A wise man once said, "Loud, fast rules." We have no idea who that man was, but he did have a point. While we would gladly argue the merits of such longform work as Genesis' "Supper's Ready" or the sheer beauty of a 15 minute live version of "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television, there is something to be said for the "get in, get the job done and get out" approach.
Short songs are nothing new. Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five singles would routinely clock in at under three minutes, and the Ramones, of course, made getting in and out a way of life. Following that lead, countless punk bands took that ethos even further, trimming off all the fat and condensing the song down to the bare essentials. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't prove a thing ... but bless 'em all for trying.
We now present a list of some of the finest little tunes, each and every one clocking in at under one minute. It took longer to write this than it will to listen!
No time for settling in, hit play and let 'em rip:
The first incarnation of the mighty Black Flag is still, arguably, the best line up. With Keith Morris on lead vocals and Greg Ginn's gutter-scraping guitar tone, it was a match made in heaven. Their first record was released in late 1978 and featured a mere four songs. The entire EP clocked in at just over the five minute mark. "Wasted," co-written by Morris and Ginn, remains a perfect snapshot of a moment in time. Loud, fast rules indeed!
The Damned'Stab Your Back'
There were the Sex Pistols and the Clash, but the real heroes of the U.K. punk rock world are the Damned. Aside from releasing the very first punk single (the uber classic "New Rose"), they also got their debut LP into shops before the Clash or Pistols; Damned Damned Damned was a blueprint for many as to how it's done. Stacked from start to finish with rock and roll perfection, it is an all time classic; "Stab Your Back" my be one of the lesser cuts on the record, but it still manages to kill all in its path, and all in under 60 seconds.
Dead Kennedys'Hyperactive Chld'
In their heyday, Dead Kennedys were untouchable. Jello Biafra led the band through a run of albums and singles that to this day sound totally unique. Biafra's voice and often satirical lyrical style, combined with the merging of punk rock with nods to surf, psychedelia, garage and avant garde, proved a lethal combo over the course of four albums and various singles. On the band's second 12" release, In God We Trust Inc., the hardcore approach hinted at on their debut took full hold. "Hyperactive Child" plows through two verses and two chorus' in 37 seconds.
The Germs'What We Do Is Secret"
Of all the bands to emerge from the Los Angeles underground, none captivated and divided fans more than the Germs. The insecurities and poetic sense of Darby Crash made him a key figure on the scene early on. The band, that also included a young Pat Smear, went from ragged amateurs to forceful ensemble in short order. The lead track on their one and only proper album, G.I., still burns the house down. Produced by Joan Jett, "What We Do Is Secret" harnesses that youthful energy as it merges with something more esoteric. Sadly, that fire burned out quickly.
Angry Samoans'Lights Out'
Angry Samoans ran the boards from semi-hardcore bursts of mayhem to full on snotty, garage rock inspired chaos. Their first release, Inside My Brain, showed off that approach, but it was 1982's Back From Samoa that really turned heads. The entire LP runs around 17 minutes, one of which is taken up by the rousing "Lights Out," which remains one of their finest moments.
Hey look -- it's Keith Morris again! Fast forward some 30-plus years from the early days of Black Flag and we find Mr. Morris still as angry and commanding as ever with his newest ensemble, Off! Taking the intense energy of those early days with Black Flag or Circle Jerks, and readjusting slightly, Morris and company came up with a brew that's every bit as manic and aggressive, providing a new soundtrack for both old and new fans to connect with.
Pop-O-Pies'A Political Song'
Joseph Callahn, a.k.a. Joe Pop-O-Pies, was -- and still is -- a funny guy; his sarcasm and twisted sense of humor guided Pop-O-Pies, a band that included future members of Faith No More. On Joe's Second Record, Mr. O'Pies and band plow through a second version of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin," some Flipper styled guitar mayhem, a slam at New York City, a "rap" song and this humorous jab at the increasingly ridiculous pseudo-political ramblings of the hardcore brigade. The 57 seconds of 'A Political Song' are a brilliant send up: "We don't want your apathy / No f---in' government gets down on me / Can you spare any change / Anti Reagan and stuff man, yeah."
The Descendents proved to be one of the more influential of the hardcore-era bands. Incorporating more melodic elements to their sound than many others, they would set the template for everyone from Green Day to Blink-182 and beyond who liked it fast, loud ... and still tuneful. Their 1982 debut, Milo Goes to College, is usually held up as their finest hour. "M-16" is one of many short but sweet gems within that slab. The band would later evolve into All, who took that sound and style and further defined it.
Minor Threat'Straight Edge'
Ian MacKaye has to be one of the most sincere people ever to wander into the music business. From the Teen Idles and Minor Threat up through Fugazi, he never once gave up his vision or his integrity, not for a second. Minor Threat, more or less, started the whole straightedge movement of avoiding drugs, booze and broads, and instead channeled all that energy back into their fierce and intense music.
Redd Kross are an American original, and a rock and roll treasure. From their early days as punk rock kids (and we mean kids --11 and 15 years old when they started kicking out the jams) through their glittery rock days to the gleaming power pop of later years, brother Jeff and Steve McDonald have always had two significant things: a great sense of humor and a great sense of pure rock. Born Innocent from 1982 is full of trashy, pop-influenced punk flash, including this ode to "Self Respect," which is over and done before you can say Linda Blair.
Let's discuss the delicate chord progressions and subtle harmonies of Starvation Army's complexly woven tapestry here, shall we? We can't? It's over already? Oh, of course it is. What we have here is the shortest song on this list, as it clocks in at just under three seconds. Starvation Army were an early '80s hardcore band from Cleveland who, all things considered, should have been contenders to that big, beautiful national scene. As you might imagine, this number used to get the crowds all worked up.