In a 2016 tweet, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong declared war on pop-punk. "I've always hated the phrase," he explained later in Kerrang! "I think it's a contradiction in terms. Either you're punk, or you're not."
But in one way or another, that contradiction — the idea of a staunchly underground art form with serious mainstream appeal — has been there all along. From hooky Seventies aces (The Buzzcocks, The Undertones) to Eighties hardcore heroes (Misfits, Descendents), Nineties hitmakers (Green Day, Blink-182) and beyond, punk bands have always championed great songwriting alongside their anti-authoritarian stance. And punk's focus on speed, concision and three-chord simplicity is a natural fit with pop's core values.
Over the years, what we now know as pop-punk has transformed rapidly, evolving with the times and the trends. As New Wave and college rock, followed by ska, rap, emo and even boy-band aesthetics have made their way into the mix, one feature has remained constant: Pop-punk is for the teens — or at least the young at heart. It's inherently bratty, angsty-ridden, self-deprecating and generationally divisive. It's also tender and romantic, thriving on nostalgic, swooning scenes of first loves, life-changing kisses and tragic heartbreaks. It is the OC, the One Tree Hill, the teen soap opera of contemporary rock. The early music of standout acts like Blink-182, Simple Plan, Sum-41 and, yes, even Green Day, was always about arrested development, a stubborn desire to never grow up. And fans returning to these classic albums 10, 15, 20 years on can feel like maybe they never did — a state of "What's My Age Again?" bliss.
"The whole spectrum of human experience, all that longing and self-doubt, is perfectly sketched out in those formative years," The New Yorker's Amanda Petrusich wrote in 2016 of the potency of adolescent emotion, while reflecting on Blink-182's comeback. "That's where pop-punk lives. Its rawness lies not in the music but in the heady newness of those feelings."
In celebration of this durable, fiercely beloved movement, we count down the 50 best pop-punk albums so far. From the Buzzcocks to 5 Seconds of Summer, here is punk's new canon.
By Christopher R. Weingarten, Leor Galil, Hank Shteamer, Brittany Spanos, Suzy Exposito, Maria Sherman, Kory Grow, Dan Epstein, Jason Diamond and Pilot Viruet.
Long before transitioning into bluesy vamp acts the Kills and the Dead Weather, Alison Mosshart reigned as a rambling soprano during her six-year tenure in Discount. The Vero Beach natives made one of the earliest releases on the prolific label Fueled By Ramen and hadn't even graduated high school when they became a staple of Florida's pop-punk legacy. The follow-up to their blazing 1996 debut, Ataxia's Alright Tonight, Half Fiction is a gloriously slapdash confessional opus, which New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert once lauded as "more of an influence [on us] than even West Coast punk." Written during the twilight of their teens — after the band had already toured with J Church and Less Than Jake — jangly songs like "Clap and Cough" and are "Pocket Bomb" were cut, pasted and sewn together the way an Aaron Cometbus tour zine might sound if run through some Marshall stacks. Mosshart told Lenny in 2016: "When I was around 13, the kids that I skated with thought, Fuck it, let's get instruments and start a band, because that's what you do when you're a skateboarder. [By] the time I was 14, we were touring. It just didn't stop… I got to see the world at a very young age. My parents tried to say no a few times, but I was very headstrong. I was just like, This is what I need to do." S.E.
RVIVR don't necessarily recall the sound of fellow Olympians Bikini Kill, but these fierce feminist punks mirror the spirit of the Riot Grrrl movement — coming off as muscular while wholly avoiding machismo. Tense, alternating vocals between Erica Freas and Mattie Jo Canino — of another beloved pop-punk act, Long Island's Latterman — deliver shout-along choruses about finding something to believe in ("Old friend, hold on/If nothing than to this song," Canino belts on "Edge of Living") and the inevitable losses that come with growing up ("We'll have to dream up the ones that we missed because nothing about life is forever," Freas shouts over a furious hardcore beat on "Grandma"). "Fuck yes there's a sense of hopelessness," Canino told Unbelievably Bad Mag of the RVIVR sound in 2017. "But it's in a pendulum swing with moments of invincibility." M.S.
