Best of 2018 - Tom Trauma's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2018

Tom Trauma's Picks (2018)

Staff Picks

It’s hard to believe we’ve finished another trip around the sun. Another 30 some odd shows are in the books. Another stack of records has been added to the collection. Another 90 or so so reviews from yours truly. Another 365 days and I’m STILL the old guy at Punknews. I’ve heard people complain that this was a down year for punk, but I disagree. There was lots of good stuff if you were paying attention. Let me start with my seven favorite shows of 2018.

7) The Lillingtons in Grand Rapids. It took them long enough, but The Lillingtons finally made their way to GR. Their newer, darker set was a big hit. Local opener Paper Thin was great, and MakeWar also turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

6) Social Distortion/Mustard Plug in Grand Rapids. Two different shows on a single night. Social D seemed more energetic that they have in years, and Mike Ness was at the top of his game. Mustard Plug was a last minute, late night bonus that ended things on a high note.

5) MC50 in Grand Rapids. It was pretty amazing to catch just a glimpse of the revolutionary rock and roll of the MC5. 50 years hasn't taken the bite out of "Kick Out the Jams", and for a minute I actually felt like I was in Detroit's Grande Ballroom on Halloween of 1968. The ageless Wayne Kramer is a national treasure.

4) L7 in Grand Rapids. It took 25 years, but I finally got to see L7. These ladies were always my favorite of the ‘90s "Riot Girl" bands, but I missed them when we all were young. Fortunately, they still play with the same reckless abandon. L7 have recaptured the fire, and we need them now more than ever.

3) Dead Kennedys/T.S.O.L./The Bollweevils in Joliet. No one was more shocked than I was about how much fun I had in the Chicago suburbs. Ray, Klaus and DH are still passionate about the classic DK material. They do it justice, even without Jello. TSOL has always been great since the original lineup reformed almost 20 years ago. The Bollweevils are still somehow at the top of their game. Good stuff.

2) Negative Approach/Dayglo Abortions in Chicago. As much as I enjoy Negative Approach, it was Dayglo Abortions that drew me to this show. I love their records, but had never seen these Canadian misanthropes live. They did not disappoint, playing songs from throughout their 35 plus year career. It took a long time, but I finally managed to cross Dayglo Abortions off my bucket list. Of course, NA crushed as usual.

1) Slayer/Anthrax/Testament/Napalm Death in Grand Rapids. When Slayer decided to call it quits, they also decided to go out with style. Their farewell tour was almost a traveling heavy metal festival with inspired sets from Napalm Death, Testament and Anthrax. (I can't get into Lamb of God.) The night belonged to Slayer, and their setlist was one for the ages. Slayer's undisputed attitude will be missed.

Next are my seven favorite singles and EPs of 2018. Like live shows, it was very difficult to narrow it down. There were many worthy candidates.

7) 78 Revolutions Per-Minute - Here Lies a Mouthy Kid. These Grand Rapids guys recorded one of my favorite local releases of 2018. Folk punk meets pop punk in this sincere and sarcastic seven song EP.

6) Another One/The Distractions - split. Grand Rapids, Michigan meets South Bend, Indiana meets Fat Wreck Chords meets Lookout! Records in this six song split. Sometimes serious, sometimes fun, always catchy.

5) The Dwarves/Against The Grain - Split Hits the Fan. This combination of legendary punk degenerates and Motor City speedrockers might seem like a strange match, but it works. The fourth installment of this 7” series by Failure Records and Tapes (that I’m obsessed with) is already sold out.

4) The Riptides - Wimpy Goes to Washington. Killer A-side about a certain former Queers singer, plus a filthy, very Canadian B-side. Two catchy, aggressive pop punk songs and some great movie poster artwork to boot.

3) The Uncouth - Just a Matter of Time. This relatively unheralded street punk meets hardcore band from Kansas City, Missouri continues to make amazing music. It’s angry, catchy and political. A Woody Guthrie cover for the B-side doesn’t hurt either.

2) Pissed Regardless - Feed the Birds. I had never even heard of Pissed Regardless before 2018. The San Diego band makes some of the most brutal hardcore and thrash I’ve heard in quite some time. Ugly and wonderful.

