The 100 Best EPs of All Time

October 19, 2018 | by No Recess! Staff
 

 

Albums are too damn long, and they keep getting longer. The ability to cherry-pick favorites, which became easier with CDs and then too easy with iTunes and streaming, has turned the focus away from quality control and towards cramming as much work as possible into a record. What used to be called a double album is now the norm.

 

The EP is undervalued. Concise and stripped-down, it’s a format that knows its limitations, there for new artists who want to experiment and get themselves out there, and for established acts to release leftover material. EPs were at their best in the late ‘70s to early ‘90s, peak eras for punk and alternative rock, when anybody could pick up a guitar but most only had the patience for a few songs. It was a good time, and for some acts, it’s never gone away.

 

So here are NO RECESS’ 100 favorite EPs of all time, honoring a fast, short, and pure type of record that deserves more respect. Give them all a listen. It won’t take too long.  – Melody Danielle Rice

 

User Guide: Click on album images to open a new window and listen.
 

 

 

100. s/s/s, Beak & Claw (Anticon, 2012)

On this impossibly beautiful mystery text, three gifted semi-stars definable by their relative introversion find untold joys in community. This suits the ostensible concept, a series of scenes reminding us that before America went full dystopia, the strictures and expectations the recession dismantled led to a period of pink-cloud hope for a wave of millennials and their wide-open minds. The music sounds like the waking dream the best of those times felt like, and the allusive lyrics attain the scope of a movie — and with room for a bonus, “Octomom,” in which a tabloid target is transformed into an empathy lesson. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

99. Drake, So Far Gone (OVO, 2009)

On the most influential rap EP of the last 10 years, a pair of unknown, former child actors in Toronto stirred up their feelings with some icy synths and spare 808s to cook up a sound that defined a generation. Drake and 40’s luxurious, 300-thread count performative sorrow immediately stood them apart from the rigid mainstream rap world of the time. Of course, better days were ahead (really, only half of these songs are keepers), but there’s only one chance to make a first impression. And So Far Gone left a hell of an imprint. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

98. The Paranoid Style, Rock and Roll Just Can’t Recall (Battle Worldwide, 2015)
Their 2016 full-length debut Rolling Disclosure is a must-listen, but these lobbyists/critics-turned-garage-rockers work best in the EP format, because when humanity is totally fucked — as husband-wife duo Elizabeth Nelson and Timothy Bracy clearly believe we are — why bother lengthening anything? This is their best work thus far, politically savvy enough to be cynical, optimistic enough to believe their audience can keep up with them, and with tunes like these, it’s worth trying. They recently re-released it with three new songs, ‘cause they have more great songs than they know what to do with. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

97. Wussy, Duo (Shake It, 2014)

As they near veteranhood — a mantle ex-Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver started this group wearing ironically — Wussy may have felt a few zephyrs of the respect they’ve spent so long earning. But they also still face a destiny as rock ‘n’ roll’s (these days we don’t need guitars like we once did) best best-kept secret. Here, the three musicians who round out their thunderous sound step aside and let the songwriters do their thing, and it’s the usual disarming monsoon of bitter tears, magic words, and beyond-belief chemistry. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

96. Tool, Opiate (Zoo Entertainment, 1992)

Preceding  Tool's first full-length release, Opiate is pure, raw power and absent of opuses — and the title a nod to Karl Marx's "religions ... is the opiate of the masses." These guys weren't to big on religion and many of these tracks feel just as relevant today. Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

95. Dum Dum Girls, He Gets Me High (Sub Pop, 2011)

Giddy rock ‘n' roll leather jacket love songs, especially the shockingly great Smiths cover. Dee Dee's harmonies feel born of supernatural passion and late night drives on foggy nights. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

94. Slayer, Haunting the Chapel (Metal Blade, 1984)

Slayer’s been cranking out breakneck thrash longer than I’ve been breathing, but what’s most impressive about going back to their hastily produced second project is how fully-formed they arrived. Aside from the production (the phrase, “recorded on a toaster” comes to mind), it’s tough to argue the disc’s four tempestuous tracks would sound out of place on any of the legendary LPs that followed thereafter. It’s no surprise that these tracks continue to pop up on their set lists more than 30 years down the road. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

93. Neko Case, Canadian Amp (Lady Pilot, 2001)

Over a decade before she took a torch to the gender binary with “Man,” country’s least compromising siren was turning a no-BS eye to the often too-real war between the sexes with dagger-like incisiveness. Nominally a celebration of Canadian songwriters, it’s not always an indictment or subversion of the male mess — she makes time to hail Neil Young and Hank Williams as brothers. But by the time she gets to poor Ellen Smith’s fate, you know she’s making no bones about the full, bloody potential of patriarchal cruelty — and you’re increasingly concerned what fully appropriate revenge she might be cooking up. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

92. Modern Baseball, Mobo Presents: The Perfect Cast EP (Lame-O, 2015)
Don’t let the goofy name* or the sprightly pop-punk melodies fool you, few groups have written more incisively about mental health in recent years than the Philly foursome. This six-track project sees twin frontmen Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald explore loss, depression, friendship, and addiction with honesty and empathy that belies their years. On leadoff track “The Waterboy Returns,” Lukens expresses concern about a drifting friend with a care and generosity that is hard to find and indicative of why their music has meant so much to so many people. – Dan Alvarez

 

*The album title is a literal “Goofy Movie” reference

 

 

 

91. Neighborhood Brats, Neighborhood Brats (self-released, 2011)

Former San Franciscoans bashing out hyper urban songs like “Lurking the Loin” and “FTW” in the mode of fellow residents The Avengers. Just some glorious, hopped-up California hardcore punk. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

90. James Blake, CMYK (R&S, 2010)

Miles away from the polished sadboi crooner that just performed up at the VMAs, the mopey Londoner’s sophomore beat-tape helped define the dance music of my early twenties. Recorded at his home in South London, a then-unknown Blake stirred up his love for radio R&B with spare IDM and lonely jazz keys to help create a subdued sound that sparked a million dumb internet sub-genres (#postdubstep4eva). Its Kelis-sampling title track is still an absolute classic, and its final two tracks are interesting early sketches of the direction that led him to collaborations with people like Beyoncé, Drake, and Travis Scott. – Dan Alvarez
 