With their self-titled debut, 5 Seconds of Summer presented themselves as the perfect marriage of boy band and rock group — accomplishing what so many pop-punk acts always seemed to aspire to, but could never quite realise. Lead single and wide-eyed, pheromone-heavy teen anthem "She Looks So Perfect" sums up the Aussie quartet's shrewd One Direction—meets—All Time Low blend. Think of 5SOS as the more politically-correct children of Blink-182, and one of the few acts on this list writing about high-school woes ("Good Girls," "Social Casualty," "End Up Here," virtually every other track on 5 Seconds of Summer) from an authentically adolescent perspective. Their youthful abandon centers around saccharine-sweet melodies, four-part harmonies and, of course, dreamy locks: As lead guitarist Michael Clifford joked with latter-day pop-punk self-awareness in the band's Rolling Stone cover story, "Let's face it, half of pop-punk is just about the hair." M.S.
Joyce Manor's early years were spent oscillating between frenetic punk and heart-on-sleeve pop. "The first thing we did was pop-punk wanting to be hardcore, and we succeeded," guitarist-singer Barry Johnson told L.A. Recordafter his band released their third album, Never Hungover Again. "That gave us the confidence to focus on more pop stuff, which we wouldn't have had the confidence to do before — to really wanna write actual pop songs, for better or worse." It was for the better: Never Hungover Again is a titanic punch of yearning, winsome pop-forward tunes delivered in an efficient 19 minutes. Here, Joyce Manor smoothed out the edges of their songs, letting their melodies breathe and clearing room for their hooks to hit the gut. Johnson's pensive bellows and empathetic lyrics about youthful mistakes ("Heart Tattoo") and post-adolescent malaise ("Catalina Fight Song") helped make Never Hungover Again a pop-punk album even people who hated pop-punk could find joy in. L.G.
"This song is dedicated to every kid who ever got picked last in gym class," begins "Little Things," the opening track on Good Charlotte's self-titled album. The intro is the thesis for the whole record: 14 tracks for the underdogs, the unpopular kids, for everyone who ever dreamed of leaving their small hometown. Good Charlotte is a record that knows teenagers need pop-punk; most of the songs take place in the halls of the high school where the four friends met. Benji and Joel Madden's songs pivot on candid lyrics like "I know that I'm not fitting in with you and your stuck-up friends" or "Motivate me/I want to get myself out of this bed." "When we recorded our first record, I was still a senior in high school," guitarist Billy Martin once recalled of the album. "We were super young and that record was just simple." P.V.
After brainy Descendents frontman Milo Aukerman finally chose to pursue science over punk in 1987, the remaining members changed their name to All — the title of Descendents' final Eighties-era LP — and kept right on pushing. They toured and recorded incessantly in the years to come with talented singers Dave Smalley and Scott Reynolds, but had trouble winning over audiences attached to their old sound. ("We all know that All is the band guilty of not being the Descendents," drummer-songwriter Bill Stevenson joked wryly in the 2014 Descendents/All doc Filmage.) Everything clicked, musically, if not commercially, on 1987's Breaking Things, where new singer Chad Price's gravelly pipes perfectly complemented some of the most aggressive material Stevenson & Co. ever wrote. On tracks like "Original Me" and "Right," the band combined all the breakneck energy and soaring melody of Descendents at their best with burly rock power. And on brutally cathartic tracks such as "Guilty" and "Birthday I.O.U.," they traded their old band's adolescent yearning for a darker, more adult brand of heartache. Other strong All records followed — including a lone major-label full-length, 1995's Pummel — but Breaking Things remains a high point for this brilliant, underrated band living in the shadow of the Milo mythos. H.S.
Distillers frontwoman Brody Dalle was just 18 when she ditched a women's shelter in Australia, wed Rancid's Tim Armstrong in the United States and signed to his label Hellcat Records. But she reached global demigoddess status in 2002 after her rags-to-riches gutter-punk ballad "The Young Crazed Peeling" first debuted on MTV — inspiring a wave of young women with liberty spikes and a thirst for freedom. "There should be more girls playing rock," Dalle told Safety Pin Girl in 2002, "and not preaching about the fact that they're female. That’s obviously a part of it when you’re up there, but you just gotta fuckin' work." Leave it to band as dauntless as the Distillers to sneak a song about the Seneca Falls Convention into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4; or mine pop gold from the crusty underside of L.A. in "City of Angels." She later expanded on the album title in an interview for Sink Hole Zine, conducted outside a New Haven restroom in 2002. "I was watching a documentary on Sing Sing Death House, the prison," she recalled. "I really liked the title as a reference for a person. Like in dream books, a house represents yourself, your body. That's where it came from. Sing Sing Death House is not a catharsis, it's just a representation of dealing with shit." S.E.
