Best of 2017 - Tom Trauma's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2017

Tom Trauma's picks (2017)

staff picks

Congratulations. If you’re reading this, it means that you survived 2017. You fared better than many of our rock and roll heroes. While the year as a whole was certainly a mixed bag, there was a lot of great new music. Before I get to my favorite LP’s, please allow me to tell you about a couple of other cool things that happened in 2017. I got to meet and hang out with Punknews staffers Greg and Sean. I’ve been on staff since 2014, and these were my first face to face meetings with co-workers. (If you can call what we do work.) I was also fortunate enough to meet regular readers Droneclone and SkolarX. I hope I can add a few more of you to this list in the coming year.

There were quite a few EP’s that I enjoyed, but two really stand out. The Lillingtons Project 313 was a release that no one saw coming and was the band’s first significant release in 11 years. In hindsight, we now know that it was just the beginning of a very busy year for The Boys From Wyoming. Grand Rapids hardcore collective Westside Rebellion’s debut EP was my other favorite. It has been in heavy rotation since its release. WSR also played some of my very favorite local shows.

I went to 30 some shows, which is pretty similar to last year. The highlights include Jughead’s 50th Birthday Bash in Chicago in February, which featured The Lillingtons, The Mopes, The Manges, Even In Blackouts, and an all star band led by Jughead playing Screeching Weasel songs. In May I got to see Murphy’s Law (with Westside Rebellion opening) in Lansing and meet my doppleganger Jimmy Gestapo. Dummerfest in Milwaukee in June was an exceptionally well run smaller punk festival. It featured 13 bands including Off With Their Heads and the almighty Negative Approach. In July I got to knock the Adolescents off my bucket list, at the Van’s Warped Tour in suburban Detroit of all places. At the end of August I saw The Undead, 88 Fingers Louie and The Lillingtons on one amazing night at two different shows/venues on opposite ends of Chicago. The pinnacle of the year was flying into Las Vegas in September to see Sloppy Seconds kick off their first West Coast tour in 18 years. Seeing the Descendents in Grand Rapids in November was also a treat.

In 2016, I did over 70 reviews. It was my intention to slow down a bit this year. I failed miserably and actually did over 80. There were just so many bands that I wanted to write about. There were about 30 serious contenders for album of the year, but ultimately I feel good about the 20 that ended up on this list. A few individual musicians even appear here twice. There’s lots of old man punk, metal and hardcore, as well as a couple of twists. My lists are often Michigan-centric, but this year only three bands from my home state made the cut. As usual, I’m not claiming these are the best albums of 2017. They’re just my favorites.

Top 20 of 2017

20. Teenage Bottlerocket: Stealing the Covers

Fat Wreck Chords

This one took a while to really grow on me, but now I find a handful of these songs getting stuck in my head. A bunch of covers by a bunch of bands I've never heard of, all very catchy. This will entertain us until we get a new album of original material. Check out "Robocop is a Halfbreed Sellout".

19. T.S.O.L.: The Trigger Complex

Rise Records

TSOL gambled and strayed from their hardcore roots (again) on their new LP. The risk paid off in the form of their most creative and entertaining album in years. They are one of the few punk bands who can pull off the keyboard thing. Check out "Satellites".

18. The Eradicator: The Eradicator


This is probably the most absurd album on my list. It's also one of the most fun. If you enjoy playing the game of squash or hearing songs vaguely related to squash, this is the record for you. It works because the music is good enough to back up the silliness. Check out "Stop Dreaming, Start Living".

17. Municipal Waste: Slime and Punishment

Nuclear Blast

Another solid slab from one of the best in modern thrash and crossover. The combination of funny, antagonistic lyrics and choppy, memorable riffs continues to be a winning formula. Just try not to bang your head. Check out "Bourbon Discipline".

16. Overkill: The Grinding Wheel

Nuclear Blast

It's not really surprising that Overkill made the best traditional thrash album of 2017. Few of their contemporaries have been as consistent over the years. They just continue to make great heavy metal records. Check out "The Long Road".

15. Bloodclot: Up In Arms

Metal Blade Records

John Joseph has set all the Cro-Mags drama aside and made another great hardcore album, one worthy of that band's legacy. With a little help from his friends (especially Todd Youth), he once again captured lightning in a bottle. Check out "Slow Kill Genocide".

14. Power Trip: Nightmare Logic

Southern Lord Records

Over the course of two albums and a couple of EP's, Power Trip has risen to the top of the heap of modern thrash and crossover. Their relentless thrash metal riffs and hardcore vocal delivery makes them a musical force to be reckoned with. Check out "Firing Squad".

13. FYPM: Dumbed Down


FYPM is the latest project fronted by Cleveland hardcore legend Tony Erba. On their third LP there's plenty of cutting social commentary and even a bit of biting humor. This is indignant, righteous rage at its very best. Check out "50 White Dudes with Machetes/Crisis Actors".

