The Silence Kit | Punk Rock
The Sex Pistols may well have started it all. When they started they claim they had no idea how to play their instruments, but by the time they were playing shows and recording they clearly had created their own style and had very much mastered it. Stripping everything down to its bare essentials, Chuck Berry inspired guitar, and nasty over the top vocals, along with great, classic chord progressions (many of which were written by original bass player Glen Matlock), the Pistols had a unique sound and fantastic (if destructive) chemistry. Unfortunately, Matlock was kicked out of the band and replaced by Sid Vicious, who gradually turned the whole band into a circus and allowed for their trainwreck of a manager the opportunity to wrongly claim all credit for Sex Pistols. The important thing is, this is an album full of powerful, melodic, angry songs that will never sound dated and will always have an impressive impact. Hopefully, in the years to come people can focus more on the music left behind than the Sid-circus and the self-serving stories told by Malcolm McLaren.
The Clash were just as angry and frustrated as the Sex Pistols (The Pistols actually inspired The Clash to start their band in the first place), but they channeled that anger and frustration differently. Instead of being purely destructive (and self-destructive), The Clash tried to break new ground with each album, and to inspire people to force a change. Politics and punk were first brought together by The Clash (as well as reggae and punk, and countless other combinations the band saw fit to create). Although "London Calling" has some of their best songs and is widely recognized as their best album, I've always preferred their First (eponymous) album, which was far more raw and nervy. Either way, you can't go wrong with either album.
The Ramones started around the same time as the Sex Pistols, across the ocean, in NYC. Their shows at CBGB's put them and the club on the map, and their sets were scorchingly fast, and insanely loud. Stripped down further than the Pistols' songs, there were no guitar solos at all. And decidedly more melodic than most of what would become known as punk (including the Pistols), The Ramones sounded like The Beach Boys gone terribly terribly wrong. This resulted in fast, exciting music that was also full of hooks and catchier than most radio pop songs of their time. Any of their first 3 albums, "The Ramones," "Leave Home" or "Rocket to Russia" would make a great start but they have many albums and a lot of them are really fantasic.
X-Ray Spex brought the Sex Pistols guitar-based sound together with saxophone and shrieky female vocals and socio-political lyrics. The songs had huge, catchy choruses, and tons of bite. "Germ-free Adolescents" is definitely worth a listen and if you like what you hear, pick up the album. It's solid from front to back. There was a time where I made an X-Ray-Spex shirt back in high school...
The Misfits brought the Ramones sound together with Glenn Danzig's deep baritone voice to create a hyper powered Elvis-like punk band. The songs were all about ghouls, zombies, murder and mayhem and every song had huge hooks, which melodic backing vocals and memorable chants. No one know if they were serious or not and by the time Earth AD came out, they had gotten pretty scary. Sadly, Danzig broke up the band at this point and got far too obviously serious and I lost interest for the most part. But "Static Age," "Walk Among Us" and "Earth AD" are great albums. Each different in their own right and worth checking out if you want to hear the metamorphasis of Danzig's style, or even if you've never liked any of Danzig's other work, but like catchy powerful punk music, this band helped write the book. (Oh, and Jerry Only restarted a new version of the band in the 90s-present day. All I can say is AVOID it.)
The Dead Kennedys fused other worldly styles with punk's root elements to create a political punk band that sounded like no band before them or since them. Jello Biafra's lyrics and high warbly voice were the centerpiece of the band's sound, but the band had a surf-punk style all their own which made everything that much more exciting. "Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables" is their classic, and should be in any self-respecting punk fan's collection. This is another band that decided to start touring again recently without their singer/lyricist and the band members are suing Jello so, be sure of what you're buying and where your money is going.
The Dead Milkmen are one of my favorite bands. They were an 80s Philadelphia-based punk band that played music that more resembled sloppy funk than typical "punk rock." Their guitarist played clean electric guitar (no distortion!), their bass player played simple walking basslines, and the singer was more than a bit untraditional in his delivery. They slowly evolved into a psych-rock-punk band and in doing so, wound up inspiring two different worlds of fans. "Big Lizard in My Backyard" is an absolute punk classic, as is "Beezlebubba." Next one I'd buy is actually one of my personal favorites, their second album "Eat Your Paisley." When you want to branch out into their later more keyboard/less snotty catalog, "Not Richard But Dick" and "Soul Rotation" are great starters.