You know them when you hear them, the bangers. They reverberated throughout your youth, fuelling nights spent around the back of venues spilling Red Stripe down your crisp white tee, filling gaping silences with cheers and tussles at a house show, and upsetting your parents. They’re still the ones you skip to when listening to a playlist you curated for yourself, because they remind you of all the good times you’re not having anymore on your complicated commute to work.
Who decides which songs become the classics? Only time, probably. But the elements which might constitute one such track are probably easier to define. A catchy melody or memorable lyrics, something that separates it from the rest of an artist’s body of work, a game changing influence on the generation of bands that came after.
If anybody knows about catchy melodies and good times, it’s Gnarwolves. From their debut EP Fun Club to last year’s debut self-titled album, Gnarwolves’ dedication to writing riffs to both start and end your night to is unparalleled, at least within the UK. We gave their bassist Charlie a call and asked him which of his band’s tracks he’d call a modern classic, but he wasn’t too sure. “We’ve got songs that more people sing and rock out to, but I don’t reckon we have any classics.” Maybe not, but they’ve got a bunch of songs that drive people to cheer and tussle faster than you can crack a beer open. Plus he really knows his punk music, so we collected a selection of staple anthems that any self-respecting anti-authoritarian should have in their collection, from Black Flag to The Distillers, and asked him to review them. Over to Charlie Gnarwolves.
Sick Of It All – "Built To Last"
It’s a later song definitely – it’s ’97 but I really like it. The song is a bit more melodic than their older stuff. They’re trying to show a bit of progression really. Not too much, mind. They’re literally saying they’re built to last, they’re still going. Every time they’re writing a new record, they’re saying that. They’ve always been a straight up hardcore band. You don’t expect anything more or less from them than what they are. The fact they keep putting out records with similar songs is great.
We did a punk all-dayer with them actually and it was great to see older dudes carrying on and keeping hardcore living. I skipped these guys and went into more modern version of what I call “big dude” hardcore. Even though I didn’t listen to them much, they influenced all the bands I love.
Minor Threat – "In My Eyes"
God, yeah. This is one of my favourite songs. Fast-slow-fast-slow, that’s how I’d describe it. I’m a huge 80s hardcore kid. I like Minor Threat a lot but they weren’t ever my favourite. I was more Bad Brains and Fugazi. But yeah, "In My Eyes" is just angry and telling it like it is: if you’re gonna do it, don’t act like a dick, just do it.
A lot of Ian MacKaye’s lyrics are very straight edge, and some people struggle as a result. But I get funny when people think you can’t listen to a certain type of music because you’re not this or that. Music is there to listen to. It doesn’t have to change you. People let it, though, and they get so elitist about it. Minor Threat – and this song - was just an output on Ian telling you how he thinks about life and how he sees it. You don’t necessarily have to follow him.
Descendents – "I’m Not A Loser"
Thom from Gnarwolves got me into Descendents. I was a little late to them to be honest, but this song on Milo Goes to College changed my idea of pop punk completely. It doesn’t always have to be hooky and bouncy, it can just be fast and accessible. It’s only a minute and a bit – they showed us as a band you don’t have to write really long songs. People can lose interest. Thom always says if you’ve got a good chorus and you can fill it in one, that’s enough. People are just gonna listen to it anyway.
"I’m A Loser" is about Milo’s life being a geek and trying to fit in. It’s a standard “You say I’m this, I’m not, fuck you” punk song. They influenced all the later “pop punk” bands like New Found Glory and all that bouncey stuff, but I hate that, I just can’t deal with it. For me, bands like Descendents are original, proper pop-punk.
Green Day - "Welcome to Paradise"
Anything off Dookie is a classic for me. It’s my youth. That song feels like all I’ve ever heard. And "Longview" going into that song more importantly. Those two songs are so special to me because when I met Thom that was our instant bond. The bass line in that was one of the first bass lines I learnt when I was in Gnarwolves. I don’t think you hear anyone saying I want to be a bassist. Ever. Out of all the things you can do in a band. But Mike Dirnt’s bass lines were really melodic, and sometimes even catchier than the choruses and you rarely get that. Back growing up with Mum and Dad as grungers, this song was on MTV all day. It made me be who I am now.
Black Flag – "Rise Above"
The floor-filler off Damage and the club banger of Black Flag. It’s definitely the most overplayed one of theirs. It’s the one I know the most purely because it’s played everywhere. Rollins is the man. I know a lot of people don’t like him, they like Keith. I like both.
Did I listen to the new album? No. I didn’t want to because it would have ruined the first three or four records or the way I see them as a band. They influenced me so hard I didn’t want to destroy that. I know it’s gonna be shit and that’s enough for me. I’d love to ask them why they are even doing it. You’re an 80s hardcore punk band. It’s 2015. The only reason you’re doing it is for some cash. They’ve got Mike Vallely (pro skater) down for vocals! And the album cover? Fuck. It’s like they’ve put a pen in a toddler’s hand. Of all the bands coming back together, they’re the one that should never have done it.
Distillers – "Drain The Blood"
That is a classic, definitely. We all listen to Distillers in the car. Brody Dalle has the best voice ever. She can do anything she wants and she always did it right. It’s such a well written song. A standard punk song needs a melody and chorus and you need the "woahs" but she does it in her own way with the three part harmony by herself. You can tell it’s just come from her own head, like, this is how I want it done and this is how I’m gonna do it. I guess Josh Homme saw the talent and thought, "I’m gonna have some of that."
Suicidal Tendencies - "Institutionalized"
My dad gave me this record after he found it at a car boot and said, “You’re gonna like this.” Suicidal Tendencies rules my life a bit. The way I dress, the way I act on stage, the way I write: they’re so influential. It’s weird because most of the other songs on that record are just standard hardcore songs, and then this pop banger just comes on. It’s still heavy and fast but everyone remembers it because of the line, “All I want is a Pepsi”. That is how that song is so famous. I think that’s crazy. How have you got so big over talking about some Pepsi?
You got to see the cover by Ice-T's Body Count. If I ever met anyone who takes them seriously I don’t think I’d know how I felt about music anymore. I can’t watch a video without laughing. Ice-T has definitely got beef with vegans.
BONUS HEAVY WILD CARD: Converge – "Fault and Fracture"
That’s a heeeavy banger. Technically it’s an amazing song and it’s an absolute ear drum splitter. I always remember it better as “Concubine” coming into “Fault and Fracture” because of that music video they did for it with one video for two songs. Converge are definitely a band that some people don’t get sometimes because the scatty technicality can throw people off. Also Jacob Bannon’s voice is so scary it makes people poop themselves.
When I heard them I was instantly into them. I was living in Bude, Cornwall, which is dead. No music scene. I’d been offered a job at a restaurant but the interview was on the same day as a Converge show in Plymouth. A two or three hour bus drive. I’d literally heard Converge the week before and just cancelled my interview.
People are elitist with Converge. Everyone argues about which one’s the best record. Jane Doe is the album that got me into Converge, but that’s their best rated album so obviously everyone’s like nah, nah because it’s cool to say that. I say fuck it. Jane Doe for the win.
We'll be playing all these bangers and more at Noisey's first Punk In Love event at The Stillery tonight. RSVP and info here. Punk In Love is also a new editorial series celebrating the best of punk, emo and hardcore. Follow all the content here.