 

 

 

89. Sonic Youth, SYR1: Anagrama EP (SYR, 1997)

Sonic Youth's late-career "emancipation" side hustle here, with the first release on SYR, their label. While not as wild or abstract as what would follow, Anagrama offers a shaggy concision, with the band faux-jamming hard enough to find a few snug, discordant grooves: shuddering hisses, a patch of jazz, a lengthy improv whose initial modesty is a feint. A sly snack between LP-sized meals. – Raymond Cummings
 

 

 

 

88. Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman, Lice (2015, Stones Throw)
Two of the finest alt-rappers of the 21st century trade verses over beats from five different producers. The results are as funny and smart as they are hypnotizing. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

87. Rodan, How the Winter Passed (Three Little Girls, 1993)

This whole of this EP is two songs: “Exoskeleton” and “Milk & Melancholy,” released as a warm-up promo for a limited release cassette demo Aviary and then the band’s lone studio release in 1994, Rusty. Two melodically dark and intensely brutal tracks totally exemplifying the early ‘90s post-hardcore/math rock that Louisville became cherished for. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

86. Be Your Own Pet, Damn Damn Leash (XL, 2004)

Be Your Own Pet broke up too soon but their brief discography is still a treasure trove of spite and punk vitriol. This is the first shot fired, a quick blast of feminist feeling that reverberates more than ever. The highlight here is “Electric Shake,” an anti-slut shaming anthem with a great surf guitar solo and Jemina Pearl's ever joyful voice. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

85. Shabazz Palaces, Shabazz Palaces (self-released, 2009)

This EP, for most listeners, marked the semi-public return of a hip-hop legend, Digable Planets' Ishmael Reed. Shabazz Palaces' beamed its signals from a distant spaceship: a bumping, inquisitive new wave of Afro-futurism that mixed heady raps with underground dance music. – Andre Perry

 

 

 

 

84. Beastie Boys, Aglio e Olio (Grand Royal, 1995)

Is there anything more mid-90s than the Beastie Boys going back to their hardcore, skate park roots (13 years previous was 1981’s Polly Wog Stew before the then-foursome ever realized a rap record)? Answer: Of course, but Aglio e Olio is certainly up there. With nods to Minor Threat, The Germs, and Bad Brains, this breakneck EP that’s all of 11-minutes long is the result of the trio writing too many punk songs for their upcoming record Hello Nasty. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

83. Robyn, Body Talk Pt. 1 (Konichiwa, 2010)

Good dance music is an escape, a temporary release from whatever’s going on in your actual life. Great dance music is more than that. It welcomes your personal baggage, then invites you to unpack it and release it on the dance floor. When you hear “Dancing on my Own” or “Cry When You Get Older,” you don’t forget your problems and move to the beat. Your issues — your lame ass ex, that person who didn’t text you back — become your power source, and you’re compelled to dance your way right past them. Robyn has crafted a incredible amount of those ultra-rare songs, and Body Talk Pt. 1 is her most densely concentrated collection of them. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

 

82. Eazy-E, 5150 Home 4 tha Sick (Ruthless/Priority, 1992)

“Merry Muthafuckin’ Christmas,” thee end. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 
81. Tokyo Police Club, A Lesson in Crime (Paper Bag, 2006)

In 2006, Tokyo Police Club was the latest band to get labeled “The New Strokes.” The tag never seemed appropriate for a band with the substance and enthusiasm displayed on the band’s debut, A Lesson in Crime. Its seven songs (eight if you count bonus track “Cut Cut Paste”) are all strobe lights and explosions, more closely related to punk’s economy than the detached coolness of turn-of-the-millenium garage rock. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

80. Maps & Atlases, You and Me and the Mountain (Sargent House, 2008)

Not many bands can make your jaw drop with their technical abilities while also writing songs you can fall in love during. Maps & Atlases managed both on You and Me and the Mountain, a strange platypus of a record that lands somewhere between Don Caballero and Paul Simon (and makes one re-evaluate the possibilities of a jamblock). – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

79. Wavves, Life Sux (Ghost Ramp, 2011)

Catchy surf rock from the next crop of disaffected youth from southern California, sure why not? This is one of two EPs the band released that year, but Life Sux really seems to capture Wavves’ malcontent. And it features the memorable, foot-tappin’ “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl.” Life Sux ends on “Destroy” with the help of Fucked Up, a track that contains all the punk sneer one could want in life. Solid effort all around. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

78. DNA, A Taste of DNA (American Clavé, 1981)

DNA was only together from 1978 to 1982, but they had an immense impact during those incredibly formative years on the NYC punk scene and beyond. A Taste of DNA is their cacophonic, six-song swan song that echoed throughout the past three decades and continues to survive in the multitude of vital artists and jagged noise that rose from its wake. – Angela Zimmerman

 

 

 

 

77.  White Zombie, God of Thunder (Caroline, 1989)

The beautiful missing link between White Zombie's chainsaw massacre no wave years and their mainstream reign as groove metal killers. It stomps, it fucks, it samples Mike Nesmith and Greedo. Batman isn't the coolest thing from 1989. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

76. Ice Cube, Kill at Will ( Priority Records, 1990)

Ice Cube was hungry in this era. Fresh off the heels of his acclaimed debut solo studio album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Kill at Will features the classic “Jackin’ for Beats,” the thought-provoking “The Product” that takes to task America’s systemic propensity to keep its underclass down, and of course Cube’s sad ode to fallen friends with “Dead Homiez.” – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

75. New Order, 1981-1982 (Factory Records, 1982)

Also known as Factus 8, this five-song collection captured a group finding its voice in the wake of an unimaginable tragedy. Recorded just after their debut, “Movement,” and about two years on from Ian Curtis’ death, you can really hear the roots of expansive new wave sound that would become the band’s calling card post-Joy Division. Peter Hook’s signature rumbling bass-lines and Bernard Sumner’s choppy riffs are beautifully framed by layers of keys and electronic drums. The sound quality is dicey in places, and there are better recordings of all of these songs other places, but it remains a critical piece of understanding New Order. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

 

74. The Lee Harvey Oswald Band, The Lee Harvey Oswald Band (Touch & Go, 1989)

A Sonics cover, an art-damaged sound collage, and a couple distortion-washed originals make up this mysterious group’s ragged and glorious debut. It’s the relentlessness of “Getting Waster With the Vampires,” however, which really warms the heart. Throw this one on during your next sleaze-o party.  – Andrew K. Lau

 

 

 

 

73. Fiery Furnaces, EP (Rough Trade, 2005)

Only the Fiery Furnaces would actively subvert notions of the EP format serving as a mouse bouche or brief side-step from a greater narrative. On their self-titled EP, which collects b-sides, new material, and reinterpretations of old songs, FF offer a quirky suite that stands as its own realized album; a remarkable work when viewed in the expanse of the band's overall catalog. Andre Perry

 

 

 

 

72. Jens Lekman, An Argument With Myself (Secretly Canadian, 2011)

Here’s the thing with Jens Lekman: The dude is just so fucking good at writing songs. And like the rest of his projects, this EP is chock full of engaging stories — well-sung and impeccably arranged. Whether he’s having a silly, drunken mini-meltdown in Australia or promising a brighter future to a seriously ill friend, the Swede has a rare ability to transport you into his reality and wrap you up in his sweet tenor. He signs off with the playful sweetness of “So This Guy at My Office”: a piece of plain-spoken poetry exploring how life’s mundanity magnifies the ones we love. It is simple and sweet and everything that makes Jens’ music mean so much to so many. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

 

71. Eminem, Slim Shady EP (Web Entertainment, 1997)

This is the demo that changed Eminem’s life forever, as it won the attention of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre via his alter-ego storytelling device and true voice, Slim Shady. Say what you will about the album’s content of rampant drug use, flagrant sex acts, mental instability, and hyperbolic violence, this was Eminem’s out from an unhappy life and it worked (kinda?). Approximately 150 CDs were originally pressed and those rare hard copies now go for over a thousand bucks, so that’s something. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

70. G.B.H., Leathers, Bristles, Studs, & Acne (Clay, 1981)

The crossover thrash seeds were planted with this molotov cocktail of livid guitar, kick slap drumming, and disaffected lyrics. G.B.H's assault is so rough you almost don't notice the mistakes and errant noises purposely left in because they're so punk rock. Contains the best song about werewolves sung by anyone named Colin. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

69. Descendents, Fat (New Alliance, 1981)

Before Milo Aukerman went to college, the Descendents hit their peak with this four-and-a-half minute ode to gluttony. “I like food / Food tastes good,” Milo sings, and what set this band apart from other hardcore punk groups is that there’s zero snark. It’s just a group of dudes who love greasy food with no shame, and if you have a problem with that, name me a great record about eating healthy. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

 

68. Lana Del Rey, Paradise (Polydor/Interscope, 2012)

With Paradise, Lana Del Rey began a fruitful retreat away from the hip-hop influenced vibe of her self-titled LP, and towards the spectral, stoned strain of American Pop Gothic we've since come to rely on her for. Her remit being that of an Old Hollywood ingenue — or the tweaked Platonic ideal of same — the glacial, soothing pacing fits. Del Rey evinces a continuing willingness to shock: The opening verse of "Cola" remains worth all the raised-eyebrow emojis anyone can thumb into being. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

67. Pogues, Poguetry in Motion (Stiff/MCA, 1986)

“London Girl” rocks the accordion hard. Also the line from “The Body of an American”: “He asked no quarter from the bosses / And none was given.” Drinking music for the overworked working class, this EP let’s you know you absolutely do deserve the warmth of some beers and camaraderie. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

66. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada (Kranky/Constellation, 1999)

As a millennium faded out, this Montreal orchestral collective greeted a dawning new century with balaclavas and ill portent. Sweeping and mournful in equal measure, Slow Riot collides autumnal classical and pre-apocalyptic squalor; in this outfit's careful hands, the promise of societal disintegration feels almost romantic. Peering backwards from the future, we weren't ready for what was coming. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

65. The Nerves, The Nerves (self-released, 1976)

One of those bands that could've only existed in the brief space between the decline of the British Invasion and the birth of punk rock. Four perfect power-pop songs drenched in Beatles-style vocals and chiming guitars — only these songs were released, but oh what songs.  – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

64. Whiskeytown, Rural Free Delivery (Mood Food, 1997)

A delightful mess, Rural Free Delivery is fascinating window into the origin story of the perpetually dysfunctional, short-lived alt-country icons. Consisting mostly of rough demos recorded in a single day in ’95, the disc is a raw collection of tunes that range from sad sack country to Westerbergian alt-rock with touches of punk attitude. At this point in their career, the batter isn’t quite mixed yet, and the stylistic lumpiness sheds extra light on Ryan Adams’ early influences. Of course, that’s the reason he never wanted this released in the first place, and it’s precisely the reason this is such a delightful easter egg and fascinating document for Adams-headz (aka Halloweenheads) everywhere. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

 

63. Belle & Sebastian, Books (Rough Trade, 2004)

Belle & Sebastian has released a catalog full of winners during their 20+ year career, but this succinct four-song set is a testament to the indie-pop sound and sentiment that Stuart Murdoch first set out to master upon their formation in the late ‘90s. – Angela Zimmerman

 

 

 


62. The Residents, Duck Stab! (Ralph, 1978)

Though a sizable swath of their experiments no longer wear very well, the out-of-nowhere surrealist impudence of Meet the Residents! and this gloriously grating, gloriously concise pop nightmare still make Zappa sound like a small-minded, super-obvious prog prig. Keeping everything orderly and concise for once and making no other concessions to sonorousness of any kind makes for quite the combo, and the double-length edition is the kind of party album that will send all but your worthiest friends fleeing. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

61. Death Cab for Cutie, The Forbidden Love EP (Barsuk, 2000)

Death Cab for Cutie’s early discography is an evolutionary chart, both in their recording quality and Ben Gibbard’s songwriting abilities. The Forbidden Love EP occupies a specific sweet spot; Chris Walla’s production is clear but still brimming with lo-fi charm and Gibbard is only toying with the directness that he would later embrace. It all coalesces perfectly on “Photobooth,” a lament of impractical youthful lust that is frequently that oldest song on the band’s set lists. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

60. Modest Mouse, The Fruit That Ate Itself (Glacial Pace, 1997)

Modest Mouse in the late ‘90s was just such a force. Their third EP, The Fruit That Ate Itself, is 20 minutes of the shouty, emotive, off-kilter indie rock that made them one of the most defining bands of the last few decades. Scrappy, essential shit. – Angela Zimmerman

 

 

 

 

59. Ty Segal, Mr. Face (Famous Class, 2015)

Mr. Segal has released a lot of stuff in his relatively short career, but Mr. Face summarizes best his knack for California-tinged garage/psych rock. Tracks like “Drug Mugger” and “The Picture” will take you right back down to the proverbial basement of one’s mind, blissing out to, simply put, good goddamn music. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

58. Wolf Eyes, Dead Hills (American Tapes/Troubleman, 2002)

Among the sweetest spots of Wolf Eyes' discography arrives just prior to the band's Sub Pop semi-crossover; feverish and subterranean, Dead Hills is among that era's grimiest treasures. If rhythms are said to be guiding this intricate anti-music — disjointed scuffles, clicks, strafes, shortwave coughs, hits of ochre dub — they are the failing, flapping rhythms of a half-disintegrated machine. It's a mesmerizing blurt of devolution, and almost impossible to turn away from. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

57. June of ’44, The Anatomy of Sharks (Quarter Stick, 1997)

The slidelong “Shark and Sailors” and vocal-shredding “Seemingly Endless Steamer” epitomizes the band’s collective mindmeld and expert tension building/releasing; meanwhile, the instrumental “Boom” veers into an unexpected Middle Eastern drone. Angular rock from this top-notch Louisville quartet.  – Andrew K. Lau

 

 

 

 

 

56. Sugar, Beaster (Rykodisc, Creation, 1993)

This is Mould pushing the beauty within his always ecstatic, aggressive music, particularly the beguiling, spiraling opener “Come Around.” These alt-rock songs are hymns and fuck yous to God, a lover, or both, like “Feeling Better.” One of his best releases by far. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

55. Digital Underground, The Is an EP Release (Tommy Boy, 1991)

Digital Underground is straight-up loveable. This is perhaps no more apparent than on “Same Song,” the lead track from This Is an EP Release that was featured in the film Nothing but Trouble starring Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy. In the video, which employs footage from the film, Tupac Shakur also makes his debut by portraying an African king, sealing his own fate as would-be legend. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

54. Les Savy Fav, Emor: Rome Written Upside Down (Southern, 2000)

Les Savy Fav wasn’t a heavy band, but they were intent on destroying everything. Emor: Rome Written Upside Down is the most deconstructionist document of the group’s art-rock, a perverse take on new wave, math rock, and punk that may always sound like a welcome escape from the stagnant indie rock happening at any point in time. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

53. Cursive, Burst and Bloom (Saddle Creek, 2001)

I’ll try to make this perfectly clear: Tim Kasher once had the best scream/sing voice in indie rock, less emo script and more believably broken. The five tracks on this EP were released after Domestica (a concept album) and each stand alone. Some fans didn’t really dig newcomer Gretta Cohn and her cello, but her cinematic strings added a warm, soft counterpoint to Cursive’s penchant for frantic intensity. “Tall Tales, Telltales” perfectly proves her presence works. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

 

52. Jean Grae, The Bootleg of the Bootleg (Babygrande, 2003)

Coming in at just over an hour, how does The Bootleg of the Bootleg qualify as an extended player? The sixth and final hidden track “Chapter One: Destiny” is 45-minutes long with 11 separate parts. Conceptually, that’s brilliant, and that type of creativity is only elevated as it streams seamlessly into Grae’s no-frills, hard-hitting flow. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

51. Tera Melos, Drugs to the Dear Youth (Sargent, 2007)

In the past decade, Tera Melos have made the transition from “excellent math rock group” to “one of the weirdest bands on the planet.” Their final proper instrumental release, 2007’s Drugs to the Dear Youth gloriously melds noise rock’s bombasts, prog’s razor-sharp tightness, free jazz’s sprawl, and emo’s sensitivity. Drugs is a document of Tera Melos’ abilities and ambition and a cult-classic record among various nerdy niches. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

50. Rilo Kiley, The Initial Friend (Rilo, 1999)

It’s bizarre to hear Jenny Lewis with anything less than an airtight grip on flawless songwriting, unerring wisdom, or unflagging confidence. But her few flashes of naïveté or confusion here only help illuminate an intuition, not to mention rock-hard feminist conviction, that was pretty much in bloom on arrival. Offering further dimension is the source of her ennui, Blake Sennett, who writes more than ever, and at least obfuscates his limitations with a vagueness and atmosphere that suits (or simply doesn’t distract from) the truer talent. Seek out the first pressing for the delicious “Glendora.” Classic: “The Frug.” – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

 

49. The Magnetic Fields, House of Tomorrow (Merge, 1992)

Though the band’s third official release, this is the first with Stephen Merritt as the main mordant vocalist, where he remains to this day along with Shirley Simms. Considered a “loop song” EP, each song is comprised of a single lo-fi electronic pop loop. Five tracks weighing in at 12 minutes, and featuring the lovely lines of the EP’s best-known track “I’ve had enough / You never give me anything / Don’t you know / Love goes home to Paris in the spring?” – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

48. Brainiac, Electro-Shock for President (Touch and Go, 1997)

Electro-Shock for President is a glorious Jim O’Rourke-produced mess of thrift-store keyboards, no-wave textures, and Tim Taylor’s signature delivery — sometimes sassy, sometimes whispered, always grimey. It plays like a curious warm up for a great full-length that will never exist; Taylor died in a car accident less than two months after its release. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

47. Metallica, $5.98 Garage Days Re-Revisited (Elektra, 1987)

This EP is the reason an entire generation of burnouts are familiar at all with the Misfits or Budgie. And $5.98 was literally supposed to be the price; "If they try to charge more, STEAL IT!" Every album should have that printed on the cover. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

46. Hammerhead, Evil Twin (Amphetamine Reptile, 1993)

Transitional release bridging their Dum-Rock shtick from the previous two years with the powerful sheets of noise and riffs which would make up their final two LPs. CD version contains a re-recorded, souped-up, and pummeling “Load King,” which points to their future attack. Hipsters take note: this was recorded to DAT! – Andrew K. Lau

 

 

 

 

 

45. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Shifty, 2002)

Before “Maps,” before they went disco, before they faded into history with the rest of the still-to-be-studied ‘00s indie garden, these mystery boys and girl were just a monochrome-in-the-red blast of gutbucket insouciance. Caterwauling like a grizzled stray cat through a line of broken screen doors, what’s hardly innovative sounds brand new for being so totally untempered — its perpetrators each a spitting wire well aware it’s “our time to be hated” and more than ready to bring their half of the fight. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

44.  Radiohead, Airbag / How Am I Driving? (EMI, 1997)

These songs trade in the melancholy and alienation of Radiohead's late-’90s headspace while standing apart from the overarching conceit of OK Computer. So assured, singular, and at times even loose, it's still difficult to know whether this was the band's farewell to its alternative rock roots or the contemplative bridge towards everything that would happen from Kid A on. – Andre Perry

 

 

 

 

43. At the Drive-In, Vaya (Fearless, 1999)

No At the Drive-In release fully captured the apocalyptic energy of the band’s live performances (seriously, Google that shit), but Vaya has its own unique immediacy thanks to the one-take urgency of tracks like “Proxima Centauri” and “Heliotrope.” Meanwhile, opener “Rascuache” shows hints of the ambition that would pepper the tracks on the band’s landmark Relationship of Command and be the driving force of The Mars Volta. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

42. Archers of Loaf, Archers of Loaf vs. The Greatest of All Time (Alias, 1994)

We’ve all pounded to Pavement’s screaming guitarscapes, but back when they were hot, these peers were hitting just as many bullseyes. And with greater emotional force — you could comb the globe sans success for a band with this kind of unkempt electric careen (there were ever so many back then) who could match their axe-chorus sock with vocals as desperate and intense as Eric Bachmann’s. Now they fill many a rack in history’s used CD store, but in 1994, this EP’s title sounded like a pretty fair fight. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

41. The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones (Decca, 1964)

Clocking in under 10 minutes, the Stones’ debut EP established an attitude that would help shape and define rock ‘n’ roll for the next half century. With songs compositions by giants like Chuck Betty, Arthur Alexander, and Berry Gordy, and captured in two studio sessions by Brian Jones et al, this EP was unavailable for decades until 2010 and then reissued for 2012’s Record Day. No doubt, an important piece of anyone’s vinyl collection. – Angela Zimmerman

 

 

 

 

40. Gluecifer/Hellacopters, Respect the Rock (White Jazz, 1997)

Seventies hard-rock revivalists from Norway and Sweden (respectively) team up for white-hot guitar screams that prove their self-imposed title of Scandihooligans. The best crossover since Webster visited "Star Trek: The Next Generation." – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

39. My Bloody Valentine, You Made Me Realise (Creation, 1988)

Front to back, You Made Me Realise, the third EP from My Bloody Valentine features zero wasted minutes, even with two of the five tracks (“Cigarette in Your Bed” and “Drive It All Over Me”) going well over the 12-minute mark, which is maybe why it’s considered by many as one of the best EP of all time — even so, the listener is still left wanting more. In fact, if you’re taking in the lead title track for the first time, you subsequently might want to throw your played-out copy of Loveless right out the window. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

38. Mekons, Crime and Punishment (Sin, 1986)

The Mekons were arguably hitting their creative stride by the time of the release of Crime and Punishment. The four-song outing is an ear-bleeding blend of country and punk, a move that would eventually foreshadow the rise of alt-country and cow punk. It also includes a great cover of Merle Haggard's "Deep End." – Ryan Bray

 

 

37. Helium, Pirate Prude (Matador, 1994)

As Pirate Prude demonstrates, amniotic Helium was lethal Helium. Bass-heavy, weighted, and serrated, these dervishes are also tender; as sung by frontwoman/primary songwriter Mary Timony, the EP's songs comprise an immortal sprite's no-id/no-fucks-given declaration of independence. A gnarly start to a short, brilliant career for this trio. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

36. Rocket From the Crypt, The State of Art Is on Fire (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1995)

Distilling everything great about RFTC — feel for grit, ear for melody, swingin' rhythm — into one brief endearing shot. Like putting jumper cables in your chest. Also takes the Human Torch to task, finally. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

35. Burial, Rival Dealer (Hyperdub, 2013)

Up until Rival Dealer, the secretive Londoner’s music was defined by insularity. Revelatory as it was, William Bevan’s previous work was all drawn curtains and hunched shoulders — the sound of doggedly digging inward, looking for truth. However, this stunning EP changed all of that, and the magnitude of the shift still makes this project stand alone from his legendary catalog. Its labyrinthine, up-tempo opener hinted that changes were afoot, but the real turn comes on “Hiders.” Bevan lets the light in like never before, pairing a heartbroken vocal sample with doleful pianos and a delicious dance-pop beat late on. Rapturous closer, “Come Down to Us,” is easily his finest ever song — and better than almost anything else in the decade. He welcomes us into his new world with a powerful message of acceptance wrapped in a staggering piece of sonic architecture. – Dan Alvarez

 

 

 

 

34. Saccharine Trust, Paganicons (SST, 1981)

Number 6 on Kurt Cobain’s eccentric, but well-considered, all-time favorite albums list remains an avant-garde jewel in the SST label’s crooked crown. Scraping off shards of dark poetry in a warbled tenor so acidic it could peel skin, Joe Bazia’s definitive introductory platter is one of the more difficult punk testaments to unravel. So you don’t – you just sit unsettled and enraptured in a palace of angular, spidery guitar lines, plucked as if by mangled fingers, as Bazia delineates “human certainties” you’re never too sure about. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

