After doing a top ten (twelve) of my favourite Fat Wreck Chords releases a few weeks ago, I decided to have a stab at my top ten releases from Epitaph Records. During the boom of punk rock music in the 1990s Epitaph, along with Fat, were at the forefront of the genre, consistently releasing albums that are now considered classics. Here are my top ten Epitaph releases, ordered by release date rather than order of personal favourites.
NOFX - Punk In Drublic (1994)
Considered by many to be the definitive NOFX album and is the only one to be certified gold in the USA. This is the album that really took NOFX to the next level of popularity in the punk scene, as well as showcasing them to a whole army of new fans. Of course what is probably the most famous NOFX song Linoleum stands out but other favourites of mine include Leave It Alone, Don’t Call Me White, Perfect Government and Lori Meyers.
Rancid - …And Out Come The Wolves (1995)
Like Punk In Drublic for NOFX, …And Out Come The Wolves is the album that really defined Rancid. After releasing two albums of straight up punk rock, Wolves saw Rancid revert back to a ska punk sound that Rancid members Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman’s first band Operation Ivy were well known and much loved for. This album features As Wicked, the first Rancid song I ever heard thanks to a Punk-O-Rama compilation CD. It also features so many of my other favourite Rancid tracks such as Journey To End Of The East Bay, Roots Radical, Time Bomb, Ruby Soho and The Wars End.
Descendents - Everything Sucks (1996)
It’s the Descendents… Seriously how many bands can go away for nine years and come back and make such a classic album? Continuing the Descendents tradition of songs about growing up, struggling to get the girl and, of course, coffee the band delivered what is probably their most loved album. After I started my vinyl record collection I was flicking through the endless selection of great albums in All Ages Records in Camden and came across Everything Sucks. I got a little excited and immediately decided on my purchase. Check out I'm The One, When I Get Old, She Loves Me and Thank You.
The Bouncing Souls - How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2001)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation is one of my top five albums ever. It is The Bouncing Souls third record on Epitaph and first with long time drummer Michael McDermott. Summer Vacation is an album that saw the Souls up their game in every aspect and was by far their most polished to date. It's fifteen years old now and the Souls setlist is still very heavy on Summer vacation songs when they play live. If you were to look back in another fifteen years at classic punk albums I feel like Summer Vacation will be looked upon like The Clash's London Calling or The Ramones self-titled album are today. Check out Private Radio, Gone, Manthem and True Believers.
Pulley - Together Again For The First Time (2001)
Like many of my favourite Epitaph bands, I discovered Pully through Punk-O-Rama compilations. Hearing them was one of the first times I'd heard the more melodic skate punk style associated with the time. Pulley, lead by former Baseball player Scott Radinsky, released Togther Again For The First Time in 2001 and was on constant rotation on my CD player for months after I first got it. Unfortnately I've never connected with any other Pulley albums like I did with this one. Have a listen to Hooray For Me, Empty, Runaway and The Ocean Song.
Pennywise - From The Ashes (2003)
From The Ashes might not be the most popular choice for a number one Pennywise album but it's the first one I ever heard so holds a very special place in my heart. I remember being completely awestruck by how hard hitting everything on the album was. It was like nothing I ever heard before. It got me so pumped up and empowered me - it made me feel like I cold smash through any wall put in front of me. Songs including God Save The USA, Something To Change, Look Who You Are, Holiday In The Sun and Rise Up still get my blood pumping today.
The Bouncing Souls - Anchors Aweigh (2003)
The second Bouncing Souls album to make this list. This was my first experience of The Bouncing Souls and Anchors Aweigh was, I think, the start of The Bouncing Souls developing a more mature style of punk rock music. The great thing about The Souls is how they managed to develop their sound without ever alienating their original fanbase. Something many bands have struggled with other the years. Anchors Aweigh has the perfect mix of fast, ferocious sing-a-longs as well as more thoughtful, soul searching songs that also make you want to sing-a-long. Favourites include Kids and Heroes, Born Free, Sing Along Forever, Highway Kings and Anchors Aweigh.
Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First (2004)
Incredibly The Empire Strikes First is the thirteenth studio album released by the legendary Bad Religion. I could have picked many of those albums for this list as I don't think there is a bad one amongst then. Though it was previous album The Process Of Belief that first made me a fan of Bad Religion, it was Empire Strikes First that made me love the band. Everything that makes Bad Religion great is featured on this album; the smart lyrics, duelling guitars, amazing harmonies - known as the "oozin-aahs." Check out Los Angeles Is Burning, Gods Love, Social Suicide and Let Them Eat War.
The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past (2012)
If ever an album could be considered a breakthrough album it has to be On The Impossible Past by The Menzingers, which was released on Epitaph in 2012. This is the album that really launched The Menzingers careers and will go down as one the most important punk albums of the past ten years. At a time when Epitaph were releasing more screamo and hardcore albums, as were the trends at the time, it was somewhat refreshing to see Epitaph release a punk album. On The Impossible Past turned The Menzingers into one of the most beloved punk bands all over the world. I love Burn After Writing, The Obituaries, Casey and I Can't Seem To Tell.
Off With Their Heads - Home (2013)
This was a big toss up for me. I love both the Off With Their Heads albums that Epitaph have released. Both In Desolation and Home have songs that mean so much to me. I decided on Home because I was going through a particularly bad time when it was released and I listened to Home over and over again to help get me through it. Ryan Young has an amazing ability to write the most depressing songs that somehow manage to lift your mood. How a line like "I've Never Felt Worse In My Whole Life" can make you feel better I'll never know but it does. Weird. Have a listen to Start Walking, Shirts, Nightlife and Focus On Your Family.