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The Subgenres of Punk Rock

Punk Rock Comes in an Array of Sounds


The Subgenres of Punk Rock

Crass - Stations of the Crass

In order to fully understand the nature of punk music, it's important to be aware of all the forms it comes in. Punk is no longer just about the Sex Pistols and the Ramones; there are many different types of punk music with different influences and different sounds.

Anarcho Punk

The foundations of this movement can be linked to one song. The Sex Pistols first single, "Anarchy in the UK", was the first time punk and anarchy would be connected, and it would give rise to this specific subgenre.

Anarcho punk isn't entirely about anarchy, but it is heavily politically motivated. Its lyrics often convey messages about political issues, including animal rights and anti-government stances.

Crass founded the movement, preaching communalism and the DIY movement. They dismissed punk bands like the Sex Pistols as puppets of the music industry, and believed that the only way to truly get your beliefs out was to produce your own music. This lead to Crass records, the original home of anarcho punk bands such as Flux Of Pink Indians and KUKL (a band that featured a young Björk).

While Crass preached political change through pacifism, many other anarcho punk bands believe that political change should be affected "by any means necessary."

Essential Bands: Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians, Against Me!, Subhumans, Propagandhi

Celtic Punk

Celtic punk is essentially punk rock accompanied by traditional Irish instruments. As a musical movement, it was founded in the '80s by the Pogues, a band of punk musicians in London who were seeking to reclaim their Irish heritage.

Celtic punk bands often play a blend of traditional Irish folk and political songs as well as original compositions. While the plight of the Irish people throughout history is often a topic of their songs, it's not considered an overtly political movement.

Most recently, Celtic punk is seeing a rise to popularity as American bands such as Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys put their own spin on the subgenre, and give it a decidedly American flavor.

Essential Bands: A List of Essential Celtic Punk Bands


Cowpunk is a strange marriage of country and punk rock. An offshoot of the psychobilly movement, cowpunk pays tribute to old country and honkytonk bands.

While it's more melodic than psychobilly music, and has a harder edge than later alt country bands, cowpunk tends to share a following with both of those other types of music as well.

Essential Bands: Jason and the Scorchers, The Old 97s, Uncle Tupelo


Early emo, or emotional hardcore, saw its birth in the '80s in the DC hardcore scene, when hardcore bands wanted the break away from the formulaic and violent constraints of straight-up hardcore. This spawned an era of exploration and experimentation, both musically and lyrically.

True early emo takes the basic structure of its hardcore predecessor and expands upon it. Its lyrics are often introspective and emotional, and the music is often more melodic, less-structured and not confined to the verse-chorus-verse structure in early hardcore sounds.

Recently, the term emo has been co-opted by mainstream, used to describe many bands that carry a combination of hardcore and indie rock sounds and dwell on emotional (and often depressing) subject matter in their lyrics. These bands are so far removed from the originators of the term that the description is not apt, although current fans of emo are often unaware of this.

Essential Bands: Embrace, Rites of Spring, Jawbreaker, Samiam

Gypsy Punk (AKA Immigrant Punk)

Essentially punk rock that reflects Eastern European roots, the idea of Gypsy Punk was essentially spawned by Gogol Bordello who, while they may not have been the first, are definitely the most well known. While the word Gypsy suggests roots in Romany, this isn't always the case, and bands under the Gypsy punk moniker often reflect Russian and Jewish musical traditions, as well as a wide variety of world music influences.

Utilizing traditional Eastern European instruments and music and mixing them with punk sensibilities, Gypsy Punk is known for its high energy, ethnic pride and sweaty, dance positive live performances.

Essential Bands: Gogol Bordello, Golem, Kultur Shock, Outer National


Hardcore punk's rise to popularity in the late '70s and early '80s happened in multiple cities throughout the U.S. almost simultaneously. Faster and heavier than other contemporary punk bands, hardcore songs were often very short and very frenzied.

More: A Detailed Profile of Hardcore

Essential Albums: Essential Hardcore Albums

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