Punk and Palm Trees: Don’t be an American idiot
Guest columnist Morgan Magid provides some ‘Murica-inspired tracks
We Americans have had a pretty good few weeks. Gay marriage is legal. Our beloved soccer team WON the World Cup. And we celebrated our 239th birthday! With so much to celebrate, I present to you a mix of classics, both old and new. The gritty blue-collar rock of Springsteen bubbles with Jersey pride, while The Gaslight Anthem carries its torch into modern times. Public Enemy and Green Day’s healthy senses of cynicism question politicians and American culture alike. Finally, Cyndi Lauper rounds things out with delightful pop tunes.
1) Bruce Springsteen: Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
The Boss is perhaps one of the best musical exemplifications of America. Alongside the famous E-Street Band, Bruce’s first record captures the darker, struggling side of New Jersey’s working class. Take “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street,” for instance. It covers everything from dock-worker dreams to young señoritas, as simple drums and a light piano kick things off. Coming from N.J. myself, I’m culturally obligated to be a fan, but he’s arguably one of the most important American artists ever. Where to start: “Blinded by the Light”
2) Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Most people may know Flava Flav by his notorious clock necklace, but it is the rap conglomerate he is a part of, Public Enemy, that brought him fame initially. Alongside a number of other artists, the crew’s sophomore effort boasts incredible rhyme play and an impressive mastery of hip-hop. The classic “Don’t Believe The Hype” features Chuck D spitting truth while DJ Terminator X takes over on “Rebel Without A Pause” with his turntable. The politicized nature of the album (sadly) still feels relevant today with the increased spotlight on police brutality and struggles of the black community. Important topics aside, this is a great hip-hop album that’ll make you think just as much as it’ll get you hyped. Where to start: “Don’t Believe The Hype”
3) The Gaslight Anthem: The ’59 Sound
The modern-day reincarnation of our previous rec, Bruce, The Gaslight Anthem’s deep-rooted rock ‘n’ roll tones in its second record, “The ’59 Sound” encapsulates what “true America” feels like. Simple pleasures, classic cars and a strong penchant for tradition fuel the album’s twinkling sense of nostalgia. Brian Fallon’s deep and crisp vocals narrate teenage adoration as “Old White Lincoln” weaves a story of hightop sneakers and sailor tattoos. Fallon and co. transport listeners to a time of young baby boomers and Audrey Hepburn’s heyday in this emotional, yet vivacious, outpouring. Where to start: “The ’59 Sound”
4) Green Day: American Idiot
This intricate concept album bombards its listeners with ripping guitars and a spit-in-your-face attitude that allowed punk’s anti-Bush sentiments to truly achieve mainstream attention. Some of Green Day’s most iconic singles, including title tracks “American Idiot” and “Holiday,” originate from the record, helping to tell the story of a young cynic dubbed the "Jesus of Suburbia" and his odyssey through drugs and a love for "Whatsername." While these singles are iconic tracks from the early 2000’s, the deep cuts like “St. Jimmy” and “Homecoming” tie every aspect on the record together and allow Green Day to bare its teeth. Where to start: “Letterbomb”
5) Cyndi Lauper: She’s So Unusual One of the best pop artists of the 1980s, Cyndi Lauper curated a compilation of glitzy pep songs that created a template for the future of pop music. Using synth as the main instrumentation in the album, Lauper epitomizes the '80s shift from disco to a more electronic focus. Classics from the record include “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” two songs that have been now become deeply ingrained in pop culture history. If you want an unobscured look into American pop’s past, this album is an essential listen. Where to start: “Time After Time”
Check out Punk and Palm Trees’ Spotify playlist below!