1) Suburban Delinquents - Dead & Gone. This came out way back in January, and has resonated with me all year. These recently revived suburban Detroiters made an EP for grown up punks. It’s excellent. Prove me wrong.

Now for my top 20 LPs of 2018. This is non scientific, and based solely on my opinion. Numerical scores and ratings go out the window. It’s simply the albums that I most enjoyed listening to. Surprisingly, there is very little metal. Not so surprisingly, my home state of Michigan is well represented. The midwest is too. I’m not sure what it means that my two favorite pop punk albums came from Indiana. This is my fifth annual list, so several bands are making their second appearance. (Against the Grain, Child Bite, Corrosion of Conformity, The Dwarves and Sick of it All.)

I would also like to present a couple of honorable mentions. Suicidal Tendencies had a pretty great year. They basically put out two full length albums without writing a new song. First was the Get Your Fight On! (45 minute!) EP of leftovers and remixes. Next was STill Cyco Punk After All These Years, a rerecording of Cyco Miko’s 1996 solo LP Lost My Brain!. The Samhain tribute We All Want Our Time In Hell was also an amazing listen. It probably deserves a spot in my top 10, but I guess I’m still irritated that I didn’t snag one of the 300 vinyl copies. Anyway, here’s my top 20 as of this very second.

20. Alice In Chains: Rainier Fog


Since the unfortunate demise of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains are the last of the great Seattle grunge bands standing. (Don't you dare say Pearl Jam.) It's especially impressive when you consider that they pulled off the nearly impossible task of replacing their lead singer. This is a solid collection of dirges. Check out "Never Fade".

19. The Filaments: Look to the Skies

Pirate's Press Records

The Filaments combine classic punk, ska, hardcore and reggae to make a tasty punk rock stew. Fellow Brits The Clash and The Ruts are good reference points. It's sometimes serious, sometimes fun, and always enjoyable. Check out "Ask No Favors".

18. The Bar Stool Preachers: Grazie Governo

Pirates Press Records

When it comes to BSP singer Tom McFaull, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. After all, his father is legendary Cock Sparrer frontman Colin McFaull. The Bar Stool Preachers incorporate the expected street punk and oi, but also add some ska, and even a dash of straight up pop. Check out "8.6 Days (All the Broken Hearts)".

17. The Brokedowns: Sick of Space

Red Scare

The Brokedowns have always been a little too bitter to be a proper pop punk band. A little too funky too. All that being said, they continue to make some of the best, funniest and least predictable pop punk out there. Check out "The Fort".

16. The Ratchets: First Light

Pirate's Press Records

New Jersey's finest The Ratchets came back strong with their first full length in 12 years. It's The Clash meets Social Distortion meets Bruce Springsteen meets old time rock and roll. The songs really work their way into your cold heart. Check out "Drone Control".

15. Corrosion Of Conformity: No Cross No Crown

Nuclear Blast

This was one of the most anticipated releases of 2018. Pepper Keenan returning to Corrosion of Conformity was huge. At least for those of us of a certain age. You can never go back, but this certainly reminds me of their most commercially successful stuff from the mid '90s. There are definitely a couple of songs that can send a chill down my spine. Check out "Forgive Me".

14. The Distractions: Sometimes I Drink

Smoking Cat records

These young guys from Indiana helped restore my faith in pop punk. It's a throwback to the '90s, and mostly skips the overly sentimental and wimpy crap from the 2000s. It's drinking music for the next generation. Check out "Hangover".

13. Child Bite: Burnt Offerings

Housecore Records

Detroit's Child Bite are a longtime personal favorite. Their music is punk, metal and weird noise. They've carved out their own strange niche in the heavy music landscape, and pretty much everything they do is compelling. Or at least interesting. This comes with an amazing bonus disc of covers too. Check out "Feeding Tube Blues".

12. Benny and the No-Goods: Fistful of Dullards

self released

If pure catchiness were the only criteria, this might be album of the year. The one man band from Indianapolis has made an album full of earworm pop punk songs crammed with pop culture references. I especially love the one that name drops all the horror movies and the one that works in all the '80s song titles. Check out "The Groove Has Left My Heart".

