Top 40 Songs Released on Alternative Tentacles Records
Updated: Jul 17
Formed in 1979 as a vehicle to release Dead Kennedys compositions, Alternative Tentacles has evolved into one of the oldest independent record labels in America that still releases new music.
This list celebrates the Top 40 songs released on Alternative Tentacles label with the only disqualifier being that we tried to limit the inclusions to one song per album.
40. Kiss Me by Alice Donut (2003)
Alice Donut was never supposed to go away, but they did in 1996, breaking up initially due to the rigors of touring and the financial stress associated with being a punk band. Then, almost a decade later, they were back. Tomas Antona winked at you and asked "Did You Miss Me?" Then he screamed back "I haven't thought of you, at all"
And that was Alice Donut at its finest.
39. Dance of the Anunnaki by Itchy-O (2014)
An addictive single that was representative of their Wall of Percussion.
(And their wall of musicians, sometimes 50+ members deep!)
38. Souls at Zero by Neurosis (1992)
37. King of the Road by Peligro (1995)
I don't want to talk about DH Peligro's sad end, I just want you to enjoy this zonky video.
36. Under the Sea by NoMeansNo (2000)
NoMeansNo's later releases became the definition of jazz-punk NoMeansNo's sound expanded beyond the classic 3 cord punk mode---Now that I think about it, not very many purveyors of jazz-punk exist. One was a pillar that held no structure with Under the Sea being its shiniest jewel.
35. Dicks Hate the Police by the Dicks (1980)
Originally released on Radical Records in 1980, Alternative Tentacles re-released the album in 2012 with the Hate the Police single attached.
34. Phantom Limb by God Loves Everyone But You (1997)
There is something inherently dark on Phantom Limb that is hard to describe.
33. Ha Ha Ha by Flipper (1981)
Is it Flipper's best song? No, but it serves as a historical document of the very origins of an influential, bass-driven punk band. Flipper only appeared on Alternative Tentacles' Let Them Eat Jellybeans Compilation.
32. Lady Di by Alice Donut (1993)
No band in history walked the thin line between punk and despair better than Alice Donut. This song was chosen because Alternative Tentacles put out a number of 7 inch and CD singles throughout their history and this was one of the label's best "B-Sides."
26. The Story of Thomas McElwee by the Crucifucks (1996)
This song always stuck with me. The subject was an obscure footnote in European Politics sung by a man who changed his name to a number and detached himself from his own band (and from the spotlight.)
25. Buzzbomb from Pasadena by the Dead Kennedys (1987)
One of the funniest punk songs ever written, and, arguably, the funniest on the Alternative Tentacles label. An eclectic compilation of tracks filled the Give Me Convenience album, it would be the last time the four core members of the Dead Kennedys would work together.
24. The Fridge by Victims Family (2001)
Victims Family is going on nearly its 40th year (on and off) of existence. Though many prefer songs from The Germ, I choose the searing guitars on The Fridge.
23. Hunok Csatája by the Galloping Coroners (Vágtázó Halottkémek) (1992)
A great song! What are they singing about? Who knows. How do you pronounce the name of the band? I have no idea. Does Vágtázó Halottkémek really translate to the Galloping Coroners? According to the internet it does. It is a testament to Jello Biafra that he found the band and released their music in the early 90's when they were a banned, underground outfit across the globe in Hungary.
22. Dead Men Tell No Tales by D.O.A. (2003)
From their 2004 release War and Peace on Sudden Death Records, I first came across the song on Alternative Tentacles' Apocalypse Always Sampler. Joey Keithley has an unlikely nickname for a punk singer.... "Councilman."
21b. Blind by Micheal Gira (1995)
When I think of abrasiveness, I think of the Swans. Micheal Gira's solo album on Alternative Tentacles, right before they broke up in 1997, was surprisingly melodic and sparse. Blind was beautiful and introspective, yet bleak.
21a. Euphoria by Jarboe (2002)
Euphoria, from the Apolcalypse Always sampler, on the other hand, was surprisingly uplifting. When the Swans reconvened in 2010, Jarboe did not return as a member and has mostly focused on her solo work. Very easily the most stunning, and haunting, voice on the list.
20. Worker Bee by Angst (1982)
My brother-in-law makes the Worker Bee analogy all of the time, this song is for him. Angst was on SST Records throughout their career, but was on this Alternative Tentacles Sampler before their first album came out.
19. All Tensed Up by Hüsker Dü (1982)
I am putting this song on the list on a technicality. It was released on Mike Watt's New Alliance label, but it hit the streets in Europe under the Alternative Tentacles banner.
18. Trouble Shake by Zen Guerrilla (1998)
On the strength of the Positronic Raygun release, Zen Guerrilla then signed with Sub Pop -
Alternative Tentacles has an independent spirit, but I would like to note the space where they used to occupy. When Smells Like Teen Spirit exploded, the underground became the mainstream. Major labels scoured indie labels for the next big thing. At its heart, AT is a punk label, with all of the DIY connotations connected to it. Zen Guerrilla's next album Trance States in Tongue elevated the band, but......
