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10 Great Modern Punk Bands

From politically minded upstarts to resurgent underground vets, these bands are redefining a protean movement

Rolling Stone; 10 Modern Punk Bands; Downtown Boys; Dead Cross; G.L.O.S.S; Sheer Mag; RVIVR

Eric Phipps, Marie Lin, Wayne Ballard

Since 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the Ramones' classic self-titled debut, the existing state of punk is up for review. There's no question that the contemporary landscape in punk music and culture looks remarkably different from 1976, or even 2006. The last 10 years alone have seen the movement sprouting new genres, legacies and heroes in the most unlikely places, making waves far beyond the American punk strongholds of New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The past decade in punk has accommodated an expansion of sounds; ex-hardcore staples Ceremony retreated to Manchester circa 1979 for their post-punky 2015 release The L-Shaped Man, whereas Title Fight borrowed from 1991 to produce their soupy shoegaze venture, 2015's Hyperview. Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace evolved from Floridian anarchist balladeer to global rock icon with the 2014 release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Also resurgent is the riot grrrl ethos, whether it's through Pussy Riot storming the Kremlin or DIY-oriented Girls Rock camps cropping up across the United States. Thanks to a growing demand for better exposure for black artists (and their predecessors), the annual Afropunk Festival has created a space where Bad Brains, Trash Talk and Body Count can play alongside acts like D'Angelo and SZA.

Who do we think of when we look to define punk in this present moment? Who speaks to the context of now? We highlight some American punk bands that best exemplify the current scene – and will arguably impact the shape of punk to come. 

Guerilla Toss; Rolling Stone; 10 Modern Punk Bands

Walter Wlodarczyk

Guerilla Toss

Who They Are: An irrepressible art-punk band with an uncompromising, New Age-meets-No Wave sensibility, Boston's Guerilla Toss rove from coast to coast with no solid objective but to be here, now. Its members convened after being liberated from the confines of their respective music conservatories and gospel choirs, opting instead to churn out noise-funk tantrums that recall both the devilish frenzy of Primus and the calculated, synthy chaos of Sixties psych lords Silver Apples. Above the racket, Kassie Carlson yowls prophecies like a wizened, Krautrock priestess, transported from the next millennium. "Anyone that goes to art school at some point goes through a phase like, 'Fuck art school, fuck school, it’s a scam,'" drummer Peter Negroponte told Wondering Sound, after the release of Gay Disco in 2013. "Then you grow past that, because it’s immature. But let me clarify: You don’t ever have to have studied music to be in a band. Most of the cool bands did not study music."

Why They're Great: Their aura is tie-dye, but their sound is brutal enough to incite a decent pit.

Signature Anthem: "Doll Face on the Calico Highway," from their new DFA debut, Eraser Stargazer, exhibits the band's peak idiosyncrasy through screeching organs and esoteric, Ari Up-like incantations.

You Might Also Like: Can Can Heads, Melt-Banana, Multicult —S.E.

Tenement; Rolling Stone; 10 Modern Punk Bands

Alex Schelldorf

Tenement

Who They Are: Hailing from the town of Appleton, Wisconsin, this raucous DIY cohort is geographically isolated from traditional punk epicenters like New York, Minneapolis and L.A. But that hasn't stopped them from forging some the hookiest, most heartfelt songs the genre has seen in recent years. Helmed by frontman and guitarist Amos Pitsch, Tenement have mastered the interplay of thunderous riffs, a rollicking rhythm section and anthemic lyrics. The prolific band continues to redefine their sound, even exploring the marriage between pop and classical stringed instruments on their latest, the swelling Bruised Music Vol. 2. "I wanted to have every mood we could possibly have as a band," Pitsch told Grantland of 2015's rousing double LP, Predatory Headlights.

Why They're Great: Tenement refuse to conform to a single definition of punk. Predatory Highlights encompasses everything from woozy, Big Star-esque acoustic ditties ("You Keep Me Cool") to piano-driven experimental interludes ("A Frightening Place for Normal People").

Signature Anthem: "Dull Joy" epitomizes the band's knack for driving, hooky soul-punk, and builds to a chorus that's impossible to not scream along to: "Dull joy/For every girl and boy."

You Might Also Like: Beach Slang, Chumped, Cheap GirlsP.M.

RVIVR; Rolling Stone; 10 Modern Punk Bands

Will Castro

RVIVR

Who They Are: RVIVR do right by the storied punk past of their hometown, but while they advance a staunch feminist agenda, they’re no Bikini Kill clone. Founded in 2008 by guitarist/vocalist Mattie Jo Canino – also of beloved Long Island crew Latterman – seasoned singer-songwriter Erica Freas and supple drumming force Kevin Rainsberry, the band plays an unapologetically accessible form of punk, built around razor-sharp riffing and shout-along choruses. "Mostly I learned from printing tabs off the dial-up internet," Freas told She Shreds. "I was not a hip kid who knew about underground bands, despite the fact I was a teen during the Nineties in Olympia. I was influenced by Tori, Bjork, Courtney, Dolores, Sinead, Gwen." RVIVR's anti-macho, pro-queer message resonates at grassroots shows around the globe; on YouTube, you can see a roomful of Japanese fans screaming along to every song, just like the kids do back home.

Why They're Great: Onstage, Canino and Freas are a co-frontperson dream team, shredding and shouting with boundless energy while they shoot each other sweaty grins. The chemistry translates to the studio too – try 2013's stunning statement of purpose, The Beauty Between, for proof.

Signature Anthem: The super-catchy "Wrong Way/One Way" could have been an MTV hit in the Blink-182 era, but its honest confrontation of identity issues rings out like pure underground poetry.

You Might Also Like: Worriers, Iron Chic, Slingshot Dakota —H.S.

Dead Cross; Rolling Stone; 10 Modern Punk Bands

Robin Laananen

Dead Cross

Who They Are: Dead Cross began life in 2015 as an emergency stopgap, a way for ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo to fulfill some standing tour obligations after his former band Philm went belly-up. But this grindcore-meets-hardcore collaboration with Locust members Gabe Serbian – who bashed the kit in that band but handles raw-throated mic duties here – and Justin Pearson, and Retox's Michael Crain has emerged as a road-hungry full-time concern. "With this band, I play harder, I play faster, and I play with the fury that this music demands," the legendary drummer told Rolling Stone.

Why They're Great: Dead Cross manage to pull off a nearly impossible feat: combining the virtuosity of underground veterans with the feral energy of a young band on the come-up.

Signature Anthem: The band's lone officially released track to date, "We'll Sleep When You're Dead," serves as a seething statement of purpose.

You Might Also Like: Magrudergrind, Full of Hell, Bleed The Pigs —H.S.

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