33. Nirvana, Hormoaning (DGC/Geffen, 1992)

Nevermind might have successfully mainstreamed Nirvana's sound for a global audience, but the trio never killed off its angry inner-punk instincts. The six-song Hormaoning EP, released some five months after Nevermind, is proof of as much. Featuring a raw-as-fuck version of "Aneurysm" and some pretty fantastic covers from Devo ("Turnaround"), The Wipers ("D7"), and The Vaselines ("Molly's Lips," "Son of a Gun"), the EP is proof of how immoveable the band was from its punk roots, even in the face of worldwide stardom. – Ryan Bray

 

 

 

 

32. Pussy Riot, xxx (Nice Life, 2016)
The Russian protest group drops most of the punk sound for three songs that make up for it with the lyrics, all notably different from each other as well as all their previous work. The songs have their issues (as the Pitchfork review summed up). But the two English-language tunes are among the better anti-Trump songs to come out in recent years, a category that’s smaller than expected because it turns out pointing out obvious evil doesn’t always make for compelling music. This is an exception. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

 31. TV on the Radio, Young Liars (Touch & Go, 2003)

Young Liars introduced TV on the Radio’s distinctive electro-rock sound to the world in a mere five songs. Including the original version of “Staring at the Sun” — later a centerpiece on the following year’s full-length smash debut Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes — and an a cappella version of the Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves,” these 25 minutes stand as one of the best EPs of the aughts. – Angela Zimmerman

 

 

 

 

30. Jeff Buckley, Live at Sin-e (Big Cat, 1993)

Through hindsight’s spyglass, this shooting star now sounds mainly like a more fashionable, digestible revisitation of his dad’s garrulous art-folk indulgences. On Grace, you’re in his house, and the less you dig his gloomy whims the more the walls close in on you. But here in a coffeehouse in NYC, you’re just another witness, and the in-the-wild glimpse contextualizes his sometimes Yoko-abrasive vocal flights much more agreeably: a hot weirdo with fun taste following his soul undaunted wherever it takes him. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

29. Nick Lowe, Bowi (Stiff, 1977)

Cheekily nodding to a bigger star and genius and more dubious wit and talent, with the cover gaze alone among the world’s best wordless japes, Lowe bashes out his punk-pop-for-everyday-people credentials in four brisk, savvy strokes. “Born a Woman” one-ups “Only Women Bleed” — sincere feminist songs by men being a scarce commodity back then — by stripping off the drama and sententiousness; “Shake That Rat” auditions a shoddy new dance craze and doesn’t give a rodential ass if you join in; “Marie Provost” is still the greatest song about canine carnivorism; and “Endless Sleep” relaxes, because he earned it. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

 

28. Butthole Surfers, Butthole Surfers (Alternative Tentacles, 1983)

Punk rock lovingly deep fried in the psychedelic. Would you expect anything less from a band coming out of the gate with this name? "There's a time to shit and a time for God / The last shit I took was pretty fuckin' odd." – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

27. Fugazi, Furniture (Dischord, 2001)

“Furniture” is the most Fugazi Fugazi song that ever Fugazi’d: a funky “Waiting Room”-esque bassline, quirky right angles everywhere, and a vocal hook that’s essentially “This is not a Fugazi shirt” in song-form. The track also sounds like the band having actual fun. The let-loose instrumental “Number 5” and the punky “Hello Morning” cement Furniture as the most lighthearted entry in the sometimes-too-serious band’s career. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

26. Aphex Twin, Come to Daddy (Warp, 1997)

Most were drawn to Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy EP via the titular song’s horror-film video, an iconic moment in '90s music imagery. The rest of the record is surprisingly more tender; “Flim” is a heavenly marriage of dreamlike synths and complex drum 'n' bass, while closing track “IZ-US” is a groove most trip-hop aches to accomplish. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

 

25. Pixies, Come on Pilgrim (4AD, 1987)

The Pixies solidified their legend jarring you into perverse joy, but never was the jar harder or the joy more perverse than on their hirsute-backed opening bow. Unencumbered by pushy producers, un-smoothed by radio ambitions, and un-beleaguered by fame or dysfunction, this astute abridgment of their debut cassette finds them especially excited to unnerve the general public. Easily more enlivening than anything 4AD put out prior, it’s a punk circus different from the rest and psychotically proud of it. – Ryan Maffei


 

 

 

 

 

24. Wire, Read and Burn: 01 (Pinkflag, 2002)

Pink Flag scorches so much territory it’s easy to forget how long Wire wasn’t a punk band for – they concocted consciously brainy strokes for ten years plus as new-wavers-cum-synth-poppers. But they never returned to their debut’s ferocious, uncompromising force and confidence until this burst back from a long break, which saw them momentarily concealing what an efficient outfit of seasoned writers they’d turned into so they could just rocket aggressively forward, like a flame racing along a lit fuse. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

 

23. Mayhem, Deathcrush (Posercorpse, 1987)

The first studio release by any band in the Norwegian black metal scene (1986’s Pure Fucking Armageddon being a demo, but also extremely influential). Deathcrush is before black metal bands turned to “social awareness” topics, inspired more by mutating death metal into a cold, grim chainsaw to one’s entrails. Of the six tracks, there is a Venom cover (“Witching Hour”) and the lead track “Silvester Anfang” is by German electronic composer Conrad Schnitzler (it’s said that guitarist and central figure to Norwegian black metal, Euronymous, found Schnitzler’s address and sat outside his house until he was invited in, and Schnitzler gave him a random piece from his archives). Though Deathcrush was a limited release from a very inclusive and far-flung scene, this EP showed up that year on Kerrang! magazine’s Top 20. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 


 

 

22. Jim O’Rourke, Halfway to a Threeway (Drag City, 1999)

The title track to Halfway to a Threeway is so gorgeous on the surface, one could be forgiven for not noticing Jim O’Rourke is singing about a BDSM fantasy with an epileptic paraplegic in a coma. The disturbing/beautiful dynamic reigns supreme on Threeway, a four-song collection that plays like Burt Bacharach and John Fahey scoring a psychological thriller. Even with a seven-minute Tortoise-esque instrumental, it’s the most concise entry in O’Rourke’s sprawling catalog. – Ryan Wasoba

