From Blink-182 to to Wavves, which are the best pop-punk bands ever? Here's NME's run-down.
So you like gnarly buzzsaw rock rooted in the 70s punk rebellion, plus all the ruined neon fashions, DIY attitudes and fuck the system politics that went with it. You also like shiny, chantable pop hooks about getting dumped. But which is best? The ensuing Harry Hill fight between the two has raged for decades, throwing up some of the most vibrant, savage and fun-to-get-drunk-with bands in rock history. Here’s the cream of the US pop-punk crop.
16. New Found Glory
A pretty, polite teen metal band with a token chunky one and comedy videos galore, Florida’s New Found Glory seemed the epitome of the kind of punked-up boyband that thrived during the early 00s boom. But having originally emerged alongside Blink-182 in the late 90s, they’d actually helped set the blueprint for the emo decade, and seemed to have 24-hour access to a bottomless well of cracking chorus hooks.
Sultans of ska punk, California’s Rancid helped bring the knee-jerk jives of The Specials and The Clash to US punk-pop in the mid-90s with moshpit skanks like ‘Time Bomb’ and ‘Ruby Soho’. Since then they’ve become punk-pop establishment, with Tim Armstrong founding Hellcat records to release albums by the likes of Joe Strummer, Dropkick Murphys and The Distillers.
Coming from a mid-80s era when the US hardcore scene adhered to strict punk codes – be political, be offensive and go no closer to any sort of mainstream exposure than you would a rabid mountain wolf – LA’s NOFX relentlessly scuppered their chances to match the success of contemporaries like Green Day, but built a formidable cult around their infectious and compulsive records, often as hard-hitting as they were comic. Check out ‘Creeping Out Sara’, in which singer Fat Mike freaks out either Tegan or Sara while on Diazepam, and obviously fails to pull. Dick punk at its finest.
13. The All-American Rejects
Kind of the anti-NOFX, Oklahoma’s The All-American Rejects signed to Madonna’s Dreamworks label and shifted ten million albums, most notably 2005’s ‘Move Along’, thanks to an innate ability to switch between classic pop-punk, arena ballads and the sort of radio-friendly emo rock that even your parents (spit!) would love.
12. Sum 41
Your younger brother’s favourite band of 2002 had worrying echoes of nu metal, what with their corny rap bits, but when Ontario’s Sum 41 hit their melodic stride on tunes like ‘Fat Lip’, ‘Still Waiting’ and ‘The Hell Song’ they were amongst the most unstoppable pop-punk bands ever to complete a passable nollie.
11. Motion City Soundtrack
When Motion City Soundtrack split in 2016 we lost one of the most thoughtful and idiosyncratic members of the pop punk family. They had a touch of Death Cab For Cutie’s sensitive emo rock about them, Jesse Johnson’s squealing Moog melodies brought a new wave-y fizz to the scene and singer Justin Pierre had a tender way with emo’s standard-issue heartbreak, singing about his relationship failings from the perspective of lovers and family members.
10. Alkaline Trio
Before he replaced Tom DeLonge in Blink-182, Matt Skiba fronted Alkaline Trio, a band that proved the ‘pop’ part of punk-pop didn’t have to mean comedy videos, skate fashions and hair better suited to a puffa fish. There was real art behind videos for ‘Help Me’ and ‘Mercy Me’ and dark themes at play on albums such as ‘Good Mourning’ and ‘Agony & Irony’. The thinking fan’s sk8erboys.
9. The Get Up Kids
No wheels were ever reinvented in the making of any of the five albums by Kansas City’s The Get Up Kids, but in terms of ass-kicking hooks, they clearly spent much of their first decade – from forming in 1995 to splitting in 2005 – on the Weezer juice. No wonder Blink and Fall Out Boy have cited them as prime influences; they’re probably the best little-known punk-pop band ever.
8. The Offspring
Prime gonks of 90s punk-pop, The Offspring have a lot to answer for in terms of ushering in the age of Limp Bizkit thanks to ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’, but that’s not to take away from their fiery and politicised post-grunge period, peaking with ‘Come Out And Play’ and the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ for dweebs ‘Self Esteem’.
Though they’ve developed a harsher crunch as the years have gone by and the line-up has dropped away – singer Hayley Williams is the only remaining original member – Williams’ slick vocals and radio-have always kept Tennessee’s Paramore on the poppiest end of the punk-pop spectrum. It’s also helped them scale heights that most Vans Warped alumni can only dream of – Paramore co-headlined Reading & Leeds in 2014 and boasts one of the most dedicated fanbases in rock.
Injecting some indie rock cool into a scene notorious for playing the jerk, San Diego’s Wavves brought a Strokes-like momentum, Neutral Milk Hotel fuzz, a psych-garage slant and an insane love for the letter ‘v’ to the punk-pop party, threatening to launch a new crossover wave to rescue the genre from its snotty thirty-year furrow.
5. Fall Out Boy
Thanks to a few ultra-accessible tunes like ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’ and ‘Dance, Dance’ waltzing off of their 2005 second album ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ and into the UK and US Top Tens, plus bassist Pete Wentz’s model looks and celebrity partners, Chicago’s Fall Out Boy were initially tagged as punk-pop’s ultimate boyband. They faced an uphill struggle for respect, but a series of impressive, near-game-changing records built a formidable canon of hits and, post-hiatus, FOB are considered unlikely 21st Century masters.
4. Jimmy Eat World
Also in the running for ‘best punk-pop song ever’ is Jimmy Eat World’s if-you-don’t-pogo-you’re-already-dead, pants-party classic ‘The Middle’, the calling card for the Arizona band that gave punk-pop a collegiate make-over and wowed radio with emo-with-a-doctorate tunes like ‘A Praise Chorus’, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘Pain’. Twenty years in, Jimmy Eat World are amongst the most enduring and sophisticated emo heroes.
At the opposite end of the ‘sophisticated’ scale sit Blink-182, the puerile, filth-obsessed pop geniuses turned sensitive emo legends turned puerile pop geniuses getting nostalgic for all the filth. That a band famed in its early days for running naked through the streets and singing expletive filled tributes to their family might one day be considered pivotal pioneers of an entire generation of US punk guitar bands is a bit like Keith Lemon one day winning a Best Actor Oscar, but here we are – Blink are embedded as deep in the DNA of 21st Century punk-pop as they’d like to be in your mom.
Emo godheads thanks to their blueprint-setting self-titled debut album and their emotionally visceral masterpiece ‘Pinkerton’, Weezer are commanders-in-chief of the brainiac surf wing of punk-pop – melodically unmatched in the genre and one of its most entertaining live acts, as anyone who saw Rivers Cuomo duetting with a blow-up doll at Reading 2010 will attest. A cult so huge they can hold their own cruises and (full disclosure) this writer once ran a monthly club night dedicated to them, Weezer are currently undergoing a critical renaissance with recent albums ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End’ and ‘The White Album’. So, when punk pop’s Mount Rushmore is carved, Cuomo’s face will be dead centre, insisting nobody looks directly at it because it gets weirded out.
1. Green Day
The only punk-pop band truly deserving the epithet ‘iconic’, Green Day transcended the gonk rock roots of the scene to become stadium level rebels and cultural commentators, delivering high-concept behemoths like ‘American Idiot’, indulging themselves over triple-album releases and making their own sodding Broadway musical. The band every punk-pop kid wants to be in. Admit it, NOFX.