Days of Punk | Fashion


Child to punk rock and sibling to new wave, post-punk was born in the late 70s—delivered by a group of musical innovators determined to abandon convention. During its heyday, this genre gave us a plethora of unforgettable songs, many of which continue to influence musicians to this day. With so many gems to choose from, creating a list of the best seems a bit impossible—but that won’t stop us from trying! Here are 10 of the greatest post-punk songs of all time: 

10. “Don’t You Want Me” by the Human League

Don’t You Want  Me” from the Human League’s 1981 album, Dare, is a bit more synth-pop than the typical post-punk song, but that’s exactly what makes it so fantastic. This genre-hopper charted at number one in both the UK and the US. A small dose of post-punk served to a wide audience—”Don’t You Want Me” helped solidify the genre’s place in pop culture. 

9. “Modern Dance” by Pere Ubu

A founding member of the post-punk movement, Pere Ubu is well-known for dabbling in the avant garde. “Modern Dance,” released in 1978, is equal measures danceable and disconcerting. The steady, driving rhythm of the song makes you want to tap your toes while the strange, piercing warble of David Thomas’ vocals make you trip over your own feet. All in all, it’s an excellent example of post-punk originality. 

8. “The Great Curve” by Talking Heads

Talking Heads was never a band suited to labels. Is their music punk rock? Is it new wave? Is it something else entirely? The answer is yes on all fronts, but in the case of “The Great Curve,” released in 1980, we’re going to call it post-punk. This song’s funky polyrhythmic backing juxtaposed with vocals just this side of sinister make it an unforgettable listen more than worthy of a top ten ranking.

7. “Definitive Gaze” by Magazine

Founded by original Buzzcocks frontman Howard Devoto, Magazine was an early stand out in the post-punk scene. “Definitive Gaze,” from Magazine’s 1978 debut album is a melodic earworm bolstered by sardonic lyrics and smirking synth riffs. This seminal song had a massive influence on the trajectory of post-punk as a genre. 

6. “Memories” by Public Image Ltd. 

After the Sex Pistols disbanded in ‘78, John Lydon (the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten) formed Public Image Ltd. as an outlet for experimentation. Before long, PiL was fully enmeshed in the post-punk scene, pioneering a brand new sound. “Memories,” which appeared on the group’s second album in ‘79, is a true classic. Jangling guitars, a weighty baseline, and Lydon’s keening vocals put you off-kilter immediately, and keep you there, teetering on a precipice as the song stumbles and weaves drunkenly into chaos. It’s a true triumph of avant garde composition. 

5. “I am the Fly” by Wire

Sung from the perspective of an insect, Wire’s 1978 classic, “I am the Fly” borders on camp. It’s catchy and kitschy in the best possible way, exemplifying the lighter side of post-punk. Equal parts bouncy and brooding, “I am the Fly” radiates a kind of dark glee that has made it an enduring favorite. 

4. “The Him” by New Order

The band New Order was formed by the remaining members of Joy Division after the tragic death of their lead singer, Ian Curtis. Though they would eventually become something of a synth-pop sensation, their first album, Movement, was decidedly post-punk. “The Him,” for example, captures the spirit of the genre perfectly. It’s a deeply melancholy piece built on a blue-black bruise of a baseline and filled with the high, haunting whisper of synths. In the lyrics, you can hear the band grappling with the loss of Curtis, trying to understand. It’s a song about grief, but it offers catharsis. 

3. “She’s Lost Control” by Joy Division

Though their time was cut short by tragedy, Joy Division earned a place of honor in the post-punk hall of fame by writing countless iconic songs that are revered to this day. One of these songs is “She’s Lost Control.” Released on their 1979 album, Unknown Pleasures, it tells the story of a woman in the midst of an epileptic seizure. The driving baseline, clashing percussion, and slightly distorted vocals evoke a feeling of panicked detachment, making it easy to put yourself in the protagonist’s place. It’s a masterpiece that won’t soon be forgotten. 

2. “Instant Hit” by The Slits

“Instant Hit” from the 1979 Slits album, Cut, is innovative to the extreme. It’s about art versus commerce and every musician’s burning desire for recognition. Light and airy as a souffle and full of a raw, earnest energy indicative of the band’s punk roots, this song is utterly unique. No one was doing it like the Slits, and no one ever will. 

1. “Switch” by Siouxsie and the Banshees

“Switch,” released by Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1978, is the platonic ideal of a post-punk song—dark, biting, incisive, and thoroughly listenable. Siouxsie Sioux’s unmatched vocals shimmer like obsidian over gothic guitar riffs and icy percussion, calling to mind scenes both grand and sinister. Siouxsie and the Banshees are post-punk royalty, deftly treading the line between ominous and absurd to the delight of listeners across the ages. 

Would you like to get better acquainted with a few of these post-punk legends? Check out Michael Grecco’s extensive portfolio of incredible punk rock prints, or order a copy of his punk rock photography book, Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, and In Your Face, today.