Long before they cracked the Top 40, the Ataris were kicking it in Anderson, Indiana, binging on Eighties movies and writing rapid-fire break-up songs à la Descendents. On Blue Skies, Broken Hearts ... Next 12 Exits, their second LP, these Midwestern romantics take great care to season their teenage heartache with bursts of self-awareness ("My Hotel Year") and posi infatuation anthems ("San Dimas High School Football Rules"). Frontman Kris Roe gets downright soppy when he promises to rob a Kwik-E-Mart for his crush in the slow-dance-worthy jammer "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone" — so good it would later resurface on the band's 2003 mainstream-crossover So Long, Astoria. What makes Blue Skies special is the genuine, unfiltered sentimentality of its contents — songs so plush you almost forget the eye-roll-inducing juvenilia of "This Is the Last Song I Will Ever Write About a Girl." As Roe said of the tune 11 years later, "Angst is only good when you're 19 and full of empty causes. When you're 33, two marriages down and trying to find yourself, you look back and laugh at angst." S.E.
If NOFX's Punk in Drublic is a slurring crust-punk passed out on a park bench, Lagwagon's melodic punk masterpiece Let's Talk About Feelings is his sensitive kid brother, handing out missing-person flyers. Sourcing material from black comedies like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Swimming with Sharks, Lagwagon largely sidestepped the toilet humor and raging sexism of their skate-punk brethren, in pursuit of murkier subject matter. "I'm not gonna watch you kill yourself to live," Joey Cape sings in "The Gun in Your Hand"; in "Love Story," he slams a narcissist, sighing, "Drama is exhausting and I'd rather be alone." Throughout the album, razor-sharp metal licks and crafty rhythms complement Cape's dry affect, a blend the Cali band perfected on "May 16," which tells the tale of Cape being uninvited from a friend's wedding. It would be the band's most popular song to date, landing a Tony Hawk Pro-Skater 2 feature and establishing Feelings as an essential entry in Fat Wreck Chords oeuvre. "The band was really kind of getting tired of that silly pop persona that we seemed to have," Cape told Noisey in 2014. "But I love the way that [Feelings] sounds. I like it sonically and it’s also really poppy. I like pop music." S.E.
Wonder Years frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell told music blog Mind Equals Blown that the members of America's Greatest Generation made him realise his desire to be brave: "I spent my whole life, my entire life, content with mediocrity," he said. "Afraid of greatness because I was afraid of failure, and I hid behind anything I could." For Campbell and his band, overcoming that mindset meant proudly flaunting their suburban Philadelphia upbringing and deep affection for the sugary pop-punk of their youth — Motion City Soundtrack's condensed euphoria, the Starting Line's melodic punch, Blink-182's supercharged hooks — on this 2013 LP. Songs such as the uplifting, muscular "We Could Die Like This" make hailing from neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns feel like a badge of honor. L.G.
On their fourth album, Bouncing Souls streamlined the nervy propulsion of their previous work into clean, uplifting songs that still captured the rough-and-tumble glee of an overcrowded basement show. On the goofy sing-along "Bullying the Jukebox," these New Brunswick, New Jersey, hometown faves seem to describe their own anything-goes punk ethos when they sing about loading up a playlist full of "Songs of punk and songs of joy/Love songs about girls and boys/Songs of metal and English stuff/And some hardcore songs to make us feel tough." When discussing the chant-heavy classic "Ole" with Alternative Press, frontman Greg Attonito said, "The lyrics are completely silly. We just went with it. Maybe it could have turned into something else, but why bother? It was just about yelling 'Ole' and being happy." L.G.
