Punk Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics  

Will Gish
32.7k votes 1.8k voters 6.9k views 38 items

When punk began in New York City, the only connecting thread in a cacophony of disparate sounds from the likes of Television, Blondie, The Ramones, and the Talking Heads was weirdness. They were outcasts: art school kids, glam-disco-vampires, self-anointed street poets, greasers in leather jackets who longed for the bygone days of Elvis Presley, not particularly concerned with being punk bands with the best lyrics. The scattered freak-flag nature of punk forever changed with the first wave of British bands to adopt the moniker, notably the Sex Pistols and The Clash.  

Far from the wide-eyed, weirdo positivism and poetry of the New York bands, London kids who adopted punk lived in a socially conservative nation struggling with its post-war identity, a social condition that gave birth to punk bands with political lyrics. There was a brutal campaign of sectarian violence happening a few hundred miles away in Northern Ireland, American commercial influence was expanding throughout the UK, many young people had trouble finding work, and the Thatcher years, lurking just around the corner, promised even worse conditions. 

All the frustrations of these bands, from Londoners like Sex Pistols and The Clash to Northern Ireland's Stiff Little Fingers, came out through incendiary, sardonic, profane, politically and socially engaged lyrics. The first Pistols and Clash albums are cultural snapshots of England and its youth culture, with song titles like "I'm So Bored with the USA," "Career Opportunities," "Anarchy in the UK," and "God Save the Queen." 

Since this first wave of British punk bands, the genre has been all about lyrics. Bands from the Dead Kennedys through to Against Me! have touched up issues ranging from nuclear war to police brutality, Reaganomics, and race, gender, and sexuality-based equality, often times with a wicked sense of humor. The likes of Rancid address political and social issues through personal narratives about life in the San Francisco Bay area, while Crass put so much effort into the lyrics it eclipses the relatively pedestrian music and has fans staunchly defending the group with cries of "It's about the lyrics, not the music!"

Punk bands with the best lyrics span multiple generations of punk, from bands who were banging it out in abandoned British warehouses in the mid-70s to hardcore and folk influenced American bands that headline ballrooms in the 2010s. There are feminist indie-crossover bands, anarchist punks, Bay Area crust kids, Midwestern goth punks, anti-war ex-soldiers with dayglo mohawks.  

As any punk worth her salt would tell you, don't forget to vote. So vote up the punk bands you think have the best lyrics. 

list ordered by

1
643 405
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Bleed for Me

2
682 468
Ramones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Clark Benson added Ramones, Rocket to Russia, End of the Century

3
690 475
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle

4
612 522
The Clash is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
London Calling, The Clash, Black Market Clash

5
660 597
The Squids is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Darby added

6
489 475
Naked Raygun is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Clark Benson added Jettison, All Rise, Throb Throb

7
466 557
Minor Threat is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Complete Discography, Minor Threat, First Demo Tape

8
486 593
Black Flag is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Clark Benson added Damaged, In My Head, My War

9
390 468
Operation Ivy is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Lint Rides Again, Energy, Plea for Peace

10
388 466
Crass is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Merry Crassmas, Acts of Love: Fifty Songs to My Other Self, The Feeding of the 5000

11
381 457
Anti‐Flag is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
A New Kind of Army, The Bright Lights of America, North America Sucks!!

12
399 485
Subhumans is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
The Day the Country Died, Evolution, Worlds Apart

13
373 451
Streetlight Manifesto is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
sdc224 added Somewhere in the Between, Everything Goes Numb, 99 Songs of Revolution: Volume One

14
369 446
Flux Of Pink Indians is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Uncarved Block, Not So Brave, Strive to Survive Causing Least Suffering Possible

15
408 498
Stiff Little Fingers is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Inflammable Material, Now Then…, Nobody's Heroes

16
371 449
The Exploited is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
The Massacre, Beat the Bastards, Horror Epics

17
383 465
X-Ray Spex is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Germfree Adolescents, Conscious Consumer, Obsessed With You: The Early Years

18
410 501
Against Me! is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
New Wave, The Acoustic EP, Reinventing Axl Rose

19
360 435
The Nation of Ulysses is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Plays Pretty for Baby, 13-Point Program to Destroy America, The Embassy Tapes

20
367 445
Pup is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
PUP

21
376 457
Bikini Kill is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Pussy Whipped, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah, Bikini Kill

22
382 466
Pennywise is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
IvanMikić added Land of the Free?, About Time, Home Movies

23
384 473
Sleater-Kinney is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
The Woods, One Beat, Call the Doctor

24
356 454
7 Seconds is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
The Crew, Walk Together, Rock Together

25
457 611
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Punk Bands with the Best Lyrics
Clark Benson added Legacy of Brutality, Famous Monsters, Walk Among Us