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With a blend of punk’s high speed, guitar driven sound, pop’s catchy hooks and a little ska, pop punk reached the pinnacle of popularity in the late nineties. The birth of emo saw a hybrid formed between the two genres, with the likes of Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Paramore taking centre stage.
This new breed spoke to an entire generation of teenagers, and has often been cited as the music that helped them cope with difficult times in their lives. It’s more than California sun, Warped Tour, Converse, skinny jeans and skater boys, it’s a relevant and popular genre with some great music. Read on!
Essential Tracks: ‘Alta Mesa Drive’, ‘Seven Days’, ‘Our Anniversary’
Essential Albums: It’s Not Pretty Being Easy (EP 2001), Forever Broken (2002), Hellafornia (2005)
With a sound a little like Green Day meets Blink 182, Dexter Danger was formed in California in 2000, shortly after the peak in pop punk popularity. The band had a strong DIY ethic, using networking to build their own impressive fan base, and booking their own sell out tours. Sharing the stage with bands such as Bowling For Soup and The Aquabats on the Warped Tour and Lollapalooza, Dexter Danger never quite got the attention they deserved, despite having all the makings of something big.
As of 2015: Dexter Danger announced their reunion and 15th anniversary gig in 2015 on Facebook.
Essential Tracks: ‘Keep Dreaming Upside Down’ Ft Hayley Williams, ‘Second Chances’, ‘Caught In The Rain’
Essential Albums: A Season In Hell (2006)
Formed in Illinois in 2003, October Fall started life as Silver Lining, later finding a steady line-up before touring with the likes of Fall Out Boy and The All-American Rejects. Signed to the Decaydance label (headed by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz), they released their debut album ‘A Season In Hell’ in 2006. October Fall had a fantastic pop punk sound and great potential – it’s a shame this promising young band folded after just one album.
As of 2015: Vocalist Pat D’Andrea formed Archie Star with his sister, releasing one album ‘Carry Me Home’. Bassist Greg Shanahan and drummer Nick Scalise are now members of the band Bestfriends.
Essential Tracks: ‘About A Girl’ ‘The Phrase That Pays’, ‘Slow Down’, ‘We’ve Got a Big Mess On Our Hands’
Essential Albums: Almost Here (2005), Santi (2007), Fast Times At Barrington High (2008)
I love Chicago band The Academy Is… As 00’s pop punk bands go, they have a more emo pop punk sound, thoughtful lyrics, an edgy sound – very much in the same vein as hard hitters Panic! At The Disco. After being heard by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, the band was signed to the Fueled by Ramen label, with their debut album Almost Here released in 2005. Regulars on the Warped Tour and sharing the stage with bands such as Motion City Soundtrack and Cobra Starship, The Academy Is… saw some success, but nowhere near the same attention as some of their peers.
As of 2015: The band broke up in 2011 but singer William Becket announced in 2015 that they would reunite for a farewell show.
Essential Tracks: ‘Sleeping Aides And Razor Blades’, ‘Throwaway Style’, ‘Modern Kicks’
Essential Albums: Guitar Romantic (2003) The Pink (Demo 2002)
I really like this band – the sound, the vocal style, the lyrics. Easy to see why they cited influences of The Clash and The Jam. It’s a slight step away from the generic US pop punk bands of the time, and they remind me a little of Butch Walker’s post-Southgang band ‘Marvellous 3’. Personally I think this band could have been huge, and the release of their debut album Guitar Romantic in 2003 should have been the start of something amazing. Sadly they stayed fairly obscure due to a tragic car crash the same year, taking the lives of three members.
As of 2015: The band ceased to exist after a car crash killed Adam Cox, Matt Fitzgerald and Jeremy Gage in 2003.
Essential Tracks: ‘Dismantling Summer’, ‘Hey Thanks’, ‘Cigarettes & Saints’, ‘There, There’
Essential Albums: The Upsides (2010), Suburbia… (2011), ‘The Greatest Generation (2013)’
Formed in Philadelphia in 2005, The Wonder Years have toured and released material consistently in their ten year career, and they have a more original pop punk sound than some of their emo-tinged peers. This band has a tight sound, some great musicianship, and always delivers a fantastic show. Performing at the UK Slam Dunk festival and on the Warped Tour, this band has reached the live masses, but it’s only recently with the release of ‘The Greatest Generation’ that the band has found critical acclaim.
As of 2015: The band have recently released a new album ‘No Closer To Heaven.’
Over the years, pop punk evolved with an injection of emo, and whilst it may not be as popular as it was, it’s far from dead. The Warped Tour – synonymous with the genre – still pulls in tens of thousands every year, and it’s really no surprise. I love this genre; I loved it when it was exciting and exuberant, and I loved it when emo crept in and the lyrics took on a cryptic, poetic edge.
These are just a few of my favourite underrated pop punk bands, can you add more?
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