There was a time, long before Green Day blew up, and even longer before Ben Weasel was using Twitter to voice his politically incorrect opinions on or violently attacking women at his shows, when you couldn't go to a punk gig without seeing the Screeching Weasel logo tattooed on at least one arm in the audience. There was also a time when everybody wanted to try and match the band's snarl and speed, including Blink-182, who covered Screeching Weasel in their pre-fame days. The Ramones-influenced sound that would go on to influence a thousand imitators never sounded better than on the band's third LP, My Brain Hurts. Weasel is at his misanthropic best here, singing about weirdo teens, a girl who cleaned up off drugs and how nice people make him sick, and even throwing in an offbeat cover of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." J.D.
It turns out that strings were the much-needed final piece of the pop-punk puzzle, as proved by Yellowcard's violinist Sean Mackin, who added cinematic drama to tracks like "Only One" and "Twentythree." The Jacksonville, Florida, band's fourth album tapped directly into the adolescent heart of early-2000s pop-punk, zeroing in on the endless nights and intense beauty of teenage love and staying young forever, tropes that helped make nostalgic, arena-worthy single "Ocean Avenue" a treasured classic. "It's funny that in particular 'Ocean Avenue' was the one that really put the band into the spotlight," singer Ryan Key recalled in a 2012 interview. "The song almost didn't make the album because I couldn't finish writing the chorus." B.S.
In post-Pistols '79, the Clash's London was calling to the zombies of death, and Gang of Four were searching for the dirt behind the daydream. The Undertones happened to be living in the middle of Northern Ireland conflict just a short hop across the sea, but instead they opted to be sunny and whingy, revelling in both suburban angst and pop artifice like true bubblegum heroes. "It was a positive way to fill our time rather than join in with the rioting," guitarist John O'Neil told Noisey. "I was also a very naïve, diffident teenager. I didn't have the confidence to write about the political situation and do it justice." Instead they absorbed the lessons of Phil Spector, the Brill Building, the Nuggets comps and the Ramones, singing about heartbreak ("Get Over You") and sexual frustration ("Girls Don't Like It") with the taut New Wave hooks that made their friendzone anthems both melancholy and fun, connecting the dots between Jonathan Richman and the Descendents. The can't-get-no-satisfaction infatuation-rocker "Teenage Kicks" became a modern classic, covered by everyone from Green Day to One Direction. C.R.W.
On their second album, Saves the Day singer-songwriter Chris Conley and the rest of this long-running Princeton, New Jersey, crew perfected their heart-on-sleeve (or, as on "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic," heart-on-the-floor) approach to pop-punk. "You listen to the lyrics and it's just like this lonely guy, who was longing for something more," Conley told Alternative Press in 2014. "The record has a lot of melancholy, which would play out in the years to come. But the songs are all very exciting, full of life." The tracks range from heartache to anger, but it's the way Conley intertwines these emotions that makes the album so effective: one minute, he's missing an ex dearly ("Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots"); the next, he's lashing out at a shitty friend ("Through Being Cool"). P.V.
By 1993, SoCal pop-punk grandads Bad Religion were slowing down and diversifying their sound, and it was up to a new generation to carry the torch. With their unabashed social conscience and gift for speedy, melodic fist-pumpers, Hermosa Beach's Pennywise were natural successors. Their second full-length, Unknown Road, epitomises a certain kind of Nineties West Coast pop-punk record, driven by skate-friendly, almost thrash-like riffage and clear-eyed post-adolescent optimism directly descended from Bad Brains' Positive Mental Attitude ethos. The L.A. riots—themed "CIty Is Burning," the anti-conformity rallying cry of the title track and the big-questions-asking "Dying to Know" all serve as a powerful reminder of pop-punk's most earnest chapter, before Green Day's rise nudged the genre in a goofier direction. "To some it can sound pedantic, as if we were preaching to people," frontman Jim Lindberg told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "Although we're an easy target for cynics, I don't think there are enough bands out there on the positive tip." H.S.
