Rise Against are one of the foremost political punk bands of the 21st century. Throughout their 20-plus-year career, the band's sound has varied from project to project, but their proudly left-wing lyrics and ardent support for working peoples's social issues hasn't wavered an inch. That ethos continues to remain resolute on their new EP, Nowhere Generation II, a companion to their 2021 full-length, Nowhere Generation, that features five new songs.
In honor of the project's release last month, we had three of the band's members — guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe and drummer Brandon Barnes — highlight the political punk albums that radicalized them and shaped them into the socially conscious musicians they are today.
From Eighties hardcore icons like the Bad Brains and the Dead Kennedys, to thrash staples from Nuclear Assault and Corrosion of Conformity, there's a lot of variety in their picks, but the common thread is that every album listed has something to say about the world is was made in — just like every Rise Against album that's followed in their footsteps.
Bad Brains - Bad Brains
"From start to finish, this record is pure gold. Pure angst to inspire change for the better." - Joe Principe
"This album has had a huge influence on Rise Against. First record I had was Generator when I was in middle school. I loved the melodic songwriting, vocals and political lyrics. Still one of my favorite bands." - Brandon Barnes
Bad Religion - Suffer
"Suffer is the first aggressive punk record I heard that made me realize there was a place for melody on a record that's sole purpose was to question authority. I always thought of it as beauty in chaos and angst." - Joe Principe
Corrosion of Conformity - Technocracy
"This was a record that really opened my mind to the possibility that there could be lyrics about what was happening in the news. Even their name was political." - Zach Blair
Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
"When I was a kid, one of the first punk tapes I had was a Dead Kennedys record: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. I was immediately drawn to them because of their political lyrics and unique sound. Jello Biafra had a unique and powerful voice. The drummer played the punk beat differently than other drummers I had heard — placing the hi-hat opposite the snare on the downbeat and/or upbeat to create an eerie and menacing sound. Always stuck with me." - Brandon Barnes
Dead Kennedys - Plastic Surgery Disasters
"One of the first punk records I ever owned. As a kid in 6th grade, it didn't quite register with me how important the lyrics are on this record. Jello was not afraid to speak out against the government, mainstream society, and big corporations, which makes Dead Kennedys records timeless." - Joe Principe
D.R.I - Violent Pacification
"The cover was compelling. A skeleton soldier. I wanted to know what it meant. If you could decipher the breakneck speed of the lyrics by Kurt Brecht you might have learned something!" - Zach Blair
Minor Threat - Minor Threat
"Minor Threat was a band that created a do-it-yourself attitude when it came to the record industry and music business. I always respected that. Put out their own records, paving the way for later bands to do the same. Dischord… the best." - Brandon Barnes
Naked Raygun - Understand?
"Nobody sounds like Naked Raygun! They are true legends in the Chicago — and global — punk scene. They had a knack for writing beautifully poetic political lyrics backed by a wall of guitar and melody." - Joe Principe
Nomeansno - Wrong
"Everything they did was political and from a Canadian perspective at that, so from a different take. They were global politics, art politics and personal politics. Always thought-provoking" - Zach Blair
Nuclear Assault - Game Over
"I always thought this was great because not too many thrash bands were this political and unapologetic about it as Nuclear Assault. Shameless and great." - Zach Blair