Anyone who has listened to their fair share of punk will know that there are some incredible punk bass songs out there.
Punk songs with great basslines tend to have speed, creativity, and melody. They often even make great use of chords. However, they are rarely featured on lists of the best bass players or basslines of all time.
Therefore, I decided to make a list of my own.
Punk single-handedly made me realize that I couldn`t solely rely on playing with my fingers. Thus, I feel like I owe it to these punk bassists to showcase them. Hopefully, they will inspire you as they inspired me.
Note: Several of the audio clips below contain explicit lyrics
11. Anti-Flag – Bring Out Your Dead
- Bassist; Chris #2
- Album: For Blood
- Year: 2001
- BPM: 120 (Plays like 240)
Chris #2 of Anti-Flag regularly finds new and creative ways to add harmony to Anti-Flag`s songs. In Bring Out Your Dead, he achieves this by playing a fast 16th note groove that never stays on the same note for long.
Towards the end of the song, Chris mixes things up, combing the 16th note groove with a slower bass lead. This creates a sense of the song reaching its climax. Achieving this by slowing a bassline down is a sign of really proficient songwriting.
Other notable songs: Angry Young And Poor, The Press Corpse
10. NOFX – Stickin’ in my Eye
- Bassist: Fat Mike
- Album: White Trash……
- Year: 1992
- BPM: 128 & 154
Fat Mike of NOFX is a great example of a bassist that is able to stay true to the genre while managing to be creative at the same time.
Stickin’ in my Eye is a song where he showcases what makes him such an iconic punk bassist. He kicks the song off with a chord progression. Then, the song changes tempo and Mike starts playing a fast punk groove that makes great use of ghost notes.
He also adds a couple of fast fills during the song, all while singing and playing the bass at the same time.
Other notable songs: Idiots Are Taking Over, Bob
9. Choking Victim – 500 Channels
- Bassist: Shayne Webb
- Album: No Gods / No Managers
- Year: 1999
- BPM: 120 (Plays like 240)
In addition to having one of the most catchy choruses ever, 500 Channels by Choking Victim has an extremely hard-hitting bassline.
Shayne Webb kicks the song off with a groove that continues to drive the song forward as the rest of the band enters. The bassline mainly consists of 8th notes, but they have a well-crafted melodic pattern to them that easily lands this song a spot on this list.
Other notable songs: Crack Rock Steady, 5 Finger Discount
8. The Dead Milkmen – Serrated Edge
- Bassist: Dave Schulthise
- Album: Big Lizard In My Back Yard
- Year: 1985
- BPM: 192
While The Dead Milkmen love adding cynical humor to their lyrics, Dave Schulthise`s basslines are nothing to laugh at.
“Serrated Edge” kicks off with a catchy bass groove. It is among the most catchy entries on this list, and a good example of how a bassline can completely make a punk rock song.
Other notable songs: Surfin` Cow, Nutrition
7. Streetlight Manifesto – Would You Be Impressed
- Bassist: Pete McCullough
- Album: Somewhere In The Between
- Year: 2007
- BPM: 144
Perhaps ska-punk deserves a list of its own. However, If we are going to talk about the best punk basslines ever, it would be a cardinal sin to leave out Street Light Manifesto.
Pete McCullough`s basslines tend to be fast as well as harmonically and rhythmically complex. He also manages to come up with grooves that make the band’s fast-changing and progressive sound work. Would You Be Impressed is a great example of him both shining and taking a step back when needed.
Other notable songs: The Three Of Us, We Will Fall Together
6. Nomeansno – Rag`n Bones
- Bassist: Rob Wright
- Album: The People`s Choice
- Year: 2004
- BPM: 105 (Plays more like 210)
While Nomeansno was a band that is hard to pin down genre-wise, they certainly have both the core punk sound and attitude down.
In addition to its creative rhythm and melody, the bassline on Rag`n Bones has a fuzzy tone that makes it stand out. In addition to the main groove, Rob Wright also plays power chords on the bass and makes them fit effortlessly into the song.
Other notable songs: It`s catching up, Body Bag
5. Minor Threat – Salad Days
- Bassist: Brian Baker
- Album: Salad Days
- Year: 1985
- BPM: 151
While Brian Baker switched between the bass and the guitar in Minor Threat, he always delivered when he played the 4-string.
While most entries on this list consist of fast basslines, he starts Salad Days by playing a beautiful series of harmonics on his bass. It doesn`t take long though before the song switches to a fast groove. During it, he even manages to throw in some chords that fit effortlessly.
The reason I mentioned chords, is that they tend to sound muddy on the bass and using them well within a song takes a good bit of skill. To learn more about why this is, check out my article on why bass chords sound muddy.
Other notable songs: Stumped, In My Eyes
4. MDC – John Wayne Was a Nazi
- Bassist: Mike Smith
- Album: Millions Of Dead Cops
- Year: 1980
- BPM: 140
The bass groove on John Wayne Was a Nazi has a rhythm to it that doesn`t resemble anything else I`ve ever heard. It sounds like it is moving all over the place yet manages to remain groovy and catchy at the same time.
Not only that, but it still clearly feels like a punk line. If you add the gradual tempo increase of the song into the equation, it becomes a no-brainer to include it on this list.
Other notable songs: Drones, Millions Of Dead Cops
3. Dead Kennedys – Winnebago Warrior
- Bassist: Klaus Flouride
- Album: Plastic Surgery Disasters
- Year: 1982
- BPM: 134
What I`ve always loved about Dead Kennedys is how maniacal their overall sound is. The tempo, bassline, and vocal delivery on Winnebago Warrior showcase this sound at its best.
The song kicks off with a fast-paced bass intro that gets repeated throughout it. The bass makes it immediately clear that this is going to be a chaotic song, and it certainly lives up to expectations. In addition to the main groove, Klaus Flouride tremolo picks and adds fills at the perfect spots in this well-crafted bassline.
Other notable songs: Forest Fire, California Uber Alles
2. Rancid – Maxwell Murder
- Bassist: Matt Freeman
- Album: …And Out Come The Wolves
- Year: 1995
- BPM: 156 (Bass solo mostly feels like 312)
If you are trying to become a punk bassist, there is no better person to learn from than Matt Freeman. Not only is he technically proficient and creative, but he is always true to the genre. His basslines regularly push boundaries, but they do so in a way that makes them still sound like punk.
Maxwell Murder is a song that showcases these strengths well. The bassline is fast and has a lot of fills in spots that make sense. It also has one of the most iconic bass solos in the entire genre.
If the bass solo on “Maxwell Murder” ends up inspiering you to try write a solo of your own, check out these 7 underused tips on how to write bass solo.
Other notable songs: Old Friend, Red Hot Moon (and honestly, all of them)
1. The Clash – Guns Of Brixton
- Bassist: Paul Simonon / Joe Strummer
- Album: London Calling
- Year: 1979
- BPM: 96
While simpler than most other entries on this list, Guns Of Brixton is one of the most iconic and well-crafted punk bass songs in history.
For live performances of the song, Paul Simonen would switch from playing the bass to playing rhythm guitar and singing. Because of this, the bassline was played by the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Joe Strummer.
The bass groove is catchy and groovy. It is also haunting and dark. As a result, the feeling of “Guns Of Brixton” is unlike any other song out there, all because of this bassline.
Other notable songs: Rock The Casbah, The Magnificent Seven