Punk rock guitarists have sometimes been stereotyped as lacking in ability, but nothing could be further from the truth. “Punk guitarists have never really gotten our due because for so long we were considered to be non-musicians,” Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye once said. “But the fact is we all like to talk about the arcane aspects of guitar playing. It’s just hard when the interviewer is talking about the pentatonic and you’re thinking about a gin and tonic.”

It’s no mystery why Gibson electrics have been the instrument of choice on the vast majority of great punk rock albums. Whether based on ferocious three-chord riffs or something more subtle, Les Pauls, SGs, and other Gibsons have long been the perfect vehicles to express punk’s explosive energy and rebellious spirit. The following seven albums attest to the exceptional six-string skills of some of punk’s most formidable guitarists. Fittingly, Gibson electrics prevail.

Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols—Never Mind the Bollocks

The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks wasn’t ground zero for punk rock—Iggy & the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the Ramones had all come before—but the 1977 album nonetheless remains the genre’s definitive document. While Johnny Rotten was the literal voice of the band, spewing contempt for all things pompous and over-inflated, it was guitarist Steve Jones who gave the music its spit-froth ferocity. Playing pile-driver riffs on his Les Paul Standard, Jones created a wall-of-guitar sound built on warmly distorted barre chords and tight, no-nonsense arrangements. Contrary to revisionist thinking, however, the Sex Pistols weren’t all about fast tempos. “Everyone thinks punk has got to be fast and stupid,” Jones once said. “But that’s wrong. The power comes when everything is paced and slowed down.”

The Clash—Give ’Em Enough Rope

The Clash—Give ’Em Enough Rope

Of all the Joe Strummer- and Mick Jones-led Clash albums, 1978’s Give ’Em Enough Rope tends to get the least respect. Fact is, however, the album brilliantly bridged the revved-up urgency of the group’s debut with the sophisticated variety of London Calling. Playing a Les Paul Standard, Jones asserts himself as a supremely melodic player and songwriter, as he works pop influences into the Clash’s trademark punk assault. Songs such as “Safe European Home” and “Tommy Gun” pack a sledgehammer wallop, but beneath the surface rests a near-Beatles-like attention to craft. “The thing about guitar playing is that you have to do it all the time,” Jones told Gibson recently. “There’s a work ethic to it, and it’s also very mathematical. It’s lovely when you realize that the same chord you are playing down there is up there in a different configuration.”

New York Dolls—New York Dolls

New York Dolls—New York Dolls

Ahead of their time by three years, the New York Dolls’ self-titled debut constituted a seminal blueprint for the late ’70s punk revolution. Wedding the visual excesses of glam to a Stones-influenced garage rock sound, the Dolls tempered a rebellious spirit with tongue-in-cheek humor that sometimes drew attention away from the genuine power of their music. The main source of that power was the twin-guitar interplay of Sylvain Sylvain and Johnny Thunders. Playing a Les Paul Custom and a Les Paul Junior, respectively, Sylvain and Thunders crafted some of the greasiest and hardest fuzz-riff rock ever committed to vinyl. “You can’t talk about the New York Dolls without talking about the guitars,” Sylvain said in a Gibson interview last year. “The guitars, the look—it all goes together.”

Neil Young—Rust Never Sleeps

Neil Young—Rust Never Sleeps

Rust Never Sleeps showed that punk’s rebel aesthetic could be expressed in both soft-rock and hard-rock packages. Half solo acoustic, half Crazy Horse-accompanied electric, the 1979 album framed long-time Neil Young themes (open spaces, noble Native Americans, political malice) in a newfound youthful vigor inspired by the Sex Pistols and other punk bands. Playing his trademark black-painted Les Paul Goldtop, Young powers the second half of the disc with a raging, molten distortion that threatens—thrillingly—to spin out of control. Invoking Johnny Rotten on the final track, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” Young overtly acknowledges his kinship with the punk crowd. “I don’t think when I’m playing,” Young once said about his incendiary work on a Les Paul. “It’s more about my whole body and my whole soul. I’m just doing the dance of the pyramids.”

Green Day—American Idiot

Green Day—American Idiot

Punk and opera might seem like contradictions in terms, but Green Day fused those concepts perfectly on this landmark 2004 album. Released six weeks prior to the last presidential election, American Idiot served notice that the veteran punk trio was shedding its happy-go-goofy reputation for more ambitious goals—such as inspiring listeners to change the political landscape. Playing his trusty Les Paul Junior, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong retains his trademark buzz-saw riffage throughout, while pushing at the boundaries of the band’s thrash aesthetic. “I love Les Paul Juniors,” Armstrong said recently, when asked how he gets his sound. “It’s perfect for my style of playing. Solid-body Gibsons are the perfect rock guitars.”

Rancid—…And Out Come the Wolves

Rancid—...And Out Come the Wolves

Released in 1995, Rancid’s third full-length album saw the band seamlessly integrating its skatepunk roots into a deep affection for the London punk scene circa 1977. The most obvious touchstone was the Clash, but strong echoes of ska acts such as the Specials and the English Beat reverberate throughout the album as well. The main ingredient in ...And Out Come the Wolves’ sound was guitarist Lars Frederiksen—specifically Frederiksen’s punchy, staccato riffage and occasional stinging leads. Playing a white Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Fredericksen gave the album a serrated bite that made Rancid more than the sum of its influences. “I think the attitude and spirit may be similar,” Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong once said, when asked about the comparisons to the Clash. “Both bands have similar working-class upbringings.”

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus—Don’t You Fake It

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus—Don’t You Fake It

If this debut from Florida-based upstarts Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is any indication, the future of pop-punk is bright indeed. Rife with manic tempos, strong melodies, and an occasional “screamo” component, Don’t You Fake It brims with youthful exuberance while keeping one foot in punk traditions. Boasting two SG Standard devotees in guitarists Elias Reidy and Duke Kitchens, the group emphasizes crunchy riffs augmented by a smattering of scorching, abbreviated leads. The power ballad “Your Guardian Angel” constitutes a quiet respite, but otherwise the album is filled with pedal-to-the-metal urgency. “We take our songwriting process very seriously, and make sure everything that’s there needs to be there,” Kitchens said recently. “We like to write as a band. Anything we do, it comes from all of us.”