There’s a lot of bad pop-punk out there. Listening to the radio, you might get the impression that there’s no depth to it. I decided to make a list of personal favourites, rather than the consensus favourites (Descendents, Ramones) all the other listicles copy and paste. Hopefully this can prove to you that there’s more to the genre the skinny jeans and teenage angst.
15. Pointed Sticks – Perfect Youth
Pointed Sticks know how to write a bubblegum-pop song that even the most harden crust-punk could chew on. Even though this came out in 1980, it still holds up today.
Fav. Songs: Part of the Noise, Out of Luck, True Love
14. The Methadones – 21st Century Power Pop Riot
It’s strange to say, but I think the best Methadones album is a record full of covers. On ‘21st Century Power Pop Riot’, the Methadones chart out the power pop roots of not only their band but the whole pop-punk genre. This album can serve as a great bridge to a lot of great older bands.
Fav. Songs: Goodbye To You, Welcome To The Working Week, Starry Eyes
13. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray
This band sits on the border between alternative rock and pop-punk. The Lemonheads have lots of good albums, but ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ is the best one and their most popular. Start with this album if you’re new to the band.
Fav. Songs: Rudderless, Allison Started To Happen, Rockin Stroll
12. Teenage Bottlerocket – They Came From The Shadows
Teenage Bottlerocket take the Lookout Records-era pop-punk sound of the Queers, the Nobodys and Screeching Weasel and make the Ramones-core elements even more pronounced. TBR always put out quality albums, but I think ‘They Came From The Shadows’ shows the band at their most consistently catchy and inventive.
Fav. Songs: Bigger Than Kiss, Forbidden Planet, Do What?
11. Gob – How Far Shallow Takes You
No one gives Gob the respect they deserve. I keep seeing them lumped in with Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. Gob went through 3 distinct periods in their sound, snotty-pop early phase (Soda, B-Flat), their heavy phase (Self Appointed Leader, 236 E. Broadway), and their mainstream phase (I Hear You Calling, For The Moment); I celebrate their entire catalog, but only the third part of their career has anything to do with the late 90s wave. ‘How Far Shallow Takes You’, is the only album from the band’s heavy period. It shows the band improving as musicians and crossing over from their punk roots into new territory. They explore darker lyrical themes here, but they still keep some fun songs on this one.
Fav. Songs: Suds, 236 E. Broadway, What To Do, Self Appointed Leader
10. Screeching Weasel – Anthem for a New Tomorrow
Screeching Weasel’s concept album of anxiety and paranoia contains some of their best songs. Listening to the whole album in sequence has an almost schizophrenic feeling; hitting you with a 30 second rager, followed by a pretty mid-paced instrumental, followed by a catchy pop.
Fav. Songs: Peter Brady, Totally, Talk To Me Summer
9. Hysterese – S/T (2014)
Cool underground pop-punk from Germany. Hysterese’s duel vocals, that are little buried in the mix giving them a unqiue effect where the feel more like an instrument. Although they keep things catchy, they have cool experimental surprises throughout the record, keeping this fresh and interesting.
Fav. Songs: Useless, Asperger Youth, Angst
8. Joyce Manor – S/T
A pop-punk band that the trolls at Maximum Rock n Roll and Hot Topic can agree on. Vocals sounds like Rivers Cuomo with laryngitis, music sounds like a 80s hardcore band covering Blink 182.
Fav. Songs: 21st Century Dead Rats, Ashtray Petting Zoo, Famous Friend
7. The Lillingtons – The Too Late Show
Everyone wants to pretend that ‘Death by Televison’ is the Lillingtons’s best album, but they’re just trying to sound cool. ‘The Too Late Show’ is the band’s alien-occult-communist-weirdo sound fully realized and flawlessly executed.
Fav. Songs: All I Hear Is Static, Do It U.S.S.R., Charlie Goes To Cambodia
6. Toys That Kill – Fambly 42
Todd Congelliere and Sean Cole have been kicking out the jams in the underground for some time now; first as F.Y.P and later in Toys That Kill. With Fambly 42 they finally strike gold. There’s plenty of garage pop classics on this, but songs like ‘Waltz One Million’ and ‘Stye’ really slay me; demonstrating the emotional dynamics pop-punk is capable of.
Fav. Songs: Waltz One Million, The Nervous Rocks,
5. Blink 182 – Dude Ranch
Say what you want about this band, this album stands the test of time. Despite the high-school binder lyrics and fart jokes between songs; tracks like ‘Apple Shampoo’ and ‘Untitled’ have more emotional depth and maturity than anything Blink 182 did after this. Tom Delonge’s singing doesn’t sound like Tom Delonge yet. Without Travis, the drum fills are reasonable and restrained, and contribute to the composition. The band just sounds like they’re having fun.
Fav Songs: Apple Shampoo, Dick Lips, Lemmings
4. Marked Men – Ghosts
A perfect blend of pop-punk and garage rock. There’s something magical about the sound and texture of this band that’s really pronounced on this record. The reverb heavy sound recalls a feeling of a pop-era long past, without the inauthenticity and nostalgia of the typical throwbacks copycats. It’s just a classy record; none of the songs suck, but some shine brighter than others.
Fav. Songs: Fortune, I Must Be Dead, Stay Away
3. The Buzzcocks – Love Bites
Love Bites, as the tile implies, is an album full of unrequited love songs. The awkward elements of the Buzzcocks sound compliment the album theme very well. Despite the consistent lyrical theme, there’s a ton of musical variety on the album. ‘Ever Fallen in Love?’ and ‘Sixteen Again’ are pure pop classics, while ‘Operator’s Manual’ and ‘E.S.P.’ show the band at their weirdest and most experimental. Steve Diggle takes over lead vocals on the more 60s sounding ’Love Is Lies’, his weird voice gives the track a Wes Anderson soundtrack kind of feeling. Even the anxious sounding instrumental closer ‘Late for the Train’ feels like it fits the theme.
Fav Songs: Love Is Lies, Sixteen Again, Ever Fallen in Love?
2. Chinese Telephones – S/T
It’s hard for me to explain what’s so good about this album. In the timeline of pop-punk they mark a break from Screeching Weasel’s influence, a sort of rewrite to the formula. Essentially, this is a pop-punk album with all the Ramones-core removed. The lyrics are raw and personal without being veiled or obfuscated. They harken back to the roots of pop-punk, without being constrained by the limitations that seemed to rule the genre at the time. Every song on this thing is a hit.
Fav Songs: This Time Next Year, Tell Me Tell Me, Stay Around
1. Screeching Weasel – My Brain Hurts
‘My Brain Hurts’ is the turning point for Screeching Weasel. Released after the band’s first breakup, it’s the first SW album with Dan Vapid and the difference really shows. All the hooks and humour the band was known for are still present, but the songwriting and singing is raised to a new level. Pop-punk lyrics can often lack depth, but on ‘My Brain Hurts’, the lyrics deal with issues like faith, epistemology, and heroin addiction; these heavy topics sit next to the band’s goofiness and pop-culture references without feeling forced or unnatural. On ‘My Brain Hurts’, Screeching Weasel becomes a band that can make you think or dance.
Fav Songs: What We Hate, Science of Myth, Guest List
Here’s a Spotify Playlist of a bunch of these songs: