Best of 2019 - John Gentile's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2019

John Gentile's Picks (2019)

Staff Picks

I mean, I thought that by this point, I was supposed to "mature" or "age out" of punk into indie or even just straight up mainstream Pop and Hip Hop. It hasn’t happened yet and for some reason, I’m even more jazzed about punk rock now than I ever was before!

In fact, I was aiming to slow down this year on the punknews front- planning to throw maybe two shows and cut back on the news. Bizarrely, I ended up throwing SEVEN shows and let me tell you, they were REAL jammers! Danbert of Chumbawamba played his first Philly gig in almost 10 years and it was magical. World/Inferno and Joe Jack Talcum teamed up to play Summer Soiree 3 and, dare I say, it rivaled soiree 1! STZA and Crazy and the Brains did a full crack rock steady set and it was wild and mean and nasty and fun as hell and the show ended with balloons being dumped on everyone. Droogettes, Catbite, Trash Knife, Qwam and many more each played AMAZING sets!

On top of that, I did more news than ever! The downside was, that in sharp contrast to my end of ’18 plans, I did not do as many long form interviews as I would have liked. In fact, this was my slimmest year for interviews yet, which did bum me out. I’ll do better in 2020. What that means, for me, at least, is that it’s not that I have to choose what I do, it’s that I have to choose what I’m not going to do. That’ll be tough.

In the meantime, I did check out A LOT of really cool records. Here’s my favorites:

The 20 best LPs of the year (Non-Melvins Division)

20. CJ McKnight: Stinker Lets Loose (soundtrack)


I'll let you decide if this soundtrack is "real" or not. But, one thing's for sure- it's real rockin' and real hilarious. In fact, this album is so amusing and so self aware, I thought for a hot minute that I might actually like honky tonk. Well, after digging into that genre following this album, I quickly learned that I do not, which, makes it all that much more impressive that I loooove this album. The album follows the story of a trucker and a chimp, and just monkeys will often imitate humans in hilarious ways, this album does Kenny Rodgers and Hank Jr. better than they do themselves.

19. Ceremony: In The Spirit World Now

Relapse Records

Ceremony goes full on early Beggar's Banquet/4AD and I am here for it! There's a good amount of Gary Numan, Bauhaus, and Modern English, and it's a match made in heaven! The band has finally merged their early propulsive power with their modern, cold, distant approach, resulting in a record that is frequently snappy, often a little spooky, and always distinct to the band. They stumbled a little bit with some of their previous experiments but it looks like now they universe has just opened up for them.

18. Tegan And Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You


Tegan and Sara dug up a bunch of demos (from high school!), reworked 'em, and put out a composite album of moldy oldies done in their modern style. And, hot damn, this record jumps! It's mostly built around their modenrn-ish indie-new-wave sound with coffee shop lyrics tied throughout making this jam as snappy as it is moving. If you ever want to fell bad about yourself, listen to how good Tegan and Sara were at writing lyrics at like age 15. Then, if you want to feel even worse about yourself, listen to how good they are at writing music right now.

17. The Pathogens: We're Catchy


Not only are they catchy, but they're damn good! Composed of bay area veterans, The Pathogens cut a record that isn't so much a "bay area record" as it is people from the bay making pop-ish punk as good as it can be. My favorite part is that for every fierce (and necessary) political blast, there's a silly, self-deprecating chaser that makes the band as salient as they are easy to digest. This is probably the first disease that, not only will people want to get, but it will dramatically improve their (mental) health!

16. Dark Thoughts: Must Be Nice

Stupid Bag/Drunken Sailor

This band can do no wrong... we'll, they probably can, but being that they haven't, it's a testament to their taste and style. Must Be Nice finds the band doing what they do best- taking the Ramonescore bubble gum pop and using that to express some very, very negative points of view. Yet, the key is that despite the frequently bleakness here, there's usually some hope reserved at the end. See, "Do you dream," as an example. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Mark would each see something awesome in this album, and let me tell you, THAT is an accomplishment.

15. Battalion Zoska: Battalion Zoska

Violated Records

The BZ boys came out roaring on their debut LP. Composed of Philly punk veterans, BZ know every inch of street punk, hardcore, oi, and crossover and they use that to blast out an aggressive record that hits the hallmarks dead on. There's no artifice here, just a true love of the genre. This record is P-U-N-K.

14. Redd Kross: Beyond the Door

Merge Records

Wait... wait... wait... 38 years after their debut, Redd Kross release their... best album ever?! This record POPS, people! From the AM glam pop of "The Party Underground" to Motown winking title track, Redd Kross have made the perfect retro-but-not-actually-retro record. This is just great, timeless music that is fearlessly "pop" rock... except that since rock barely exists in the pop realm now, it takes it back to being an underground, punk release. That's fitting and it's especially fitting that this is their masterpiece... until the next one, of course...

13. Nik Turner: The Final Frontier

Purple Pyramid

With it's freeform sections, off-kilter, improv sax solos, and abstract contemplation of acid-space, The final Frontier is probably Turner's most Hawkindian album since he left the band. No one understands that space-rock isn't just songs about flying silver machines more than Turner (although it's that, too) and he's sure to add in the introspective meta-contemplation as much as the tales of time warping. Nicky Garratt's slamming axe gives Turner the power he so much deserves. Together, these two are making some of the best music of both of their careers. Great Pyramid, please don’t let this record be the final frontier…

12. Devil Master: Satan Spits on Children of Light

Relapse Records

I can't make out a single lyric on this album and I like it. Thousands and thousands of bands have done the "oooo monsters and demons are cool" kind of thing. But, at least for once, Devil Master makes it truly scary. Packing every sonic inch with a ripping sound, be it thrashing guitars, possessed howls, bent synths, or spastic drums, Devil Master makes NOISE thats says more than any incantation ever could. The greatest ghoul might be in your own mind and Devil Master seem to be summoning that beast more than any drooling thing with a Latin name.

11. The Silver Machine: Standing on the Bare Ground

Alternative Tentacles

Instead of looking back on ancient rites, a witches coven looks to the future and uses their collective power to travel to the very edges of the galaxy. What they find is unquantifiable terror, and somehow, they find that to be peaceful. This record is cold, spacious, creepy, and totally, one hunded percent, massively faaaar out. If Hawkwind and Chrome jammed together as produced by Brian Eno, it might sound like this. I was scared and freaked out by this record and I liked it.

10. L.O.T.I.O.N.: World Wide W.E.B.

toxic State

Jon Connor is dead and we're all screwed. L.O.T.I.O.N. makes this point repeatedly on this dense, crust-synth-punk platter, and they seem to revel in mankind's imminent destruction more than anything else. If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em, and L.O.T.I.O.N. seem to have thrown their lot in with our new computer overlords. You can't say we weren't warned about computers turning us into their servants instead of vice-versa, so we only have ourselves to blame. Though, as consolation, it's nice that we got one of the most daring, most weird, and most rocking punk records in decades out of it.

9. Omnigone: No Faith

Bad Time Records

Adam Davis of Link 80 ( though he'll always be Adam Davis of Gnarboots and Flat Planet to me) recruits his friends a makes the best third wave ska record in DECADES. But, that's also probably because he plays some hardcore and metal on this album, too. Also, he contemplates death throughout. This record feels like Davis being more direct, and more honest, than he's ever been. The big revelations are his preoccupation with death and bubbling anger beneath the surface. But, the biggest revelation is that, somehow, Ska has grown to be more powerful than it ever was before... at least for those that know how to wield its awesome power responsibility.

8. Kicker: Pure Drivel


The "theme" of punk rock is that after your twenties, or thirties if yer lucky, you get jaded and move onto other genres. Thank the Lord for Kicker. Composed of four ultra-veterans (including singer Pete the Roadie, an actual roadie, who is an og first wave punker!), Kicker's enthusiasm makes them seem like a group of teens just discovering the genre despite that this is their third album, ninth release overall, and tenth year of being a band!... Also, collectively, they have over two hundred yeats of punk between them. Not only is this record an inspiration, but it is cranked full of kicking riffs, rocking beats, rumbling bass, and Pete's wonderfully blustery quips. Some people are just funny inherently and Peter is inherently a riot. The secret trick, though, is that despite the fist pumping and yuks here, there is some truly deep insight. There's more to Pete and crew than meets the eye... as with all great punk rock.