12. 88 Fingers Louie: Thank You for Being a Friend

Bird Attack Records

It had been 19 years since 88FL's last album, but they somehow managed to make a reunion album that didn't feel forced. Two parts harsh modern reality and one part happy nostalgia was the perfect recipe. These aging Chicago skate-punk favorites still sound fresh. Check out "Catastrophe Awaits".

11. The Bloody Lips: B-Side Noise

Independent Fries

The Bloody Lips are the only local Grand Rapids band to make my list. Two former members of The Lippies started a new female fronted project and made a record that was much different but no less compelling than their former band. This is a harsh, ugly, and thoroughly enjoyable record that clocks in at around 15 minutes. Check out "Abandon Me".

10. Dead Ending: Shoot the Messenger

Alternative Tentacles

I'm a pretty big fan of Vic Bondi and his former band Articles of Faith, but I had never gotten around to checking out Dead Ending. I'm kicking myself now. This is a powerful musical blend of modern and classic hardcore. It confronts the issues of the day with a directness that I haven't heard since the Reagan era. I can't get enough of this. I guess it's time to dig into their back catalog. Check out "Subtle".

9. Cock Sparrer: Forever

Pirate's Press Records

This was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2017. I had no reason to anticipate a new album from Cock Sparrer. A whopping 45 years into their legendary career, they still managed to knock it out of the park. There are plenty of big, catchy, sing along choruses and epic, sweeping guitar leads. They're older and wiser, but still carry a youthful, defiant spirit. Check out "Nothing Like You".

8. Bad Mechanics: Precious Moments in the U.S.A.


No band made me laugh harder in 2017 than Bad Mechanics. A lot of times funny bands have limited replay value, but I haven't found that to be the case with this Chicago duo. Musically, it's almost pure Devo worship. Lyrically, it's both ridiculous and insightful. I can’t remember the last time a band did such a good job of lampooning the absurdity of modern life. Check out my new theme song "Social Obligation".

7. The Riptides: Canadian Graffiti

Something to do records

This is my favorite straight up pop punk album of 2017. It doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel, it just does exactly what it's supposed to do, and it does it very well. There are songs about girls and plenty of nerd culture references. It's a perfect mix of The Queers and The Lillingtons. There are dumb songs, smart songs, and songs that seem dumb but turn out to be kind of smart. Every song on the record is catchy. Check out "Eyes wide Shut".

6. Hellmouth: Oblivion

Fast Break Records

This record set the bar high way back at the beginning of the year. The third record in Hellmouth's trilogy is hardcore punk and extreme metal fused together to make some really ugly noise. It also includes what is probably Jay Navarro's most intense vocal performance to date, which is no small feat. This is unpleasant music for unpleasant times from the often unpleasant city of Detroit. Check out "Fecal Parasite".

5. Rebel Spies!: Rise!

underground communique

This is the debut full length from a bunch of veterans of the Detroit punk scene. Rebel Spies! will remind you of the kind of punk and hardcore you grew up listening to. It's fast and melodic with just a touch of metallic crunch. There are plenty of big guitar hooks and catchy choruses. The lyrics can even be spooky enough for for goth and horror punk fans. You really need to give this band a listen. Check out "Not Dead, Not Yet".

4. The Lillingtons: Stella Sapiente

Fat Wreck Chords

This might be the most unexpected album of 2017. There was very little warning that The Lillingtons would make their first record in 11 tears. It also happens to be far darker musically and lyrically than anything else they've done. It's heavily influenced by metal and cold wave and focuses on the occult, conspiracies, and secret societies. It was a gamble for the band, but the risk paid off with a wonderful, multifaceted LP. Check out "Night Visions".

3. Flatfoot 56: Odd Boat

Sailor's Grave Records

Most of the bands who made my favorite records of 2017 had a very depressing view of the modern world. Flatfoot 56 was the rare exception. This record actually seems a little hopeful. It is also the record I most connected with on a personal level. For some reason, this collection of Celtic influenced punk songs really struck a chord with me. They actually made me feel something. Check out "The Trap".

2. Iron Reagan: Crossover Ministry

Relapse Records

I liked the last Iron Reagan record a lot. This one is even better. I loved it from the first note. It's punk influenced crossover thrash that's as funny as it is angry. I don't think there's another current band that does this style better than Iron Reagan. Every album is better than the one before. They might do DRI better than DRI, and I LOVE DRI. Check out "Dead With My Friends".

1. Dead Cross: Dead Cross

ipecac records

I feel like my top five or six picks were all serious contenders for my personal album of the year. Dead Cross' debut was just the LP that blew me away the most. Mike Patton (Faith No More etc.) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer etc.) were the big names, but this was a group effort and all the pieces fell into place perfectly. This is undoubtedly a difficult album to listen to at times, but ultimately that's also why it's so rewarding. Old men made some great hardcore in 2017, and for me this was the pinnacle. Check out "Shillelagh".

Well, that’s it for 2017. In 2018, I’m looking forward to early year albums from crossover kings Corrosion Of Conformity, industrial mainstays Ministry and Detroit speedrockers Against The Grain. I also hope that there’s plenty more of the angry old man punk and hardcore that I adore. Last but not least, the Trauma family sends their best wishes to you and yours in the new year.