Michael Thorn’s Top 10 Punk Songs of 2021

Razorblades and Aspirin's Michael Thorn shares ten tracks that defined an unsettling year in hardcore punk. Featuring 80HD, Bootlicker, The Chisel, and more.

So I have this belief that every punk band has one good song—like every band that has ever existed has one good song in them. They may never get around to recording it, you may give up on listening to them before you ever hear it but somewhere, buried deep inside of their collective gray matter, is at least one good song.

In some ways, I feel like the notion of creating a good or even great song has been pushed to the side in punk in lieu of creating a vibe or positioning a feeling. While that’s not altogether totally bad, per se, I do find myself spending a lot of time at gigs thinking, “Ok this is fine, but it’s just heavy (or fast, or spooky, etc)—where are the riffs? The hooks?”

So given all that, here are my favorite songs from 2021—some of them come packaged as a part of a brilliant overall album, others stand alone but the one thing which binds them altogether for me is that they’ve become total brainworms that I can’t stop listening to.

1 80HD, “Violence, Waiting For You”

Wait, isn’t this just generic, brain melting, blistering thrash? Yes! That’s certainly what it is! From the starting bass intro to the pummeling outro mosh this truly rages and fills that cold space in my heart in the same manner as SSD or Heresy.

2 Bootlicker, “Modern Science”

If there is one thing Bootlicker has its hooks—these Canadians are like the hardcore version of Henry Fiat’s Open Sore or a smidge of the Hives. It’s a booty shaking, d-beat, garage rock party!

3 The Chisel, “Retaliation”

If there is anything which epitomizes the conscious move towards writing a timeless brainworm of a song, it’s this Chisel track. Look, everything they do is great but this single is the hit for me—infectious, pop-soaked punk rock that takes the lessons of the likes of Blitz or Cockney Rejects and turns them into their own delicious stew.

4 Diaz Brothers, “All Of You”

Ok, this is cheating—the Diaz Brothers came out in 2020 but I feel like most people, including myself, slept on this. Check it out—it’s basically HDQ without the sadly departed Dickie Hammond (ahem Leatherface). It’s emotionally powerful, melodic punk rock filled with monstrous riffs and thunderous drumming.

5 Exil, “Dear Landlord”

Swedish take on the classic Poison Idea riff-laden hardcore sound—it’s punchy, raw, but not mindless thrash. Crank it.

6 Militarie Gun, “Fell On My Head”

This is what happens when hardcore kids stumble across Guided By Voices and Seaweed records but don’t tumble down a cliff into a pit of annoying indie rock claptrap. It’s heavy and infectious.

7 Sial, “Kita Dilahirkan Untuk Mati”

A dronning, rhythmic, noise-soaked almost industrial sounding cacophony from Singapore—somehow this got missed by a lot of folx come end of the year time but I love this. This is like The Ex partying with early Killing Joke and Disorder.

8 Spiritual Cramp, “Earth To Mike”

For me, California’s Spiritual Cramp are a perfect band—this song is a beautiful summer party jam filled with slashing guitars and piss’n’vinegar filled vocals. A perfect pop nugget.

9 The War Goes On, “Discount Hope”

The most depressed and dour band on earth continues to march on! In so many ways this has become an anthem for hopelessness I feel in the face of the pandemic. “Maybe we were just fucked from the get go. Maybe we were born like this” A song for the times indeed.

10 Warchild, “No Future”

More Swedish perfection—it’s hammerdown, Discharge style hardcore punk—no metal, no funk, no bullshit. This has become a mixtape staple for me. “Is there no future? No future at all!?”

11 Yleiset Syyt, “Luovan Keskiluokan Takapihalla”

Infectious, sassy strutting Finnish hardcore punk with stripped down production that I can just see causing a massive singalong pile—if only I understood Finnish!


Watch out for Michael Thorn’s fanzine Razorblades & Aspirin #14! Coming out in February 2022, pre-orders will be up soon.

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