7. Ellen and the Degenerates: Return of the Herb

War Fever

Oh my God, I love this band... it's too bad that they broke up just after putting out this album, thereby proving that they must HATE me! Still, what a way to bow out. Their sole album seesaws between punk charging and indie-rock stomp all while lead singe rElena Barrio offers skewed viewpoints, such as the part where she proudly declares that she's a literal trash person or the part where she spends more than two minutes yelling at someone for not being her friend. This is the same art-punk mentality heard on those esoteric Talking Heads and No waves lyrics and somehow, this band's shifted perspective seems distinctly relatable. The brightest flame burns the shortest, as they say, and EatD were BLINDINGLY GOOD.

6. Vivian Girls: Memory

Polyvinyl Records

I knew they could do it and they did! Vivian Girls not only pulled the rare trick of kicking out an amazing comeback album, but it's probably their best one yet! It rocks. It's fuzzy. It has scary parts and sweet parts and weird parts and down to earth parts and everything i love about the band rolled into one single LP. Vivian Girls have taken their punches and not only have they gotten back on their feet, but they are hitting back harder than they ever had before. Somehow, we are living in a weird parallel universe where Rocky IV is the best Rocky movie! These gals went the distance and still won the title belt! They might have won the prize, but we ALL reap the benefit! Simply amazing!

5. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know

Suicide Squeeze Records

After the crazed rampage of Nosebleed Weekend, the Coathangers pulled back on the reins and opened their hearts and minds. This is their quietest album (though it still has tunes like "Fuck the NRA") and it's also their most moving. The trio have proved that their equally adept at texture as they are at tearing off people's heads, and, to boot, they are still HILARIOUS. All three Coathangers are likable, so it makes their music easy to like. But, even if they were three 1989 Axl Roses instead of Julia, Meredith, and Stephanie,, this music STILL would be likable because it's just so damn good and perfectly crafted and on point and hooky. But, it's nice that they ARE nice. So... nice! Everybody's nice... and this record is a monument to their talent and vision. That's nice, too.

4. Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers


Amyl and the Sniffers had A LOT of hype before dropping their first album, and like so few before them, the debut record SURPASSED the hype machine. Daringly sacrificing their earlier catchiness for speed and raw power, Amyl and crew blasted out a fierce record that stormed like a hardcore attack, but rocked like classic era AC/DC. It's not easy to keep the swing when you're going 300mph, but this band knows how to ride the wind. Also, lead singer Amy Taylor brute honesty and barbed wire wit cuts as sharply as the riffs here, which is to say, pretty much every slash could easily be a mortal wound.

3. Catbite: Catbite

Bad Time Records

Shut your mouth. Ska is redeemed. While Catbite tag themselves as "Philadelphia Ska," they know, and we know, they're not strictly ska revival and that's what makes them so effective- well, that, and every single member is really good at what they each do. Harkening back to the golden two-tone age, Catbite draw that forward into a timeless context, all while picking up some other genre hallmarks here and there for effect- 50's rock n roll, anyone? maybe some '77 punk? This is a record made by people who truly love ska. And to love something, you have to let it go free, which is exactly what Catbite does. This is the only record of the year that can scratch back.


self released

This year was QWAM's year. The band had been building steam for the past few years and trying out various styles (a lil pop punk here, indie rock over there, noise rock a' yonder), but, by the time they unleashed their first proper LP, it was a PROPER LP. Merging all of the best parts into some dayglo drapery, the band cloaks a gleeful nihilism behind sunny stories about hanging out at the mall and killing everyone at your prom. Doing bad things shouldn’t be this fun, but as long as QWAM is in the picture, it is…

1. Tsunami Bomb: The Spine that Binds

Alternative Tentacles

Admit it! Just admit it, you jerk! You Didn't think Tsunami Bomb had it in them to do a proper comeback! Well, you're wrong! You're all wrong and I'm laughin'! Their first album in who-knows-how-long and forst ever one with both founding members Dom and Oobliette is THEIR BEST ONE YET. Perfect punk with a touch of pop, goth, and new wave. It's funny. It's political. It's dark. It's bouncy. It is the jam of the year baby! I don't even need to give them bonus points for kicking ass on a comeback record. This record is a beast with any modifier you want to apply. This truly feels like a band finally capturing their essence. It could have been a dud but instead it's an atomic blast! Somehow, the bomb in the case is a force of both destruction and construction. BOOM!

