There are few things more known to any wayward punk than heartbreak. Politics, for some of us–but what drove us to our anarchist ways in the first place? Skating culture is as lonely as one can get sans a mid-90s Hook-Ups board. Heartbreak is at the very core of emocore, for crying out loud!
Pun completely intended.
In honor of the worst of commercial holidays I give you 13 of the best punk rock heartbreak tunes. Why 13? Because the 14th was stolen by the cynical commentators of my heart. One for each day of this frozen February leading up to this bittersweet day. Read on, kids.
13. “Mixtape” – Brand New
An anthem for any men’s rights activists stuck in high school, Brand New hit you over the head with “Mixtape.” “I’ve got a twenty dollar bill that no one’s ever seen you without makeup/you’re always made up.” Poser. This 2001 classic off of Your Favorite Weapon might as well been scrawled in sharpie on the inside of my sophomore year locker. Never get between me and Morrissey, ladies.
12. “She’s Famous Now” – Reel Big Fish
This is about Gwen Stefani, right? Reel Big Fish’s vocal master Aaron Barrett is a spurned man. The summer of ska has gone, but so has the girl with the checkered belt and Madness tee. “She’s Famous Now” reminds us of the pitfalls of romance, no doubt. “I’m singing too high tonight I’m gonna lose my voice/ I heard her on the radio/I don’t wanna sing along but I got no choice.” Haunted by your ex’s very presence–Barrett has to hear it everytime he tunes his radio. A ska version of Bad Wolf, for all you Doctor Who fans out there. We have all been there. The sounds, the smells, the aestetic that reminds you of them. Just turn the radio off, dude.
11. “Time Tables” – The Menzingers
We all wish we could sit and talk about which Bad Religion album was better with a young love.
(It’s No Control, by the way.)
Menzingers hit the nail on the head when it comes to fleeting summer love on this track from Chamberlain Waits. You never know what you lost until you try and get it back. “She met a new boy who was more hip and less strung out/ I drove home with fire in the sky/Fiddled with the dials and stumbled upon something/That you were always humming/.” Ships passing in a mid-summer night. You never know where the wind will take you.
10. “Little Bitch” – The Specials
Less of a breakup song and more of a putdown of the trendy, immature, person in our lives. This was a favorite of mine when I tried to get over someone circa 2006. The song reads like a set of nasty text messages sent from 1979. “And the only things you want to see are kitsch/ The only thing you wanna be is rich/Your little pink up-pointed nose begins to twitch/I know you know you’re just a little bitch!”
One, two punch. One, two.
9. “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” – Fishbone
Used to mock Michelle Bachmann on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (Good job, Roots), this Fishbone classic is a simple tale of a lyin’ ass bitch. Like Bachmann. It is a feeling of betrayal from someone you THOUGHT you were cool with. You thought MAYBE they would keep their word. But no, nay, hell no. They break your trust in the worst possible way, taking your partner down that dark road as well. We all know a lyin’ ass bitch, and Fishbone gets us.
8. “Die, Die, My Darling” – The Misfits
Not directly a breakup song, second on the list to fill that category, as much as a violent send off/ wish fulfillment for most 13 year olds after they see their first kiss sloppily making out with half the swim team (just me? Okay, moving on).
Direct and to the point–“I’ll be seeing you–in Hell!”–The Misfits don’t pull any punches about how they feel. Death is a door to eternity, an eternity spent regretting your time in the waking world. Murderous and sinister, only the ghouls of Lodi, New Jersey know how to break hearts so good.
7. “You” – Bad Religion
A thesis of turbulent love is what is found on “You.” “You/ Painted my entire world/ But I/ Don’t have the turpentine to clean what you have soiled/And I won’t forget it.” Happiness is a far off land that the angry young men on Bad Religion cannot find, but know it might be found in the ether–of course. While you’re in the land of the living, try to make the best of it–no need to make hell any worse.
6. “Razor Burn” – Lagwagon
Thumping along to the bruises of love are the lonesome lads of Lagwagon. Off of Hoss, “Razor Burn” preaches the fact that all scars can be healed with a bit of bearded goodness. Joey Cape waxes poetic about his “beard of shame” alongside crashing guitars to remind us how it feels to be dumped. It’s not always pretty, but sometimes you need some facial protection from the elements outside.
5. “Train in Vain” – The Clash
The classic closing track to London Calling has Mick Jones singing about a hopeful future after an album full of apocalyptic catastrophes and personal paranoia. Second on the album to his singing on “Lost in the Supermarket” but no less amazing. “I’m gonna be happy, without you around/ so alone I keep the wolves at bay/ and there’s only one thing I can say/ you didn’t stand by me, no not at all/you didn’t stand by me/no way.”
Mick will get on without the half-hearted love. Singing along the whole time–ready for the next cataclysm to come around, with that heavy, heavy sound of the streets. Sometimes revolution rock is about romance–and fighting for what you deserve.
4. “My Girlfriend Is Dead” – The Vandals
Where Mick Jones looks to the future hopefully, the guys in The Vandals just tell everybody their girlfriend is dead. She was terminal, or a violent event or something on par with being catfished is what happened to my girlfriend.
The Vandals feel bad for being dumped, but instead of owning up to being scum, they double down on this track from Hitler Bad, Vandals Good. They’re scum, but feel bad for them–they just lost their girlfriend, dude.
3. “Wish Me Well (You Can Go To Hell)” – The Bouncing Souls
Off Hopeless Romantic the Bouncing Souls make the awkward situation of breaking up worse by putting it on wax. “And I just wanna punch you in the face!/ I love you, I just needed some space!”
The song falls into a rambling between the rowdy couple as the final sparks grow dim. It’s painful just to listen to Greg by the end. Sounds like you screwed up, buddy. At least you still got your bike and those Jersey mooches to fall back on.
2. “Worse Things Happen At Sea” – Frank Turner
This song remained on loop for three months straight after I saw my girlfriend break up with me and start dating someone else in our small clique of friends. I was pissed, to say the least. Mostly at myself. I used to scream the lyric “and in the end at least you didn’t try and fuck my friends” at the top of my lungs. I was not in a good place, and it sounds like Frank Turner was in a similar situation once. It is that feeling of regret that is written on the body. That anger you wish you could quell that is more about you than them. You are hurt because you hurt them. It takes two to tango, but it never means you can always be lucid with your feelings.
1. “Radio” – Alkaline Trio
The mother of “fuck you” songs. True story: I put this on a mix I made for a girlfriend. I thought it was a touching and sort-of-Gothic romanticism.
It. Was. Not.
It was not well received. Or should it have been, really. Here we have Matt Skiba telling a former lover to bring her radio to the bath and hope they fucking electrocute themselves. As if the lyric “shaking like a dog shitting razor blades” didn’t tip me off that I shouldn’t try to be romantic with this track.
17 year old Sean was a bit of a twat. But “Radio” is still the ultimate “fuck you song” for this holiday season.
There you have it! 13 tracks for your 14th of February. Any to add? Wanna send me chocolate? Swipe right on Tinder and lemme know in the comments!