If you haven’t gone through a pop-punk phase, you haven’t ever been an adolescent. After all, is there a more naturally teenage music? The answer, clearly, is no. But even if you’ve grown up (read: stopped going to Warped Tour), plenty of the pop-punk bands of your youth are still living in eternal adolescence. And we’re not just talking about NOFX, Rancid, or the heavyweights of the genre—plenty of names from those long-forgotten Fat, Epitaph, and Fearless comps live on in ageless (or rapidly aging) infamy. Here’re 26 of our favourite.
Back when you were 16—or if you still are 16—the Ataris’ Blue Skies, Broken Hearts… Next Exit was over-emoted pop-punk bliss, perfectly describing the hormone-fuelled, hyper-exaggerated sentimentality of adolescent romance, all with cringe-inducing earnestness. (For that very reason, it’s aged terribly.) At the time, it was a little embarrassing that a 20-something Kris Roe could so precisely communicate the emotions of children, but it’s even more shocking that he’s still at it—in fact, they’re in the midst of a summer tour with Zebreahead (!!!) and MXPX’s Mike Herrerra (!!!!!!!!!!). Don’t worry, Roe will play the classics; the Ataris haven’t released anything since 2007.
In their heyday, the Aquabats were known for precisely two things: Being Travis Barker’s ex-band, and being a ska band that dressed up in superhero outfits. On the latter point, the Aquabats were impossible to hate—even in the heyday of ska-shaming—because of their cartoonish getup; hating the ‘Bats was akin to detesting Dora the Explorer. Like, chill out, bruv! It’s meant for kids! The band, too, realized this: They eventually launched a family-friendly TV show, The Aquabats! Super Show!, and recently celebrated their 20th anniversary on tour.
Right before the emo craze hit, wussy, cardigan-toting middle-schoolers were getting their minds blown by Weezer’s Blue Album, Pinkerton, and the Green Album (until they realized that the latter’s awful). Indeed, there was a direct line between future emo kids and champions of nerd rock—a quaint genre, in retrospect—and fistfuls of Weezer-worshipping bands rose from that era. The most dominant? Nerf Herder, a seeming novelty act obsessed with Star Wars and “Buddy Holly.” As it turns out, the Herd was less of a novelty that we thought—and in 2014, they’re still trying to raise funds for their next album. Regardless of how it turns out, the band’s biggest accomplishment still is writing the theme for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The fact that Autopilot Off were once named Cooter—repeat with us: Cooter—should tell you all you need to know about the band: They played poppy California skate-punk, probably had lyrics heavy on penis synonyms, and likely should’ve signed with Drive Thru Records. (Other candidates to add to this list: Fenix TX, Homegrown, and Smackin’ Isaiah, the likely troubling band that predated A Wilhelm Scream.) But while most of their Dickies workshirt-toting brethren have gone the way of the uh, Fenix, APO—because let’s be honest, we called them APO—just cut two new songs in April. The skate-punk revival is on.
Eve 6 was some poseur shit. True punks—ahem, “tr00 punx”—never listened to this shit, because it was played on alterna-rock radio. (But in reality, everyone owned an Eve 6 CD, because “Inside Out” was an undeniable jam.) Still, we assumed their hit single was a one-hit-wonder, and likely, if Eve 6 continued on, they eventually ended up writing quasi-Christian, Hoobastank-influenced power ballads. Right? Wrong. Eve 6 are back, motherfucker, and they put out a record in 2012 and went on tour with Everclear, the fucking Led Zeppelin of poseur punk. Also, of great interest: Eve 6 were named for an X-Files episode, and if there’s anything that Vans Authentic punks love more than Descendents spoof merchandise, pizza, cats, and black coffee, it’s the motherfucking X-Files. Maybe it’s time you put down that Joyce Manor record and pay Eve 6 a little respect, boy.
Gob thawed Canada’s frozen, wintry heart with “Soda,” a song whose sung-spat chorus—”I want to jump in a lake”—was the missing link between goofy skate brats, dog-walking crusties, and good ol’ boys with Fox Racing tattoos. But they were also a band who quietly evolved: Their split with Another Joe, Ass Seen on TV, still sounds like local high-school punk eveywhere; their first LP, Too Late No Friends, saw them dabbling with laughtrack punk, ass seen on “Fido Dildo”; How Far Shallow Takes You moved them into commercial hard-rock territory. We may have forgotten about Gob, but they’re Can-punk pioneers, and they just announced a new album APT 13, on Dine Alone sister label New Damage, on August 26. All hail.
Speaking of Drive Thru-signed acts, RX Bandits—along with bands like, uh, Something Corporate—were once the kings of Alternative Press ska-punk. The band left our orbit once they started producing more experimental (and frankly, probably better) fare, but perhaps we shouldn’t have tuned out: They released a new album, Gemini Her Majesty, this month, and while it isn’t easy-listening ska, it’s perfectly serviceable alterna-punk.
