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Every Mischief Brew Album Ranked Worst to Best

Mischief Brew was a Philadelphia-based folk punk who wrote songs about labor unions, AA meetings, civil strife, and love, sweet, complicated love. They’re exactly what you get when a boxcar hobo finds an iPod shuffle full of Crass bootlegs. It’s what you get you try to tune a calliope to the squeaking of sewer rats. It’s what you get when a Woody Guthrie fan has enough teeth to eat nothing but cheesesteaks. All right, you get it. Let’s not belabor this. Here’s our definitive ranking of every Mischief Brew album.

5. Bacchanal ‘N’ Philadelphia

Look, something has to be ranked last. “Bacchanal ‘N’ Philadelphia” is a great album, as it’s really just a bunch of snippets of early recordings and split singles given a nice fluffing up and repackaging. It’s mellow, it’s melodic, and it reminds us that even our mistakes can be beautiful. Well, maybe not beautiful. But they can still be fun, if occasionally requiring tetanus shots sometimes.

Play it again: “Olde Tyme Mem’ry”
Skip it: “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell.” There’s a better version of this song on the next album


4. Smash the Windows

This is Mischief Brew’s first album and, you know what, it really embodies that quality. It’s not bad by any stretch – in fact for a first album it exemplifies much more of a developed identity than many bands go their entire career without figuring out. Whether that means that Mischief Brew were bound for greatness or that most punk bands straight up just suck boring eggs is for you to decide. “Smash the Windows” is a smash, but there’s better mischief on the horizon.

Play it again: “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell.” See. I told you.
Skip it: “Departure Arrival”

Honorable Mention: Photographs From the Shoebox

Mischief Brew sure do love their splits – and we’re not just talking about the groin-bursting high kicks that lead songwriter Erik Peterson would frequently break into during practice to, as he claimed, “protect the band enemies above.” No, here we’re talking about split albums, and this split with Joe Jack Talcum of the Dead Milkmen showcases two of Philadelphia’s greatest punk songwriters at their finest. Listening to Talcum and Peterson’s songs side by side show the obvious influence between the two artists, and the Mischief Brew cover of “Watching Scotty Die” is a perfect melding of the energy from both. Just remember though, no matter how amped up this record may get you, take it easy on the high kicks – you’ll give yourself a hernia, kid.

Play it again: “Bury Me In Analog”
Skip it: “Smash Potwatching”

3. The Stone Operation

In 1494, Hieronymus Bosch completed his now famed painting “Cutting the Stone,” depicting a medieval surgeon extracting the stone of madness from the head of a fool via primitive trepanation. In 2011, Mischief Brew released “The Stone Operation,” which posited the philosophy “why don’t we just cram that motherfucking stone right back up in there?” The album showcases Peterson’s “hobo poet” persona to its furthest extent, and it delves as equally into straight forward three-chord punk rock as it does into traditional Romani caravan concertos. Basically, “The Stone Operation” deals those unaccustomed to distorted folk songs a real kick in the stones.

Play it again: “Stuff’s Weird”
Skip it: “Nevada City Serenade”

2. Songs From Under the Sink

Odds are that if you’re a fairweather Mischief Brew fan, or have just spent any amount of time in an anarchist coffee shop in the past fifteen years, then this is the album you will be most familiar with. “Songs From Under the Sink” includes classics like “Thanks, Bastards!” and “Coffee, God, and Cigarettes” which provide as ideal a soundtrack for a unionized picket line you dare not cross as it does for bothering the heavily tattooed barista who just wishes you would take your fucking cortado and walk away from the counter.
Fun fact: The writer of this review once mistakenly called a “cortado” a “tostada” and yet was still served the drink they meant to say. Great work, anarchist barista! Also, Mischief Brew was probably playing at the time.

Play it again: “Love and Rage”
Skip it: “Save a City…”

1. This Is Not For Children

To say that Mischief Brew’s style aged like a fine wine is cliche as all fuck and insulting to who they were as both a band and likely group of alcoholics. But to say they aged like a fine jugged juice forgotten in the back of an eastbound headed boxcar until a runaway train punk named Scooter Rust found it on his way to the Philadelphia railyard, now that makes sense. Mischief Brew’s penultimate album makes full use of their full band lineup without losing any of the intimacy of Peterson’s singer-songwriter origins. Songs detail scenes of love, squalor, love for squalor, and, without filter, depict blue collar day to day life in a way that feels lived and genuine, and not like some punk rock ethos cash in effort. Though it may not be the album that first comes to mind when most people think of Mischief Brew, it is undoubtedly the band at their most creatively ambitious.

Play it again: “No Candlesticks”
Skip it: Not a goddamn second of it