The 10 best EPs of the year (Non-Melvins Division)

10. Ramoms: Teacher's Pet [EP]

Pirate's Press Records

You'd think the-Ramones-as-moms concept would be hilarious... and it is. But, not only that, there's a certain snotty-toddler defiance here that makes this band that much more fun. I don't think Ramoms care if you like them or not, as moms, they KNOW what's best for you. And what's best for you is to rock this 7-incher on out!

9. Insignificant Others: Insignificant Others [EP]

self released

One first wave punk guy, one melodic punk guy, and one pop-punk gal- this is a trio made in divebar and they sound like they came from the gates of Heaven themselves. Each of these hits could have been either a stone cold power-pop classic in 1977 or a stone cold beard-punk classic in 2007. Hell, they're stone cold classics right now. This band is onto something gooooood.

8. Alice Cooper: The Breadcrumbs EP

EAR Music

The Coop pays tribute to his hometown by kicking out a couple of originals saluting the Motor City and then blasting our four more covers from those holy grounds. MC5, Mitch Ryder, and bob Seger all get well done workouts. The real gem is the Suzi Quatro cover which harkens back to the Cooper's earliest gender bending days. A Stooges cover would have been nice, but maybe even Alice would have seen that as sacrilegious... or maybe Ann Arbor doesn't count? At any rate, Alice is sounding better than he ever has and, more than ever, he sounds EXCITED to be doing what he's doing. I'm excited, too!.

7. Zorn: Hardcore Zorn


Quietly dropped with little more than a bandcamp upload, Zorn's new four tracker is their fiercest one yet. The hardcore death rockers are becoming so hardcore that the music is almost morphing into thrash. They are as macabre and as spiky as ever and this whole tape sounds like it's about to blow out the tape eck as it runs from white line to white line. IT'S TIME FOR THESE GHOULS TO PUT OUT AN ALBUM.

6. Clear Channel: Hot Fruit [EP]

self released

One part post-punk and one part weirdo dance music, Clear Channel is THE band to watch in 2020. So strange, so great. They as equally wont to sing about racial prejudice as they are about what kinds of fruit are good. This trio is freaky in the best possible way, and, on top of that, they are truly unique post-punkers. I expect great things from them.

5. Pushin' it 2 the Limit: Knocks Your Fuckin' Socks off Turkey

Suicide Bong

So what if they already released this album last year? The NEW version has better sound, better production, and REALLYU kncoks your socks off, turkey. Pittl is pure joy in punk form and they even slip in some serious commentary here or there... I mean, I usually miss that part as I'm too focused on their hilarious battle cries that open every song. If only other bands knew the secret that PITTL knows: punk can be serious AND fun. And damn, this IS fun... and my socks were rocked off so hard they are now in ribbons.

4. World/Inferno Friendship Society: Hallowmas 2019


A secret treat delivered at Inferno's annual bash, this two track tape is laying the breadcrumbs for what's to come. The A-side might just be a rare, old track, but the new guy on side B is the real surprise. The band is getting both weirder and more glam and I am all about that ride. World/Inferno is always evolving and it looks like the latest evolution will take us to some unexpected places, which, of course, is expected at this point. But, it's cool that the music is so great, too.

3. The Hound of Love: Drunk Dial #4 [7-inch]

Drunk Dial

This is THE PERFECT '80s pop record... weird that it was recorded in 2019... but a Ramonescore maniac... while he was drunk. The genius of the Mean Jeans crew knows no depth and here, Andrew Bassett, lovingly embraces the formerly castigated, now celebrated genre: synth-pop. This record puts Falco, Bananarama, and Kajagoogoo to shame and gives Modern English, Human League, and Kraftwerk a run for their money. I can think of few higher compliments. Oh, also, Soft Cell style Rancid cover on the B-side? Magnifique!