New Jersey trio the Ergs! went into recording their debut with low expectations: "We were just like, 'Let's make this thing, I guess,'" drummer-vocalist Mike Yannich, a.k.a. Mikey Erg, told Noisey. "There was no real thought process to it, just like, 'Bands make albums, let's make albums.'" Despite their lax attitude, the band ended up with an urgent, infectious pop-punk tour de force, the sort of album that makes you want to pogo jump while screaming about heartbreak. "I'm in love, I'm in trouble!" Erg yells on the aptly named "First Song Side One," riffing on the Replacements and announcing a 16-song LP that lasts just 32 minutes. Along the way, Yannich & Co. touch on everything from hardcore to hip-hop and doo-wop (to say nothing of references to The Simpsons andHenry Rollins' Get in the Van book). But the album never strays far from its speedy, melodic roots, helping to secure the band's cult-fave status among the pop-punk faithful. P.V.
The teen-comedy film boom of the late Nineties and early 2000s helped to push pop-punk to larger audiences, and Canadian crew Simple Plan excelled at making snappy, catchy, sweet tunes that feel like the big scenes they complemented in flicks like The New Guy, The Hot Chick and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. The dramatic dejectedness of "I'm Just a Kid," sweeping romance of "I'd Do Anything" and brooding family drama of "Perfect" captured the genre's signature edge-of-seventeen mindset. "Until the day I die, I promise I won't change so you better give up/I don't want to be told to grow up," Pierre Bouvier sings on the aptly named "Grow Up," a song that also name-checks Good Charlotte, Sum-41, Blink-182 and MxPx. Adding to the album's classically pop-punk feel, Simple Plan even got vocal assists from Blink's Mark Hoppus and Good Charlotte's Joel Madden on a pair of songs. B.S.
Lifetime's third album blended the worlds of hardcore and pop-punk like it was the most natural thing in the world. "I had zero self-esteem and thought I should just be home and figure out how to get a job," frontman Ari Katz told Noisey in 2016 of that era. But Katz's anxieties only enhanced his poetic lyrics on Jersey's Best Dancers: "You sat that chair like a queen in the kitchen," he sings in "Turnpike Gates," "I memorised the lines your eyes made at every squint you shot my way." Their odes to youthful indiscretions and basement-show romance gave Lifetime's hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey, its very own underground opus. L.G.
"Tsunami Bomb happened at a time when a lot of punk was happening," vocalist Emily "Agent M" Whitehurst, recalled in 2015, "but the number of female vocalists in that genre was pretty small. [We] just kind of stood apart." In retrospect, the Bay Area band's gender makeup remains an anomaly in the genre, but more exceptional were Tsunami Bomb's actual songs: melancholic ragers powered by Whitehurst's jazzy, candy-coated inflections. Following the release of their 2000 EP, The Invasion From Within!, Tsunami Bomb rapidly became a Warped Tour staple, and released their first full-length, The Ultimate Escape, on the Vandals' Kung Fu Records. Taking cues from the brutal Youth Crew sound and ethos of the Eighties, Tsunami Bomb's punchy debut speaks not to adolescent recklessness, but the cost of its comedowns: "Independence doesn't start when you leave home," Whitehurst sings matter-of-factly in "Take the Reins," and chides aging punks to "be what you're becoming, and not who you were" in "20 Going On." The Ultimate Escape is an uppercut to boys' clubs, drinking culture and victims of Peter Pan Syndrome everywhere. S.E.
AFI's fifth studio album cracked the Billboard 200 and brought the Bay Area band thrashing into the mainstream. Their gothic lyricisms and skittering NorCal rhythms positioned them as the missing link between horror-punk forefathers the Misfits and emo insurgents My Chemical Romance — most palpable in "Days of the Phoenix," a paean to the "teenage death boys, teenage death girls" that populated their favorite hometown venue. That same year, following the departure of Michale Graves from the Misfits, androgynous frontman Davey Havok was scouted to be his replacement — yet Havok declined. It was impeccable timing: following Art of Drowning, AFI's profile rose tremendously in the years to come, especially among young women. "When I think of those times," said Havok in 2017, "I remember the shift in the male-to-female ratio in the audience changing. We used to only play to men. It's cool that it swayed towards the female ... from what I've known growing up, ladies always had the best taste in music." S.E.
