Pop-punk has been due a modern upgrade since, well, forever, but very few would have been able to predict just how healthy the scene looks in 2021. Significantly more diverse and optimistic than its chino-shorted, casually-misogynist ‘00s iteration, the pop-punk of now feels like a long-awaited rewriting of history, a world where the influence of Avril Lavigne and Fefe Dobson is openly acknowledged, where there’s less fan tension about what ‘wave’ fits where, and where a teenage group like The Linda Lindas can go viral for sticking it to racist, sexist boys. Women and non-binary artists have fought their way to the front of the moshpit on masse – and they’re not giving up their place at the barrier anytime soon.
Meeting online and forging their own sense of community, Meet Me @ The Altar are a trio who have thrived during the pandemic, taking one song of friendship – ‘Garden’ – and using it as an emblem of the new world order. As a result, their first EP for Fueled By Ramen [Paramore, Fall Out Boy] acts as a cohesive celebration of everything that is great about pop-punk — crunchy riffs, heartfelt vocals, the sonic stimulation to run out and buy a skateboard — but with enough touches of their own style.
By way of modernisation, MM@TA’s hopeful lyrics are intrinsic to their appeal. “It’s not just luck ’cause I see all my troubles fading away”, lead vocalist Edith Johnson sings on the lively ‘Brighter Days’, the perfect thematic continuation to ‘Garden’, while ‘Feel A Thing’ and ‘Never Gonna Change’ go heavier on the emo feels without forgoing the catchy choruses.
’Now Or Never’ – the jewel in their studded belt – sounds like it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to perform live, with a slow-murmured bridge and an explosive chorus that shares the same lifeblood as labelmates Paramore’s ’That’s What You Get’. Hayley Williams comparisons are inevitable and, perhaps, lazy, but they are testament to both the bands’ current skill level and their potential for further growth. When Twilight gets its inevitable Gen-Z reboot, we know who would be a shoe-in for the soundtrack.
The pop-punk revival so far may have platformed big-budget solo artists – including Willow, Machine Gun Kelly, and Olivia Rodrigo – but with ‘Model Citizen’, Meet Me @ The Altar prove there is still nothing quite like rocking out with your best mates, and confronted with the burden that they are what so many needed as younger fans, the weight on their shoulders could have been too heavy to bare. But to constantly tie them to the regrets of yesteryear is to deny what is painfully obvious; ‘Model Citizen’ is the work of a band who are absolutely for the now. Mom, this pop-punk thing definitely isn’t just a phase.
- Release date: August 13
- Record label: Fueled By Ramen