A Punk Playlist

Someone once said that the people who don’t like punk, hate it. But the people who do, LOVE it.

As an Asian American woman, I can offend both white Americans and traditional Asians. I am not for everyone. Which is why I love punk. It’s aggressive. Demanding. Joyful. Irreverent. It calls you on your bullshit. There’s beauty in its honesty, anger, and ugliness.

As I discuss in the All the Women in My Family Sing essay “Asian American Punk,” the people and music need to be more critical and inclusive. It’s a call many have made.

Here is why I continue to listen:

Against Me! – “Cliché Guevara,” As the Eternal Cowboy (2003)
AFI – “The Days of the Phoenix,” The Art of Drowning (2000)
The Lawrence Arms – “Your Gravest Words,” Apathy and Exhaustion (2002)

Track 1: One of my favorite bands, Against Me! embodies why I love this music. Not only do the track’s urgent, pulse-pounding flood capture how it feels to tumble headfirst into the genre, the lyrics are worth looking up. Here, the band compares the military industrial complex to artistic protest, and it is just as relevant in 2018 as it was in 2003. After two decades, Against Me! remains one of punk’s most self-reflective stalwarts. Their relentless questioning and belief in creating the world you want, are all ideals trans frontwoman Laura Jane Grace barely survived. These songs are scars. The band is electrifying live. See them in May.

Track 2: I had to include some Bay Area love. This track remains a standout in AFI’s nearly 30-year catalogue. Frontman Davey Havok’s vocals coupled with Gothic imagery make the longing in this anthem irresistible. It’s everything a single should be. Their sound has evolved significantly, but “I want to/I want to/I want to stay” is how I feel at the center of every live show. Catch them this summer with tour de force Rise Against.

Track 3: This song is Chicago in the Fall. I used to rock this album on the Red Line when the El passed through Uptown, where The Lawrence Arms lived until they were evicted, their moniker an homage to the place that kicked them out. Fans are often split between tracks written by vocalist Brendan Kelly (bass) or singer Chris McCaughan (guitar); I prefer Chris’s wistfulness. I’ve used these lyrics to teach metaphor to middle school kids and can’t wait to catch the band on their career retrospective tour.

Won’t you join me?