Punk has ebbed and flowed in Denver's underground music world since the mid-’70s. The current wave of the genre is one of its most diverse, both demographically and musically. What follows, in alphabetical order, are twelve of the best Denver's punk bands from 2016.
At the intersection of thrash and melodic hardcore, Allout Helter has been active since the summer of 2008. Political without being preachy, this five-piece band anticipates the release of its next album later in 2017.
Including former members of Hot White and Chase Ambler, Barbed Wire is a modern D-beat band. That style of music, which threads together hardcore, anarcho punk and thrash, emphasizing the sharper edges of all three, is particularly suited to Barbed Wire's pointed anthems against war, sexism and late capitalism.
All of the members of Big City Drugs are professional comedians. The group harnesses tension from dealing with a wide variety of crowds and channels it into an explosive live performance style; its humorless songs reflect the thoughtful minds behind both the music and the comedy. Sonically, Big City Drugs evokes the bluesy garage-punk sound of New Bomb Turks.
Cheap Perfume's Nailed It is the blast of irreverence and creatively critical commentary the world needs right now. A fascinating combination of youthful energy and mature, nuanced perspective, Cheap Perfume's songwriting sidesteps some of the more ill-advised rhetoric that usually comes from having little life experience. The band's energetic live shows more than live up to the promise of the record.
Musically, the Corner Girls sound like they came right out of that wave of garage punk that tapered off a couple years back. Except this band brings a dynamism to the structure of its songs that the bands riding that wave often didn't possess. That, along with the acerbic wit of lyrics aimed at the wearying silliness of patriarchal culture, makes the Corner Girls stand out.
On the surface, this duo is a grindcore band, but if you pay close attention, you'll notice that unusual pacing and noisy elements place its music on grind's more experimental end, even with the band's Napalm Death-worthy short songs.
Iwakura is a hardcore band that absorbed screamo and noise rock into its sound. The group never sticks to a formula and avoids generating a constant blast of caustic sound. Iwakura does capture and exorcise the desperation of the modern era as Rio Wolf screams with a raw conviction that channels the world's pain.
Joy Subtraction should be one of the biggest punk bands from Colorado because its catchy, clever songs pull no punches and aren't mired in an outmoded style of music. Its artier inclinations are inspired by the likes of Canadian jazz-punk outfit NoMeansNo and the warped art-punkers in Alice Donut. The dry humor of the group's Facebook posts is more amusing than some famous comedians' entire careers.
Muscle Beach has distilled various strands of melodic post-hardcore into a focused whole while retaining a wildness that suggests hat any song could erupt into chaos. The group's 2015 self-titled full-length drew comparison to influential Swedish punkers Refused as well as the noise-rock group Blood Brothers.
Strident and disorienting, Product Lust's music sounds like that of an unconventional punk band. That's because its roots are also in No Wave and early-’80s post-punk. Kat Salvaggio's vocal delivery and performance is confrontational, as though she and the rest of the band aren't in control of how the music is coming out.
Screwtape has garnered respect within Denver's punk scene for its energetic live shows and its fiery anti-establishment lyrics. When the band opened for Choking Victim in November 2016, its frenetic performance was riveting. The act's self-titled 2016 album is a bracing reminder of the power of a young hardcore band with respectable social and political convictions.
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Swells's greatest strength lies in its willingness to write accessible music in a mixture of intentionally alienating genres. Hardcore, grind and screamo may be the base components of what Swells is doing, but the expansive structures and atmospheric components suggest the influence of ’90s math-rock groups A Minor Forest and Botch, as well.