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1979)

While punk had always had a reactionary political side, a new level of social awareness and intelligence came with the surf-influenced hardcore punk of Dead Kennedys. Moving beyond simple anti-government protest music, Jello Biafra’s sardonic and sarcastic lyrics brought a new perspective and level of critique to the social issues of the time. While band’s like The Sex Pistols’ calls for anarchy weren’t much more than controversial slogans, Biafra and co had legitimate insight into socio-political affairs that very few other artists would go anywhere near. Combine that with a healthy dose of sharp wit and humour, plus some of the most innovative and original musicality in punk rock, and you’ve got one of the most important records in punk.