Kerplunk is the purest distillation of Green Day: three bratty, listless punks on the verge of their twenties with too much energy and an ADD-driven range of pet frustrations and passions. The album was the band's second shot at a full-length, and first to feature Tré Cool on drums (he also wrote and sang the blissfully silly rockabilly tribute to BDSM, "Dominated Love Slave"). Across the board, the Lookout Records—released LP sums up what makes pop-punk such a unique melting pot of a genre, combining the toughness of classic punk with the tender delivery and subject matter of late-Eighties college rock. On album opener "2000 Light Years Away," Billie Joe Armstrong pines for a long-distance love, while later he questions "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" on a semi-reflective Catcher in the Rye—inspired tune. Fittingly, the band covered the Who's classic "My Generation" as a bonus track, signifying the new era Green Day would usher in. Lookout founder Larry Livermore has said he had to hound Green Day for a full album before being presented with Kerplunk. "I thought it would do well," he said in an interview celebrating the LP's 25th anniversary. "As it turned out, though, Kerplunk sold out its first pressing of 10,000 copies the same day it was released. At the time it was by far our biggest launch ever. By far." B.S.
After dissolving in the wake of a disastrous second album (1977's Music for Pleasure), pioneering English punks the Damned reformed in 1979 without original guitarist/songwriter Brian James, and proceeded to deliver one of the greatest (and unlikeliest) comeback albums in rock history. "Someone said if we could write a few tunes, we could get a record deal," co-founder Captain Sensible recalled to Rolling Stone earlier this year. "So we decided to suddenly become songwriters. None of us had ever written a tune in our lives." Despite this ostensible handicap, Sensible (who seamlessly switched from bass to guitar), singer Dave Vanian, drummer Rat Scabies and new bassist Algy Ward somehow managed to stack Machine Gun Etiquette with cheeky, high-energy tracks like "Love Song," "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Plan 9 Channel 7" and "Smash It Up (Part 2)," all of which blended punk, pop, Sixties psychedelia and Seventies glam into a riotously life-affirming vision. Essential listening for anyone who loves the melodic side of punk, Machine Gun Etiquette has inspired several generations of bands — including the Offspring, who recorded a cover of "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack in 1995. D.E.
Starting with their breakout skater anthem "Punk Rawk Show," MxPx became the rare Christian punk band that managed to cross over to the secular world. From its onset — "Emotion is my middle name," sings bassist-vocalist Mike Herrera on "Middlename" — Life In General is a West Coast classic, blending girl-crazy surf pop with spasmodic D-beats. Herrera regales a crush with sweet doo-wop reverie on "Do Your Feet Hurt?" and invokes Fifties soda-shoppe kitsch while scatting over a walking bass line on "Chick Magnet." Yet drummer Yuri Ruley and guitarist Tom Wisniewski make a formidable greaser gang, countering Herrera's lovesick Buddy Holly antics with Minor Threat—caliber blasts of energy. "It was very much so coming from a kid that was in youth group and had a certain set of friends and was taught certain things," said Herrera of the album in 2008. "I didn't really know a lot about the world I guess, you know? Fast-forward 16 years and it would be impossible for me to write like that. Politics are not doing too well right now and the economy is horrible, but MxPx has always been about turning it around, doing what we can in our own lives to press on." S.E.
Though he was only 18 when the Jam first charted in 1977, frontman Paul Weller matured quickly as a writer, drawing on influences ranging from Pete Townshend and Ray Davies to English novelists George Orwell and Colin MacInnes. Brilliant songs like "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight," "Going Underground" and "Town Called Malice" eloquently reflected the frustration and alienation of working-class life in Thatcher's Britain. "When I see all these other fuckin' groups — all the really fraudulent bands that're around — that keeps me in check," Weller told The Face in May 1982. "That keeps me realizing what we should be doing — showing that bunch of wankers up for what they are." While that kind of intensity ultimately proved impossible to sustain (Weller broke up the band in late '82), the band's incredible six-year run of U.K. singles — many of which weren't included on their albums — is captured exquisitely on Snap!, a 1983 compilation that showcases the ringing chords, pointedly observational lyrics, passionate shout-along choruses and watertight musical attack that would prove enormously influential on such pop-punk threesomes as Green Day and Alkaline Trio. D.E.