 

 

 

 

 

21. Alice in Chains, Jar of Flies (Columbia, 1994)

Undoubtedly, one of Alice in Chains’ most successful releases (after Dirt), Jar of Flies reached triple-platinum status by the RIAA. Featuring a few more acoustic tracks this time around, the result of the band just going into a room to play together, the songs range from ragers (“No Excuses”) to bleak (“Rotten Apple”). We get a beautiful instrumental track with “Whale & Wasp,” and the outro is an unexpected blues/country jam, “Swing on This,” that somehow totally works. Jerry Cantrell’s guitar playing cannot be underscored enough when it comes to what made this band, and this EP, truly great. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 


 

 

20. Melvins, Eggnog (Boner, 1991)

The band soars to a creative peak with this hard-hitting sonic brick of minimalism where the standard operating functions of time signatures, tunings and lyrics are erased, blurred, rearranged, and rebuilt in less than 20 minutes. Everything promised on 1989’s Ozma, is delivered. – Andrew K. Lau

 

 

 

 

 

19. Minutemen, Paranoid Time (SST, 1980)

SST labelmates Black Flag were depressed and enraged about it, but the Minutemen were just freaking the fuck out about the political landscape. The band anxiously gallops through catchy, jazzy punk songs about Joe McCarthy and nuclear war in less than seven minutes – what's not to love? – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

 

18. Mission of Burma, Signals, Calls and Marches (Ace of Hearts, 1981)

For me still their best release, the ambitious by-product of art geeks fascinated by the sounds they could paint within a pop song structure. “Academy Fight Song” and “Fame & Fortune” are still rousing, abstract classics of alternative rock which few bands have matched. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

 

17. Pavement, Watery, Domestic (Matador, 1992)
Four songs that would’ve sounded great on Slanted and Enchanted, but on their own tell a separate story--one of a band that was overflowing with ideas and couldn’t be stopped, a band with so many songs that they were wasted. Of these cuts, only the two-minute “Lions (Linden)” falls short of excellent, while “Frontwards” is as anthemic as “Summer Babe” and “Gold Soundz.” Not bad for a bunch of slackers. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

16. L7, Smell the Magic (Sub Pop, 1990)

Anthem after freewheeling anthem, smashing and bashing into the curves like a hell truck. Just as responsible for grunge as anything else — but this is a hell of a lot more fun than any Pearl Jam record. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

15. Nine Inch Nails, Broken (TVT/Nothing/Interscope, 1992)

Borne of major label face-offs and recorded-in-secret artistic pique, the bruising Broken was and remains Nine Inch Nails' heaviest offering. Guitars — noisy, carnivorous, sulfurous — abound; coupled with frontman's Trent Reznor's bullwhip vocals, this EP slashes with such a vehemence that even listeners not named or related to Steve Gottlieb could be forgiven for feeling implicated, somehow. As industrial MTV pop with extra self-flagellation and a sop to your inner 15 year old, it holds up. The acidic "Wish," improbably enough, won a Grammy. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

 

14. R.E.M., Chronic Town (I.R.S., 1982)

Debut EPs often serve as early versions of bands as they continue developing their sound: calling cards for future promise. Instead, Chronic Town arrived as a fully formed document of R.E.M.'s musical vision. These five songs could blend in with anything the band put out in the first phase of its career from 1982-1985. – Andre Perry

 

 

 

 

 

13. Buzzcocks, Spiral Scratch (New Hormones, 1977)
A monumental DIY release, funded through friends and family by a broke group of kids in Manchester. Without original lead singer Howard Devoto, the band would soon become icons and innovators of pop punk and power pop. But what makes this record so fascinating is that, even without the smoother production of their later releases, it’s not hard to imagine these songs appearing on Singles Going Steady — especially the ultra-catchy “Breakdown” and “Boredom.” – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

 

12. Minor Threat, In My Eyes (Dischord, 1981)

These are still something to behold in their shimmering anger over pretty much everything. Every song on here from “In My Eyes” to “Filler” is a freight train of deep feeling barreling towards you. And even if you weren't straight edge, you had to get on board. – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

 

11. Sonic Youth, Silver Session for Jason Knuth (SYR, 1998)

This tribute to a fan who'd killed himself — all proceeds went to the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Hotline — is a self-swallowing tidal wave of scrape and scree. The band massaged magic out of the din aroused by its live guitars leaned against amps then recorded. As a result, Silver Session emerges as either a warm, wraith-like churn that could suggest Armageddon or a series of especially harmonious washing machine spins, depending on where the listener's head is. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

 

10. N.W.A., 100 Miles and Runnin’ (Ruthless, 1990)

In the absence of the band's creative spirit — Ice Cube — 100 Miles and Runnin' landed in 1990 as NWA's revised mission statement, its reaffirmation of the talents of Dre, Eazy, and Ren: still unflinching and explicit, but also even more appealing to a wide audience with the continued evolution of Dr. Dre's production. It bristles with urgency and energy, a self-awareness that this would be a hit. This record also stands as a document of the deep misogyny embedded in the worldview of this group and we should never overlook it. Disguised as a tongue-in-cheek sex-rap, the second track "Just Don't Bite It" reflects a wholesale disregard for and devaluing of women. Our collective eagerness to consume and promote this music upon its release is something we shouldn't forget about ourselves. While, we can continue to acknowledge the existence of this important transitional work almost thirty years after the fact, it is impossible to celebrate it. – Andre Perry

 

 

 

 

 

9. Azealia Banks, 1991 (Interscope, 2012)

In late 2011, Azealia Banks released “212,” a masterpiece of nasty, immensely hooky hip-hop that made her an instant critical darling. So on 1991, she replicated the formula on three new songs. None of these matched the perfection of her first single, because lightning in a bottle yada yada yada, but this is a short burst of energy that only lets up for the distracting skit that closes “Van Vogue.” On the hour-long Broke With Expensive Taste, she would go the opposite direction, showing how many different ways she could change up her distinctive style to equally positive effect. She’s gotten harder to defend in the years since she threatened to ruin us cunts (and more or less succeeded), but the power of these tracks hasn’t gone away. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

 

 

 

8. The Misfits, Beware (Armageddon/Spartan/Plan 9, 1980)

Mystery, contempt, lust — the prime ingredients in the 14-minute burst that catapulted the Misfits into legend. Glenn Danzig is urgent and assured in throbbing squalls like "We Are 138" and "Hollywood Babylon," even if his morals and motivations remain unclear. Is he pro-death or just anti-life? To paraphrase Bruce McCulloch, this music leaps off the vinyl and grabs hold of you, not caring how bruised you get. Beware, indeed. – James Greene, Jr.

