I must admit, I didn’t think I’d be writing one of these for 2020. I’m pretty sure I said as much in my 2019 recap. Of course, this turned out to be a year that none of us expected, and I managed to write another 40 or so reviews. I’m at about 460 in my 6 1/2 years with Punknews. I’d still like to get to 500, but if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that plans are made to be broken.
The podcast that I co-host with my pal Liverpool Neil, Punk Till I Die, is still going strong. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that kept me sane this year. (Along with my family, and an extraordinary amount of booze.) We’ve had a great time talking to punks from all walks of life, telling old personal stories, and playing some great punk. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should.
With the lack of live shows, I turned my attention to my record collection. I took a lot of comfort in adding ridiculous amounts of vinyl. While I’m not doing a separate list, I must mention a few of my favorite EPs, in no particular order. The new six song, ten inch from from Territories, When the Day is Done, was a solid follow up to their 2018 self titled debut. The Queers did memorable splits with The Jasons and The Two Tens. Dead End America was the punk/hardcore supergroup put together by Steve “Thee Slayer Hippy” Hanford who managed to record Crush the Machine before his untimely passing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Michigan pals The Lippies and Rebel Spies each dropped great digital EPs too.
As usual, there were a handful of excellent reissues. Circle Jerks’ Group Sex was the head of the class, but the Adrenalin OD and Boneless Ones reissues on Beer City Records were too good to overlook. Ditto the Mr. T Experience on Sounds Rad. Sloppy Seconds” 1995 live album finally got a proper vinyl press thanks to Failure Records & Tapes. Smogtown’s Fuhrers of the New Wave on upstart Garage Rock Records probably got the most spins at the Trauma house.
I got the vast majority of my top 20 on vinyl, with a couple stragglers on CD. It’s a good mix of old favorites and relative newcomers, mostly right in my classic punk and thrash wheelhouse. If this year had a silver lining, it was that I was able to listen to a ton of music. I’ll once again give you my normal disclaimer - this list is not objective. These are MY favorites. I’m old. I like what I like. Without further ado, here are my top 20 long players of 2020.
Top 20 of 2020
self-releasedThis Polish band made a record that feels like the bastard child of Discharge and The Minutemen. It's powerful punk even without being able to understand a single word they're saying. You can feel and relate to the desperation.
18. Cro-Mags: In the Beginning
Mission Two EntertainmentAnother record I wish I'd listened to more. Harley Flannigan leads a great return to form for the NYHC legends. I guess this probably settles once and for all who the real creative mastermind of the band was. Definitely their best album since Best Wishes.
No Pants RecordsThis Pittsburgh band elevated their game on their third full length. It's full of well written and well played punk songs for grownups.
Nefarious IndustriesPsychosomatic is thrash band from Sacramento that has been kicking around since the late '80s. Somehow, this was the first time I ever heard them. It's classic thrash plus punk, hardcore and death metal.
14. Seized Up: Brace Yourself
11. The Fullers: Cheers
SBAMThese New Jersey natives fronted by Punknews contributor Peter Vincelli made a fun record about the people you come across hanging out at the bar. Does anybody remember what it's like to hang out at the bar? This is the next best thing to being there.
10. NOFX/Frank Turner: West Coast Vs. Wessex
rad girlfriend recordsDayton's The Raging Nathans' 4th full length is their leanest and meanest to date. It's also the most serious thing they've done, and it contains some of their best songwriting to date. That's even more impressive when you consider their almost continuous output. There's not a weak or unnecessary track on the album.
6. X: Alphabetland
Screaming Crow RecordsThe Cheats are another band that has been around for quite a while that I only discovered this year. Since 2001, this Pittsburgh quintet has been cranking out sleazy, greasy punk and roll. The songs are about living hard, crashing hard and having the scars to prove it. When you're fed up with politics, crank up The Cheats really loud. I guarantee you'll feel better.
All star recordsPeople are quick to forget that Joe Queer is one of the greatest traditional pop songwriters in all of punkdom. On their first proper studio album in a decade, The Queers aim for that sweet spot between Love Songs for the Retarded and Don't Back Down. They manage to fairly consistently hit their lofty mark. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm thrilled with all the new Queers material in 2020. Get off your high horse and just enjoy these dirty, juvenile and entirely charming songs.
Garage Rock RecordsGross Polluter are another new to me band that I've come to love. The SoCal surf/skate punks evolved from Smogtown, another great band that you should check out. No punk band did a better job of taking the piss out of punk in 2020 than Gross Polluter. These guys aren't bound by the political correctness of the "punk" bands that are packaged and sold to us as lifestyle music.
Monona recordsWhat year is it? How can there be great new albums from Screeching Weasel and The Queers? I don't know how it happened, but I sure am glad it did. Screeching Weasel, Ben Weasel actually, has made some good music in recent years. No one expected a truly great post Jughead SW album, but here it is. Some of you won't be able to get beyond Ben's baggage to give this a fair shake, but it's your loss. I am currently not so patiently waiting for my orange vinyl first press to show up.
That was 2020. As far as 2021, I hardly dare make any predictions. Hopefully shows return. Hopefully bands, labels and venues survive. I will probably continue to phase in my inevitable retirement. Whatever happens, I appreciate the love and support I’ve gotten around here over the years. It really does mean a lot to me. I also appreciate everyone who’s taken the time to read my silly nonsense. Be well, and I’ll see you (hopefully in the pit!) next year.