Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zagat's Top 12 Punk Records

Zagat's, the restuarant guide folks, decided to do a music guide a number of years ago.  The copy I have is from 2003.  I don't know if it was ever updated, but this list is from the original 2003 guide.  The guide has the Zagat voters' top 1000 albums of all time, and, like the restaurant guide, there are also lists of the best in various categories.  Here's the top 12 for punk.

The Clash - London Calling
The Ramones - Ramones Mania
The Ramones - Ramones
Patti Smith - Horses
The Clash - The Clash
Television - Marquee Moon
Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady
X - Wild Gift
The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
Bad Brains - I Against I
Patty Smith - Easter

The misspelling of Patti on that last one is a direct transcription from the guide.  I decided to retain it.  It's a good list, but it's also a kind of bland list.  The two surprises were "I Against I" and "Singles Going Steady".  Most of the list is from the late 70s.  The Bad Brains "I Against I" from 1986 is 5 years less old than anything else on the list.  I agree it's their best album, and has a legit claim to be on this list, but it's often overlooked in favor of their earlier records.

I was disappointed, but unsurprised, to find Husker Du, the Minutemen, and Pere Ubu missing from the list.  The Bad Brains were the only inclusion on the punk list who weren't on a major label.  Husker Du's "New Day Rising" is in the top 12 on Zagat's Garage/Underground list.  Production values were one of 3 Zagat's ratings categories, which had to really hurt the earlier Husker Du records.

The other record that surprised me was "Singles Going Steady".  Compilations are mostly ignored on critics lists.  This one is unique because this is the only full-length LP that included most of these singles, but it's still a compilation.  There are a lot of other less ambiguous compilations that show up on the Zagat's best of lists.  The Jam's "The Jam Collection" is, for instance, #3 on the list of top 12 new wave records.  Bo Diddley's "The Chess Box" is #2 on the oldies list behind Elvis's 1968 TV Special.

Like the restaurant guide, there are pithy comments from the vast pool of raters.  One of my favorite comments describes The Jam as "perhaps the greatest British band to completely strike out in the U.S."  So true, so true.

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