Remember when people were debating whether Christian punk was actually punk? Secular punks would be all, “Damn girl, I don’t fuck with God or anything, but like, would it be that bad to spin a Five Iron Frenzy jam every now ‘n’ again? Is that grounds for punk-rock excommunication?” Those debates still swirl around Relient K, a band who’s so Christian that their new album features Owl City as a surprise guest. (Vocalist Matt Thiessen, for his part, also contributed to “Fireflies.”)
Every Fat Wreck Chords compilation had universal skip tracks, and Bracket were behind most of ’em. (Honourable mention goes to Goober Patrol. More on them later.) The band somehow exists, and are prepping a new album, Hold Your Applause. And you know what? Check the YouTube vid above. They’re pretty good! Sorry for underestimating you, Bracket.
Unwritten Law weren’t a particularly good band—for most of their career, they either played unremarkable California pop-punk or over-developed corporate rock. Still, they hit their sweet spot with their self-titled 1997 album, which toned down their 2/2 drums in favour of Egypt-obsessed alt-rock. (It makes less sense now than it did back then.) The band’s strung together a lengthy, even landing a release on Suburban Noize records—which essentially make ’em Juggalos.
MxPx were giving teens their skate punk training wheels long before Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo and The Ever Passing Moment drove them headfirst into Hoobastank-ian radio rock. Pokinatcha and Teenage Politics were fast more often than not, and while filled with enough teenage angst to strengthen even the soggiest liberty spike, their Christian undertones—which they’ve since distanced themselves from—either flew over the heads of their young fans or made ’em a selling point for parents. If you can believe it, that’s closer to the sound they’re playing now, 14 years after “Responsibility” hit the charts. Sure, 2012’s Plans Within Plans had its fair share of goofy top-40 flourishes, but more than not it’s a mature take on the band that wrote “Punk Rawk Show” nearly two decades earlier.
Bigwig were a perennial opening band, but in their heyday, they were championed by burgeoning metal fans. (A.k.a. fans of “technical skate punk.”) It’s not hard to see why—the band always had the chops to pull off screaming solos, yet for a reason unclear to everyone, continued playing pop-punk. They continue to tour in 2014, although “Freegan”—their anti-preachy vegetarian tirade—sounds hilariously dated. It’s the aural equivalent of that uncomfortably handsy uncle, who, at Thanksgiving dinner, never fails to joke, “How do you know if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Ha. Ha. Ha.
88 Fingers Louie
88 Fingers Louie reunited last December to play a reunion show—and are best remembered for being the band that spawned Rise Against. But it’s not their only notable: They also released a Metallica-inspired (???) album called 88 Fingers Up Your Ass, which sounds… uncomfortable. UNCOMFORTABLY FUN!
New Jersey-based Midtown were named accurately: Initially signed to Drive-Thru, they cut three albums—the most memorable being 2002’s Living Well is the Best Revenge—of completely middling pop-punk. It was serviceable if forgettable side-stage-of-the-Warped-Tour fare; singer Gabe Saporta, in fact, would get more recognition for his post-Midtown project, Cobra Starship. Regardless, as of this summer, Midtown are reunited, and for the usual reasons—to sell new merch and represses of Forget What You Know.
Remember when pop-punk bands thought it’d be a great idea to don argyle sweaters and sing exclusively about, like, the fall semester, the lost semester, semesters abroad, semesters at sea, semesters at home, semesters at sea, and semesterly semesters? For all this talk of semesters, it’s a shock that pop-punk wasn’t called college rock. Either way, Starting Line were one of the leading lights in semester-core, and while most of us have graduated onto post-semester life (read: soul-crushing labour), the Starting Line will perpetually be stuck in their junior year, all thanks to giant singalongs like “Best of Me.”
Far as pop-punk goes, they had it all. Huge, sentimental hooks, low-slung guitars, self-deprecating sing-alongs and a music video shot in the genre-typical, dimly lit room, complete with flickering lights, true-punx posters and wall to wall hunnies. Their popularity kind of fizzled out after their self-titled album—itself just a reordering of their Riverfenix debut. Lechuza sold better almost solely on the hype of their Atticus endorsement, but today its remembered more than anything for its quirky “Feliz Navidad” cover. Fans didn’t like their sudden turn towards backwards hat bro-metal, and the band’s breakup ended up stretching across a few years as a result. No worries, though: After a few false starts the band reunited proper in 2012 to work on new music, releasing four new tracks that year. We’re waiting on that album, dudes…
While screamo was rampant in the mid ’00s—and still is, depending on who you ask—Finch weren’t one of the genre’s shining lights. Indeed, it’d be hard to call them screamo at all, despite the fact that they a., screamed, and b., were emo. Instead, their grammatically bizarre What It Is To Burn was the limpest of pop-punk paired with occasional forced screaming, something that was less about adhering to screamo structure, more about developing an (already played-out) gimmick. They’re not simply touring off the strength of their debut, though—last week, they announced that they’d finished a new album, Back to Oblivion. Hopefully, their lyrical ability has improved since they wrote the atrocious, barely comprehensible “Letters to You.”
