10 Punk-Rock Acts That Just Get Better With Age


Being as we’re avid fans of a) spiced rum and b) good music, the ongoing Sailor Jerry’s Presents series, which included Pierced Arrows’ show in Denver a few days back, is right up our alley. And since that band contains two members of lamented Portland, Oregon, punk rock legends Dead Moon (namely, husband-and-wife duo Fred and Toddy Cole) — and the support act, Don’t, also contained former members of the Wipers and the Rats — we got to thinking about other old-school punk rockers who are still around today, as relevant and rockin’ as ever. There aren’t that many left, to be honest — but then, that only makes the artists we’ve collected here all the more precious. Click through, and then let us know your favorites.

Pierced Arrows

For years, Dead Moon were one of the great undiscovered secrets of the punk rock underground — they formed in the 1980s, but didn’t tour widely outside Oregon until a decade later. We were big fans of the band, so we were rather delighted to discover Pierced Arrows, the new(ish) project from Dead Moon’s Fred and Toddy Cole. The band got together in 2006, and has released a couple of rather fine albums in the years since. Fun fact: drummer Kelly Halliburton’s father also played with Fred Cole in a band back in the 1970s. Trans-generational appeal? This is one band that’s truly got it.

Click through for the rest of our punk-rock survivor picks.

Jello Biafra

A thorn in the side of pretty much any and every authority figure since the Dead Kennedys first emerged in the early 1980s, Jello Biafra is still going strong over three decades later. Over the years, he’s managed to upset the PMRC, the police, both major political parties, and his former bandmates. He’s also run for Mayor of San Francisco and lost out to Ralph Nader for a presidential nomination. These days, he’s mostly in the field of spoken word, and has released nine albums of nasal ranting that’s both perceptive and hilarious. His label, Alternative Tentacles, co-founded with former Dead Kennedys bandmate East Bay Ray, has put out records by everyone from Butthole Surfers to Noam Chomsky — and hey, doesn’t the bitterly sardonic “Kill the Poor” sound like it could have been written for Occupy Wall Street?

Henry Rollins

Black Flag went their separate ways 15 years ago this month, but former frontman Henry Rollins remains an omnipresent figure on the media landscape. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, his weekly show on KCRW makes for constantly fascinating listening. He was pretty great in Sons of Anarchy, too.

The Raincoats

Were it not for their tragic deaths within barely six months of one another, both the Slits‘ Ari Up and X-Ray Spex‘s Poly Styrene would have been shoo-ins for this list. As it is, it’s left to the Raincoats to fly the flag for old-school female UK punk rockers — which remains extremely well-deserved. It’s remarkable that in 2011, while so many of their contemporaries are either no longer with us or just shadows of their former selves, the Raincoats continue to exist — and boy, does their cover of the Kinks’ “Lola” still sound awesome after all these years.


If you ever wondered where the muddy, churning sounds of bands like the Melvins came from, then look no further. Flipper basically invented sludge metal, and their bass-heavy sound was also a big influence on manifold grunge bands. They’ve proven to be amongst punk’s greatest survivors, reforming in 2005 after a long absence (due to the death of bassist John Dougherty), still producing music that is, in Henry Rollins’ words, “heavier than you.” Amusingly, the band apparently got its name from somewhat erratic founding singer Ricky Sleeper, who also named all his pets “Flipper” and chose the same name for the band because it was something he’d remember.

Mick Jones

Ever since his early attempts to integrate hip-hop into the Clash, Mick Jones has been a punk-rock visionary, and his appetite for new sounds and ideas has been undiminished by the passing years. Currently, he’s got a rock/electronic crossover band called Carbon/Silicon with his friend Tony James (once of ahead-of-their time, albeit also completely hilarious ’80s chancers Sigue Sigue Sputnik), and frequently collaborates with Damon Albarn, both in Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen. He also recently got his other band, Big Audio Dynamite, back together. Rejoice!

Meat Puppets

We suspect that a large proportion of our readers were introduced to Meat Puppets‘ music via Nirvana’s decision to cover three of the band’s songs for their MTV Unplugged performance/live album. While they were undoubtedly a huge influence on grunge — apart from Nirvana, bands like Soundgarden and Dinosaur Jr were avowed fans — there’s a lot more to the group than “Plateau” and “Ring of Fire.” They’ve had their troubles over the years, but despite a wealth of adversity (most tragically, bassist Cris Kirkwood’s wife died of a heroin overdose in 1994, and Kirkwood also spent time in prison), they’re still chugging along — they released their 13th studio album earlier this year.

Steve Albini

The grumpiest man in music has long been a Flavorpill favorite, and he’s as idiosyncratic as ever, nigh on 30 years since he formed Big Black with two college friends. Steve Albini has served as engineer (he hates the term “producer”) on all manner of amazing albums, and his current band, Shellac, continue to turn in barnstorming live performances, as anyone who was at the NJ incarnation of ATP can attest. And, of course, we also love his cooking blog.

Mojo Nixon

Punk/psychobilly veteran Mojo Nixon’s website proclaims proudly that he’s “outlived all his male ancestors (and probably done more reckless things).” Although he’s officially retired from the music business, notwithstanding a brief “unretirement” in 2009, Nixon is still around, bouncing around the world of satellite radio (he had a political talk show called “Lyin’ Cocksuckers” for a while) and generally making a nuisance of himself to the establishment. Strangely enough, he was also honorary captain of the US luge team at the 1998 Winter Olympics. All true.

Patti Smith

Given that she pretty much defines the entire concept of “punk rock acts who keep getting better with age,” you didn’t think we were going to forget Patti Smith, did you? No? Good.