 

 

 

 

  

7. Hüsker Dü, Metal Circus (SST, 1983)

Hüsker Dü started with aspirations to be the fastest, most mind melting band on the planet. But having achieved that much in short order, that left a lot of time and room for the Minneapolis trio to aim a little higher. Metal Circus too easily gets overlooked by other Hüsker classics like Zen Arcade, Flip Your Wig, and New Day Rising, but it shouldn't. The band's 1983 EP offers a near-perfect balance of hell-raising hardcore and pop songcraft, and it's their first stab at trying to grow as songwriters. Grant Hart's "Diane" or Bob Mould's rejection of scene politics on "Real World" wouldn't have flown on the band's earliest efforts, but Metal Circus was the start of something great for the trio, and a monumental step forward for what would become known as alternative rock. – Ryan Bray

 

 

 

 

 

6. Bikini Kill, Bikini Kill (Kill Rock Stars, 1992)

A six-song, self-titled vinyl EP (CD format was released in ‘94) fucking full of female fury. Produced by Ian MacKaye and driven by Kathleen Hanna (a hero to so many), songs like “Double Dare Ya,” “Lair,” and “Suck My Left One” helped shepherd in a feminist revival to the early 1990s, ferociously taking on the then male-dominated indie rock scene. Because Bikini Kill was not schtick but a band of chicks (and a dude!) who could twist something derivative and actually write really substantial, revolutionary punk songs, drop the needle on this one today and the punch contained within is still just as powerful. Any idiot pissed off or turned off by Bikini Kill, ha, good. That was the point. – Jocelyn Hoppa

 

 

 

 

 

5. Mudhoney, Superfuzz Bigmuff (Sub Pop, 1988)

Mudhoney's largely been shorted the kind of crossover success and acclaim their Seattle peers have been afforded over the years, which is funny considering how their debut EP in many ways helped lay out the grunge blueprint. A good three years before Ten and Nevermind broke down the dam for grunge and alternative rock, Superfuzz Bigmuff put Seattle and Sub Pop Records on the map, perfecting if not-quite-pioneering the thick blues- and punk-inspired sound that helped give the entire scene a platform to build off of. By turns, funny, crude, loud, and charmingly snotty, it's an EP that helped define not just grunge's sound, but also its attitude and aesthetic. If Mudhoney's legacy ended there, it would still be a weighty one. – Ryan Bray

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Beatles, Long Tall Sally (Capitol Canada, 1964)

Replaying their galvanic five-year run as Parlophone pharaohs, from the faintly auspicious “Love Me Do” to the kaleidoscopic pop dreams of ‘67, you can almost hear this peerlessly confident old quartet (heard of ‘em?) barely believing the rate at which they’re breaking through. Each of those eight wondrous LPs and startling singles is a disorienting leap onto another plane of imagination and craftsmanship. But as this towering little toss-off, best known for 30 years as ten great minutes of Past Masters, survives to remind us, not only were those steps forward quite conscious, but some of the less ‘progressive’ skins they deliberately shed along their evolutionary way were as monumental as any of their beatific blows against convention. Paul burns down the rest of his discography in one effortless swoop animating Little Richard’s title track into something even more fiery and lascivious. John clanks out a stellar slice of pop-metal angst and throws a restive glance back at Larry Williams (“bbbbbbbb!”). Ringo turns a Carl Perkins plaint lustier and punkier than you’d think the stalwart sweetheart had in him. And kid George strangles strings throughout in that sloppy, excitable, addictive way he’d abandon forever in a matter of months. – Ryan Maffei

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Replacements, Stink (Twin/Tone, 1982)

The Replacements never felt totally comfortable within the hardcore punk scene, being drunk fuck ups more into The Beatles than The Germs, truly “Stuck In the Middle.” But on Stink they wrote their own versions of hardcore songs and it works semi-beautifully, Westerberg and co. speeding up the usual lowlife laments on the racing anthem “Kids Don't Follow” and “Dope Smokin' Moron.” The experimentation here on some tracks too points the way to their next record, Hootenanny, like “Go,” a pulsing ballad with some of Stinson's best, most soaring guitar work. The 'Mats couldn't ever really conform to the template of the bands around them but when they tried, in their own ramshackle way, they gave it their all. What else can you ask of a rock ‘n' roll band?  – C.M. Crockford

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Black Flag, Nervous Breakdown (SST, 1979)

The debut EP from L.A. punk legends Black Flag still hits like a pipe bomb; it's five frenetic minutes at the wildest VFW show you were never fortunate to want to attend. The band's early brand of hardcore was abrupt without sacrificing melody, pithy without veering into intelligibility. With guitarist Greg Ginn, bassist Chuck Dukowski, and drummer Brian Migdol scaring up a sweaty, explosive party in the pit, vocalist Keith Morris was free to preen, groan, and hard-sell the ennui of the dispossessed and down-and-out with an almost evangelical glee. – Raymond Cummings

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Clash, The Cost of Living (CBS, 1979)

With London Calling a half-year away, this EP’s four cuts made a good case that The Clash were still the Only Band That Mattered before they proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. More polished than their earlier work but more straightforward than the double-album that would come to define their ambitions, The Cost of Living is mostly remembered for “I Fought the Law,” the Sonny Curtis cover that would appear on the U.S. version of their debut. But “Groovy Times” is as biting a takedown of modern British society as “Career Opportunities” and “Lost in the Supermarket,” while “Gates of the West” features some of Paul Simonon’s best bass work. – Melody Danielle Rice

 

 

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