Frenzal Rhomb are Aussie-punk ironmen, with 1997’s Not So Tough Now starting them on a long line of NoFX comparisons. But it was 2003’s Sans Souci that traded in some of the band’s aggression in favour of an uptick in snark; songs like “Russell Crowe’s Band” and “I Went Out With A Hippy & Now I Love Everyone Except For Her” were downright hilarious, and lucky for fans, that’s a train they’ve been riding ever since. Since 1994’s Dick Sandwich, they’ve released eight albums, including a five in five year streak from 1995 to 2000. We’re still waiting for a follow up to 2011’s Smoko at the Pet Food Factory, but we’ll chalk the wait up to the tapeworm found in singer Jay Whalley’s brain early last year.
You’re not the same, you’ve changed…. To anyone that played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, you’ve now got Bodyjar’s biggest, hookiest song dug deep in your head. And you know what? You’re probably loving it. Bodyjar walked a fine line between punk and alternative rock, sometimes sounding more like Foo Fighters than the Descendents, but when they hit, they hit. And after a brief hiatus in 2009, the band came back and tried to recapture that dynamic on 2013’s Role Model.
Quick: Think of a band from the U.K. that was signed to Fat Wreck Chords. Your answer, we’re wagering, was Snuff. There were, in fact, two U.K. imports, however—the second being, of course, Goober Patrol. Like Bracket, they were the other can’t-fail skip band on Fat compilations; you probably know song titles like “Part Time SF Ecologist” and “Easy Life,” but you’ve probably never heard them. Curiously, these tossers have a compilation of their own called Songs That Were Too Shit For Fat. Daps for being self-aware, mates.
Well, don’t we have egg on our face. Here we were, thinking that Pulley’s greatest claim to fame (aside from cutting Esteem Driven Engine on Epitaph) was singer Scott Radinsky, who doubled as a major league baseball pitcher. Not so. Pulley’s career far outlasted Radinsky’s baseball career—their release came in 2011, with the Long and Short of It, and the band continues to play shows.
Let’s be real: Fast Forward Eats the Tape was fucking fantastic. With Strung Out going all prog on everything, Alberta’s Belvedere turned things up a couple extra ticks to fill the void and then… kind of faded away. But like your old ass’s inability to still kick flip, nothing is forever, including a break-up, because they reunited in two years ago after seven apart. A new album is on the way; we’re waxing the curbs in anticipation.
Millencolin starts and ends with Nikola Šarčević. Mush mouthed and armed with a molasses thick Swedish accent, there was nobody quite like him in punk rock. There are moments on For Monkeys where he might as well be jazz-scatting… until the hook hits. Songs like “Twenty Two” and “No Cigar” were straight-up ear worms, while 2002’s “Man or Mouse,” which sounded like an odd mix between countrymen The Hives and Germany’s Beatsteaks, showed they belonged on rock radio. They lost a bit of momentum when Šarčević’s brother went missing in 2003—he was never found—but last we heard they started working on a new album last year.
Last we can remember, Guttermouth were the aging pop-punks singing about pissing in the shower and getting kicked off the Warped Tour for shit talking My Chemical Romance and teenaged political dilettantes. That was 2002. 12 years later and they’re still kicking, most recently playing dive bars across the continent and, unless they’re just leading fans on, working on a new album. It’s been 8 year since their last album, but they did promise new music… in 2009. We’re waiting, dudes.
Whatever happened to Yellowcard? Nothing, actually. While they’ve still never written a song as hard-hitting as “On the Brink,” these California crooners have been backflipping across the Warped Tour all summer, reminding fans that no matter how old you get, those Hurley hats will always have a place in punk rock. Their last album came out in 2012, but expect a new one before the end of 2014.
Voodoo Glow Skulls
It’s been 16 years since The Band Geek Mafia and we’re still not sure what the hell these guys were all about. Helmed by three Mexican American brothers, they mixed ska-core and skate punk with an unrivalled air of irreverence that always felt a little too odd for the Epitaph crowd. Happily, we can report that they’re still chugging along, releasing Break the Spell in 2012. And unlike most bands on this list, they did it without any real break: Fans have never had to wait more than five years between albums, with most coming after a year or two gap.