Last month noted garage punks The Men released their latest effort, an EP of acoustic tracks called Campfire Songs. The 2013 Free Press Summer Festival MVPs may play some pretty hyped-up punk rock, but they're no strangers to softer styles, with latest album Open Your Heart more closely resembling Neil Young than Fugazi in places.
That being said, there's no reason acoustic guitars can't be pretty damn punk themselves. Plenty of awesome punk-rock bands have made a great track or two on an acoustic, or at least revamped older songs on the instrument. With that in mind, I collected five of the best in the legacy The Men now hope to join.
5. Alkaline Trio, "Radio" I think we can get this out of the way immediately: Yes, the original version done by a much younger Alkaline Trio on their debut, Goddamnit, is much superior. But that's not acoustic, silly! Regardless, this classic emo song sounds almost as good as it did in 1998, reimagined through an acoustic filter for 2011 re-recording compilation Damnesia.
Either way, "Radio" is one of the best pop-punk songs ever, and singer Matt Skiba more than carries this acoustic performance of it with his emotion-filled vocals alone.
4. Say Anything, "An Insult to the Dead" As punk balladry goes, Say Anything is one of the top-of-the-line bands ever to participate in the genre. Not many can write a pained love song stuck in between pop-punk track after pop-punk track like Max Bemis. It's one of his greatest trademarks.
"An Insult to the Dead" has a chorus as grandiose as any written by any number of pop stars, strings that tug at your heart and evoke Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" -- which would be on this list had that band not forfeited all punk cred years ago -- and some of Bemis's most brilliant and mature relationship lyrics.
3. Bright Eyes, "Road to Joy" Okay, I'm stretching to call this one acoustic. Yeah, it's got an acoustic guitar at its heart, but it's still got plenty of electricity running through every other instrument. That being said, it's one of the few tracks on Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning where Conor Oberst lets his youthful post-hardcore roots shine through.
The acoustic melody he plays gives way to a raucous conclusion and the most punk yelping Oberst had done in years, at least before he got the Desaparecidos back together. It's an awesome way to end out the record, and all it took was one term of the Bush administration to wring it out of him.
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2. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, "A Bottle of Buckie" This is another one with an acoustic base that also features electric instruments accompanying it, though Leo regularly plays it by himself with just his voice and a guitar (whistling some parts when he has to). Given Leo's propensity for the acoustic guitar, and how many amazing songs he's written or revamped for it, I could go on for days.
Instead, I'll just restrict myself to this gem from his 2007 record Living with the Living. It features some of his richest imagery in its lyrics and a running heartland melody that's heavily indebted to his Irish roots. Call it Ireland by way of Leo's home state of New Jersey. No matter what, it's a classic.
1. Hüsker Dü, "Never Talking to You Again" "Never Talking to You Again" is not just a great acoustic track by a badass punk band. It also might be one of the greatest punk-rock songs ever written. Drummer and songwriter Grant Hart had such an amazing ear for melody and applied it brilliantly to every song he contributed to the band, including this one, which borders along between rollicking jangle-pop and hard-hitting punk-rock emotives.
The best part is the lyrics, though, which evoke a feeling of frustration that I think all of us have felt at one point or another. As a little joke, this was one of two songs Hüsker Dü main men Hart and Bob Mould performed together in their one reunion since the band originally broke up. The other one? "Hardly Getting Over It." Har-de-har-har, guys.
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