14 of the best punk rock sing-along tracks
Punk rock has always been music that encourages participation. Since its inception in the ’70s as a response to the elevated sounds and stature of massive rock bands like Led Zeppelin, punk has always invited listeners to dance, scream, rally, and generally make themselves part of the equation. In this way, it introduced to the world what most people consider fundamental concert behaviour: moshing, stage-diving, and screaming into the microphone if you’re lucky enough to crowd-surf close to the singer.
The latter has since been embedded into punk rock’s very DNA. These days, plenty of punk bands write songs seemingly so they can have big, anthemic sing-alongs with their fans. The sheer number of ‘whoa’s, ‘yeah’s and ‘na-na-na’s that are included in your average punk or ska song shows just how much these bands want fans to belt them out in person. And along the way, a selection of bands have done this almost perfectly, producing songs that enable an entire crowd to play vocalist.
Here are 14 punk songs that’ll have you singing along…
Rancid – Radio
In the ’90s, Rancid were the kings of punk rock sing-alongs. Crusty yet digestible, they were the perfect band for shoving your fist in the air. Radio not only has a deeply contagious chorus, but it’s a song about how great music is, making crowd participation feel like a huge celebration across the board. Don’t even get us started on that kick after the bridge…
Pennywise – Bro Hymn
Does any tune feel more like punk rock sing-alongs incarnate than the central melody of this song? To call the chorus of Pennywise’s Bro Hymn just another punk rock ‘whoa’ does it a disservice; that gang vocal is immediately synonymous with a rupturing Warped Tour pit for a certain type of punker. Be ready to punch your fist in the air at the high note.
Dropkick Murphys – Shipping Up To Boston
Sure, everyone knows Shipping Up To Boston because it’s been used in The Departed and whiskey ads. And perhaps it might invite bros who don’t really understand punk to drunkenly crash into you when it comes on. But all that means is that it’s identifiable, and that the Dropkick Murphys have succeeded in embodying a certain kind of punk rock in one single track. Find that leg, son.
FIDLAR – Cheap Beer
The beauty of FIDLAR’s Cheap Beer is that it has two distinct moments when fans can sing along: There’s obviously the staccato chorus, but there’s also the gnarly, early-’90s ‘Mmmbaba baaa babaaa baba bada’ sung underneath the opening of the song that’ll get a room full of people humming along like they think they’re Jerry Lee Lewis. Of course, at the end of the day, every lyric to this song is worthy of a sing-along, so feel free to just scream all of them.
The Misfits – Skulls
Plenty of bands have written anthems dedicated to Satan and Death – but only one has written the great punk song about straight-up skulls. This track has sing-along written all over it, both in its patented Misfitsified chorus – ‘I want your skull! I need your skull!’ – and in its thematic emphasis on the symbol all punks love. Extra points if you can swing the key change during the final refrain.
The Bouncing Souls – True Believers
Few songs feel as deeply, earnestly good to sing along to as True Believers. Not only does the track epitomise the big, everybody-knows-the-words punk of New Jersey mooches The Bouncing Souls, but it’s a song with a message of love at its cackling, beer-soaked core. The opening kick is basically a starting gun for people to somehow mosh and hug at the same time. Nothing compares to those east coast good ol’ boys.
The Interrupters – She’s Kerosene
There’s a reason The Interrupters open She’s Kerosene with the chorus – it’s the kind of tune that you’ll find yourself muttering to yourself for days on end, and they know it. It also sounds as though the whole band is singing along to it, acting as an invitation for the listener to join in later on. Few contemporary bands bring the community attitude of Warped Tour like these guys, and for that, we’re happy to sing along.
Catch 22 – 1234
Somehow, Catch 22 managed to include an honest-to-God sing-along in this song – like, campfire sing-along. Of course, the soft opening of 1234 gives way to a track that’s about as furious as ska gets, its ‘whoa’-heavy chorus driven by thrash drumming and overdriven guitar, harkening back to Catch 22’s appreciation for metal (you can find them on ’90s tribute albums to Pantera and White Zombie, weirdly enough). If you want to see a group of screaming moshers break into a skank as one, put this on.
The Suicide Machines – Break The Glass
Detroit’s The Suicide Machines often get overlooked when ’90s punk is being reviewed, but the kids who really know the genre never forget just how awesome these dudes were. Break The Glass’ chorus has an infectious melody behind it, and brings a sense of punker destructiveness to it that makes it extra-uplifting (for a certain type of miscreant). There’s even a low-note dip in the fourth line of the refrain – pure gold to genre adherents who love to belt one out at a bar.
Bomb The Music Industry! – Even Winning Feels Bad
Ah, the rare but beautiful depressing-as-fuck punk sing-along. Bomb The Music Industry! certainly have a talent for writing huge, uproarious choruses about growing up and being miserable, but Even Winning Feels Bad might take the cake. Not only is its refrain soaring, but the acoustic opening line – ‘There’s a song tonight that I don’t wanna sing’ – is the perfect invitation for fans to join in. Trust us, when this one lights up at a Bomb show, it’s all arms over shoulders, voices to the rafters.
Operation Ivy – Unity
In many ways, Operation Ivy are Punk Rock Sing-Along: The Band. Their mixture of upbeat ska and dirty, Bay Area crust is what inspired every listenable, gang vocal-drenched punk band of the ’90s. But Unity might be the champion of their catalog, if only for the giant-size blast of ‘Stop this… waaaaaar!’ that comes with its chorus. It sounds better if you’re wearing your checkered Vans while singing it.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get
The ’90s was a beautiful time when a ska-punk song could become a nationally-appreciated rallying cry, and The Impression That I Get is one such track. And one can understand why, given its delicious upstroke guitar opening, its bigger-than-brass horns, and of course it’s beautifully singable minor-chord-laden chorus. For a band who was mostly known for gravelly anthems to shady living, the Bosstones did a solid job leaving their mark with this massive anthem.
Reel Big Fish – Beer
AND SHE SAID! Is there a more perfect sing-along than Reel Big Fish’s Beer? This ska-punk anthem has it all: there’s a memorable chorus, a gang vocal right before the chorus, and even a raucous ‘whoa’ at the end. Christ, it’s even got a ‘Woo-hoo-hoo!’ and a ‘Yeah yeah yeah!’ throughout. To top it all off, it references drinking beer, which an estimated 89 per cent of the people singing along to this track are undoubtedly doing. Any band trying to write a party song, take note: this is your blueprint.
Rancid – Ruby Soho
Of course this list starts and ends with Rancid. How do you pay homage to the punk rock ‘whoa’ without actually including one in your song? You make the central rhyme sound like a ‘whoa’. Ruby Soho has the kind of chorus that comes booming out of fans’ mouths before they even know what’s going on, and gives them the opportunity for a classic punk whoop while still shaking things up a bit.
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