11. Against The Grain: Cheated Death

ripple music

Against the Grain may have finally found their groove. The last couple of albums found them wrestling with their stoner metal tendencies and hardcore past. Here they find the balance between classic rock riffing and blazing punk speed. They even throw in a ballad. Check out "Sacrifice".

10. Cliterati / Violation Wound: Split

Tankcrimes Records

Cliterati is one of the most exciting newer (not necessarily younger) hardcore bands on the scene. It's hard to explain why their angry politics and feminism strike such a chord with me. Violation Wound is cool too, and reminiscent of mid period Napalm Death. Check out “War on the Poor”.

9. Devious Ones: Plainview Nights

Hold Fast/No Front Teeth

This was my feel good record of the summer. Devious Ones' first LP comes after a handful of wonderful singles. Catchy power pop and garage rock from a bunch of Detroit punk veterans. It's got just the right balance of fuzz and melody. There are not many bands doing this style this well. Check out "Garbagepicker".

8. Monster Squad: Depression

Pirate's Press Records

This was my feel bad record of the summer. Monster Squad made an LP that takes a sometimes painfully honest look at depression and addiction. The music is Discharge like and unflinching in its intensity, and the vocals sometimes sound like the howling of a wounded animal. Check out "Lion's Blood".

7. Night Birds: Roll Credits

Fat Wreck Chords

One of the few modern punk bands that everybody seems to like, and for good reason. They're a killer combination of punk, hardcore and surf with great snotty, antagonistic vocals. If there were a few more songs on this record, it would probably be closer to the top of the list. Check out "My Dad is the B.T.K.".

6. Sick Of It All: Wake the Sleeping Dragon!

Fat Wreck Chords

Somehow, Sick of it All just keeps getting better. The same four guys continue to make brutal New York hardcore that delivers a powerful message without being preachy or condescending. No other NYHC band has aged nearly this gracefully. check out "Bull's Anthem".

5. Territories: Territories

Pirate's Press Records

This is one of those records that will burrow down deep in you. Before long, you'll be hooked on its 12 melodic anthems. Every song has its own flexi and video too. The guys from Knucklehead took a chance on something different, and it paid off big time in Territories. Check out "Quiet Voices".

4. Street Dogs: Stand For Something Or Die For Nothing

Century Media

This album crushed my expectations. Street Dogs continue to write amazing working class anthems. Mike McColgan and company also tackle complicated political issues from the simple perspective of the common man. If we're being honest, Street Dogs are making the records we wish Dropkick Murphys still could. Check out "Other Ones".

3. The Dwarves: Take Back the Night

Burger Records

The Dwarves' last record record was an homage to old time rock and roll. This is a musically mellower take on their hardcore period. Not only is it not politically correct, it intentionally antagonizes those who might be offended by it. It contains some of the band's most biting social commentary in years. Check out "City By the Bay".

2. The Spears: Ghosts

Rad Girlfriend

I'm a huge Pink Lincolns fan. Chris Barrows' other band, The Spears, are great too. As a matter of fact, this is what punk is supposed to sound like. It's snotty, antagonistic and indifferent to the expectations of the straight world. There are covers of GG Allin and Sham 69 too. Barrows also brings along some of his out of favor friends to help. Ben Weasel, Joe Queer, Rikk Agnew, Greg Ginn and Hewhocannotbenamed all lend a hand. Check out "Not It".

1. Vitamin X: Age of Paranoia

Southern Lord Records

These Dutch hardcore veterans ripped my face off. I never came close to getting burned out on this record, no matter how many times I listened to it. Punk, hardcore, thrash, classic rock and wild guitar leads combine to make something truly powerful. Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis even contributes a memorable solo. You should be listening to this too. Check out "Shock Value".

Well, I guess that’s about it for 2018. My expectations are high for next year. We should get new music from old thrashers Death Angel, Megadeth and Overkill. New albums seem likely from old punkers like Bad Religion and Social Distortion too. I hope everybody has a safe, happy and prosperous 2019. Cheers!