Why in the world would you cite Wikipedia for your own band? Because the band disappeared into the ether at the turn of the millennium.
On the other end of the spectrum, some bands break apart in a very public way---
17. Nazi Punks Fuck Off by the Dead Kennedys (1981)
Don't forget, if you listen to the lyrics of the Dead Kennedys, they definitely lean left. If you listen to the words of Jello Biafra's spoken word albums, they too, lean left. But to this day, this song somehow continues to shock a lot of people.
16. The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave by the Butthole Surfers (1983)
Speaking of Kurt Cobain, I defer to him on this slot.
15. State of Grace by NoMeansNo (1995)
Originally on Rob Wright's solo album Mr. Wrong Fights the System, State of Grace is an an epic tune that seemed to be glossed over during their transition from Andy Kerr to Tom Holliston. The Worldhood of the World (As Such) was the band's only release as a quartet. State of Grace was again re-released on 2005's Wrong CD re-release.
Just a reminder, it's not just me that loves NoMeansNo, they are in the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Rob Wright is retired, but his younger brother John Wright just released an album a few months back. Here's Dead Bob's Just Breathe.
(Not on A.T.)
14, Evil Clowns by Black Kali Ma (1995)
Some rock songs are driven by the guitar, some by the bass/drum rhythm section. Most songs with Gary Floyd are driven by his powerful, masculine voice, which rivals the best male vocalists in history.
13. Quentin Tarantino Can Act by SNFU (2000)
Mr. Chi Pig took a group of SNFU outtakes to Alternative Tentacles and they released the songs as the Ping Pong EP. After SNFU's original breakup in 1989, the band burned through about 2 dozen musicians with each ensuing reincarnation. Chi Pig's death killed the band.
12. American Lips by Alice Donut (1988)
Off of Alice Donut's debut album Donut Comes Alive, the references within may be dated, but not the song. It still sizzled with immediacy at its 25 year re-release.
Side Note: It's never too late to watch Alice Donut's Freaks in Love movie.
11. Oklahoma City Alarm Clock by the Fixtures (1996)
Probably the most incendiary song on the list, don't forget there was a time when punk wasn't pop, but dangerous.
10. He's Doing Time Jail by Wesley Willis (1995 Greatest Hits Release)
If you had a problem with Wesley Willis, you had a problem with yourself. My friend Aaron met the late singer and said that Willis came across on vinyl just like he was in real life, with additional head butts.
9. It's Catching Up by NoMeansNo (1989)
Martin Popoff named Wrong a perfect album, giving it a 10/10 rating. I concur, starting with the first track, the album was just relentless.
8. Stuck by Unsane (1992)
The Unsane were only on Alternative Tentacles for but a brief, punishing moment in 1992. I went with a deep cut from their album Wreck, the desperate Stuck.
7. Forkboy by Lard (1990)
Thanks to Trent Reznor and the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack, this could be the song that's the most recognized by the general public. If you close your eyes and listen closely, you'll swear that Jello Biafra was born to lead Lard, but.....
6. Riot by the Dead Kennedys (1982)
In 1984, Jello Biafra and his original band, East By Ray, Klaus Flouride, and DH Peligro, perfectly captured the feel of a Riot in song. Listen to the intricate musicianship in the buildup until Biafra rides that wave to the crescendo.
5. Port Authority Band by Slim Cessna's Auto Club (1995)
In a list of true originals, I fell in love with the melodic warblings of this Country/Gospel/Revivalist band. A perfect example of the one-of-a-kind experience that Alternative Tentacles would give to the listener.
4. Holiday in Cambodia by Sister Double Happiness (1992)
The Virus 100 release was all of your favorite Alternative Tentacles artists (and friends) covering Dead Kennedys songs. Gary Floyd and his new band (at the time) knocked the assignment out of the park.
3. Magdalene by Alice Donut (1992)
As a self-professed Alice Donut fanatic, this is the song that should have made Alice Donut college radio staples from what should have been the biggest cult album of the 90's. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
2. Metronome by NoMeansNo (1986)
Originally released on 1986's Sex Mad, I found Metronome on the Live and Cuddly release. Watch Andy Kerr and the Wright Brothers just make it look so, so easy in concert.
1. California Uber Alles by the Dead Kennedys (1979)
From Alternative Tentacles' first 7", this was the sound of the Big Bang in the Bay Area. I did an exhaustive examination of the song's legacy a few years back, but even though it is coded 95-41, it is the label's first, and arguably most important, release.
Editor's Note II:
The official Alternative Tentacles release schedule has slowed to a trickle.
Why would I purposely de-emphasize the court cases?
Because it is a backwards race between what happens first:
A.T. is unable to release new material.
I won't be able to hear the new material.