2. Integrity: All Death Is Mine

Holy Mountain

Woo hoo hoo! Already firing it up so soon after the release of the mammoth, landmark album Howling yada yada yafa, Integrity came charging out of the gate in '19 with this erupting, thrasher. Equal parts hardcore charge and power metal intricacy, "All Death Is Mine" is a weird juxtaposition that can;t quite be defined- and that's kind of Integrity's speciality. Straight up, it can be hard for band's to follow successful, redefining albums (even Bowie, Dylan, and Judas Priest had issues here), but by all accounts, Integrity's fire is just growing and growing and growing and growing. Yowza!

1. Cro-Mags: Don't Give In [EP]

Victory Records

Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years. Harley is back after 19 years.... and the proof is in the wax.

The 5 best Melvins releases of the year (Melvins Division)

5. Bluewhale / Void Manes: Bluewhale / Void Manes

Rock is Hell

King Buzzo and Kevin Rutmanis team up as Bluewhale for some Throbbing Gristle style noise experiments. If you need more of a sales pitch than that, yer in the wrong section, buddy.

4. Lou Barlow and Dale Crover: Father's Day

Joyful Noise

A group of dads, one being a main melv, team up for a dad-themed EP. However, most dads do not rock like these maniacs. Hell, most PEOPLE do not rock like these maniacs.

3. Melvins/Redd Kross: Escape from LA

Amphetamine Reptile

Being that Melvins and Redd Kross have basically merged into one mega band, it's fitting that they put out a split EP. It's even more fitting that the EP shows that both of these bands are as good, or even better, than they've ever been, even though they've been cranking out the jams for over 30 years! OK! They're both approved for 30 more!

2. Melvins/Shitkid: Bangers

Amphetamine Reptile

The Melvins and some wacky Europeans crank out four tracks spanning the globe or rock itself. The highlight? An extremely Sex Pistoly "Ghost on the Highway." Both of these bands rarely play by the rules of punk, which, of course, makes them infinitely punk.

1. Melvins/Flipper: Hot Fish

Amphetamine Reptile

The Melvins team up with their own heroes and cut the best Flipper tune in over thirty years! "Hot Fish" is long, mean, and nasty! And that's just the start of it! Three MORE Flipper covers make this EP just totally fierce as hell. They say never meet your heroes, but eh Melvins ignored that advice and thank goodness they did because their heroes came to rock!

The crazy thing is that 2020 ALREADY is looking packed. Perhaps the greatest band ever, World/Inferno Friendship Society will have already released their new album by the time you read this! Crazy & the Brains have announced a new LP! Oh yeah! I am really, really hoping OFF! #4 is released in the ’20 (As excited I am for CJs, I hope it doesn’t impede OFF!) Cro-Mags are scheduled to release their first album in twenty, count ‘em, twenty years! Danzig says his Elvis covers album will be out along with a theatre type tour, which could be very cool! Trash Knife says they are recording new stuff as is Dark Web. Tom Fischer says new Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Triptykon related material is on the way! Oooh boy! Born has been dropping mild hints about a full length blaster and they damn well better. KRS-One hasn’t released a new album in about two years which is like two decades for him, so I hope to hear some new rhyme from him- ditto that for Run the Jewels! Danbury says he’s working on new stuff and if that’s anything like his recent stuff, we are in for a treat. And Melvins, baby, MELVINSSSSSSS.

For me, I’ve got a plan for the new year and I want to stick to it! More features! More shows! More tapes! I’ve already got some plans in the works but I need to avoid getting side tracked by awesome side-missions. So, that means, if you want to write for punknews - news, reviews, or interviews- NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME TO JUMP ABOARD MATEY!

How is it that at 36, I am so mega psyched about punk rock?! Maybe I’m just a slow learner. I’m not trying to be Mister pose-vibes out here, because I am NOT that, but as flock of Seagulls once said, "the more you live, the more you love [punk rock]." (Also, I saw Flock twice this year, and they were AWESOOOOME).

I don’t have any inspirational quotes for ya. I don’t have any purportedly deep profundities. I ain’t got no advice for ya, except, let’s get out there baby! Let’s tear it up! Let’s do cool stuff! Let’s make art! Let’s throw cool shows! Let’s go see the punk legends while we still can! Let’s snatch up the rare records! Let’s run some cool interviews! Leet’s find weird news stories! Let’s wreck it all up! Let’s rock the hell out! LET’S GO CRAZY! LET’S GO WILD! HEY!!!! HOOO!!!!! LEEEET’S GOOCOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!