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The 25 Best Punk Songs to Help You Stick it to the Man

best punk songs
Best punk songs. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Punk is dead – long live punk!

Punk began in the late 70s as a response to the excesses of progressive rock, stripping down rock n’ roll to its most primitive elements. It found an immediate audience in the dissatisfied youth of the time. It’s grown over the years and merged with other genres, but its basic rebellious aesthetic has stayed the same.

Discover the 25 best punk songs below. 

The Best Punk Songs

 

“Search and Destroy” – The Stooges

There might not be a more punk lyric than “I’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm/I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb.”

The reckless rock n’ roll of Iggy Pop and the Stooges was punk before the genre even existed.

 

“Holiday in Cambodia” – Dead Kennedys

Jello Biafra’s Dead Kennedys were one of the first massively popular American punk bands. 

“Holiday In Cambodia,” from their brilliantly titled Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death, shows the band at their hardcore, socially conscious best.

 

“Rise Above” – Black Flag

Like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag was also a part of the first wave of Los Angeles punk. Their 1981 album Damaged is a landmark album.

Henry Rollins’ vocal is absolutely unhinged on countercultural classic “Rise Above.” One of the best punk songs from one of the most celebrated bands of the genre.

 

“God Save the Queen” – Sex Pistols

When it comes to classic punk rock songs, nothing tops The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.”

Punk began with the Sex Pistols. This mockery of the establishment over three chords basically created the genre. 

 

“Last Caress” – The Misfits

Punk rock has always been daring, but few have gone to the lengths of Glen Danzig’s “Last Caress.” Who else would begin a song with the line “I’ve got something to say/I killed a baby today”? 

“Last Caress” is one of those classic fast punk songs that the genre is known for. Metallica famously covered it.

 

“Blitzkrieg Bop” – Ramones

Who is the most popular punk band? If you’re judging by how often they’re played at sports arenas, it’s the Ramones with a bullet.

The instantly recognizable “hey! ho! let’s go!” chorus of their signature song is embedded in everyone’s brain.

 

“Marquee Moon” – Television

Television are perhaps the most unique punk band. They’re perfectly punk in aesthetic but also add more expansive, complex elements to their music.

As far as best punk songs of the 70s go, it’s hard not to choose “Marquee Moon,” an almost prog-y masterpiece.

 

“Basket Case” – Green Day

There were no bigger punk bands in the 90s than Green Day. “Basket Case,” from their seminal 1994 album Dookie, perfectly describes the malaise of 90s youth. 

 

“London Calling” – The Clash

Like the Sex Pistols, the Clash were instrumental in the creation of punk. 

More than one of the best punk songs of the 70s, the title track from their seminal 1979 double album is perhaps the genre’s very best song.

 

“Bastards of Young” – The Replacements

Considering that we’re Music in Minnesota, you had to know that the Replacements would make this list. I mean, even if we weren’t, any list of the best punk songs would include a song by our hometown innovators.

“Bastards of Young,” from their 1985 album Tim, contains one of the best lyrics that encapsulate punk: “we are the sons of no-one/bastards of young”

One of the best punk songs of the 80s.

 

“Come Out and Play” – Offspring

Like so many punk bands before them, the Offspring’s lyrics were often biting social commentary. Their 1994 classic Smash is filled with them, from album track “It’ll Be a Long Time” to massive hit “Come Out and Play.”

The “you gotta keep ’em separated” line is one of the most ingenious hooks of all time. 

 

“Ruby Soho” – Rancid

The furious slopiness of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” is pure punk. Tim Armstrong’s distinctive raspy vocals fit it perfectly.

 

“American Jesus” – Bad Religion

Few punk bands did social commentary better, and with more biting sarcasm, than Bad Religion. 

Led gy an instantly memorably riff, “American Jesus” goes for the jugular: “I feel sorry for the Earth’s population/’Cause so few live in the USA/At least the foreigners can copy our morality.”

 

“Still Waiting” – Sum 41

There have been endless debates about what is or isn’t punk. Purists will say that it died after the first wave of hardcore bands petered out in the 80s.

Punk continued to evolve, however, mixing with many other genres, most notably pop/rock. Sum 41’s “Still Waiting,” one of the top punk songs of the 2000s, is a prime example of this evolution. 

 

“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” – Dropkick Murphys

More interestingly, Dropkick Murphys mixed punk sound and ethos with traditional Irish music. Kind of like a punk House of Pain.

If you don’t think you know “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” you do. Like the Ramone’s “Blitzkrieg Bop,” its been played at every sports arena in the world. 

And deservedly so. Dig that wild intro.

 

“All the Small Things” – Blink-182

Obnoxiously catchy “All the Small Things” put Blink-182 on the map. It’s one of the most remembered and best punk songs of the 90.

 

“The People That Are Going to Hell” – The Vandals

Orange County band The Vandals are known for injecting some fun and humor into punk. 

“The People That Are Going to Hell” is from their album Hitler Bad, Vandals Good. Need I say more?

 

“Drunken Lullabies” – Flogging Molly

Like Dropkick Murpheys, Floggy Molly combined punk with Celtic music. Good luck going an entire St. Patrick’s Day without hearing “Drunken Lullabies.”

 

“Redondo Beach” – Patti Smith

Patti Smith is the queen of punk. 

Reggae-tinged “Redondo Beach,” from her 1975 album Horses, isn’t as straightforward as many punk songs, but it definitely has the attitude down.

 

“Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” – Hüsker Dü

Minnesota was low-key important in the history of punk rock. Hell, the St. Paul boys of Hüsker Dü met at Cheapo Records, which is still my favorite record store. Can’t get more local than that. 

“Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely,” from their 1986 album Candy Apple Grey, is definitive late-era Hüsker Dü.

 

“Waiting Room” – Fugazi

Washington, D.C.’s Fugazi were part of the second wave of hardcore punk in the late 80s. 

“Waiting Room” is as heavy as any punk song, but it also has some straight-up rock and reggae elements.

 

“The Black Parade” – My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance’s 2003 album The Black Parade is the last great rock album. Don’t @ me. 

One of the best modern punk rock songs, the title track from The Black Parade is just as gloriously arena rock as the rest of the album.

 

“The Anthem” – Good Charlotte

“Good Charlotte? More like Bad Green Day!”

So said Chris Rock about this polarizing pop punk band. It’s at this point that the purists look in the other direction.

If you consider it punk, though, “The Anthem” is one of the best pop punk songs.

 

“Bite It You Scum” – G.G. Allin

G.G. Allin took the punk thing to an entirely different level. Most of his concerts ended practically before they even began because of his, ahem, legendary antics.

It might not make a Top 10 punk songs list, but any exhaustive list of the best punk songs has to include at least one track from this miscreant. “Bite it You Scum” is our choice.

 

“I Was a Teenage Anarchist” – Against Me!

Along with MCR, Against Me! is the most modern punk band on this list. I’ll be damned if I refer to something called Machine Gun Kelley as punk.

“I Was a Teenage Anarchist” is the perfect way to end a best punk songs list, as it throws shade on the entire punk thing. What could be more punk than that?

What do you think are the best punk songs? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.

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