After the vaguely experimental cult classic Clarity, Jimmy Eat World challenged themselves to go simpler, and the result was Bleed American, an album that helped introduce the band — and a new wave of pop-punk — to the mainstream. Reissued as Jimmy Eat World after 9/11, the album is a collection of catchy anthems that rely on the genre's trustiest themes: alienation, death, growing up, love found and lost, and the simple comfort of singing along with your favorite bands. And in late 2001, there was no song more inescapable than the album's second single, "The Middle," which was crucial to landing the band everywhere from TRL episodes to Taylor Swift's headphones. "I wish every kid who goes through those same feelings of loneliness could hear how Jim Adkins sings," said Swift, who eventually covered it with Adkins himself. P.V.
Punk was evolving by 1979: The Clash put out a double album filled with ska, reggae, and rockabilly songs, while new influences from dub to krautrock could be heard across the genre. That trend alone would make "Suspect Device," the ringing, anthemic opening track off Inflammable Material, the debut from Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers, stand out among the pack. But the track is also a blueprint for the shape of pop-punk to come. The lyrics rail against an uncaring system ("They put up the wall/On each side, time and prime us/And make sure we get fuck all") but with a poppy melodicism buried underneath all the speed and rage, foreshadowing not just Green Day but their American forebears Hüsker Dü and the Replacements. The record also influenced members of another Irish band: As Bono told The Guardian in 2007, "For me it was more about rage, still is really. My soundtrack was more 'Alternative Ulster' by Stiff Little Fingers." J.D.
Shortly before Alkaline Trio released their third album, From Here to Infirmary, guitarist-singer Matt Skiba told The Chicago Tribune, "We definitely like to write songs about darker things, but we like to think of it as a celebration of the evil ideas that run through everybody's head." Skiba, bassist-vocalist Daniel Andriano and drummer Mike Felumlee (of local pop-punk heroes Smoking Popes) nailed that sweet spot throughout From Here to Infirmary, especially on "Armageddon," which mines self-doubt, romantic woe and, yes, the end of the world for a limber, rocket-fuelled burst. Alkaline Trio's taste for gothy aesthetics was as strong a hook as their ironclad melodies, and they started raking in new fans with From Here to Infirmary. But as much as their taste for darkness set the trio apart from every other suburban Chicago pop-punk band of the day, From Here to Infirmary also showcased the Trio's strengths as succinct songwriters who knew how to command the pulse of the living. L.G.
From Edinburgh, Scotland — birthplace of the Bay City Rollers — high-octane goofballs Rezillos mixed surf rock, garage, glam, rockabilly and New Wave quirko-costumes into a punk-rock band that feels like the B-52's if they listened to more Cramps than Chic. Their lone studio album (until a 2015 reunion), Can't Stand the Rezillos combines the greasy kids' stuff of Fifties sci-fi ("Flying Saucer Attack," "2000 A.D."), the giddy highs of the Sixties beat groups (covers of Dave Clark Five, and Gerry and the Pacemakers), and the art-school-hewn drollness of Seventies post-punk (one of the album's catchiest songs is "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures"). "We all came from a similar place and we met somewhere that set us in a similar direction, which was to do something that was very rock & roll—y and drawn from lots of arty things that had to do with pop culture and very rooted in garage rock," co-vocalist Fay Fife told Noisey. "People didn’t really like that then, but we liked it." C.R.W.
"Everyone's got their band," Billie Joe Armstrong told Spin in 2005, "and I've got to say Operation Ivy was definitely one that changed me." The Green Day lead singer wasn't the only one whose life was changed by the band that included future Rancid members Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman; for better or worse, the outfit could be thanked for the entire ska-punk sound that they left in their wake. But taken on its own merits, the their entire studio discography of less than 30 songs (collected on a self-titled 1991 Lookout Records comp) pulses with youthful energy, anger and urgency, all set against a raw, poppy sound that countless bands would try to imitate, but none could duplicate. The band epitomised the scrappy East Bay scene that spawned Crimpshrine, Mr. T Experience, and, of course, Green Day, who would record a honky tonk-style cover of Op Ivy's "Knowledge" on their second seven-inch. J.D.
Think of All Time Low as the kings of a new pop-punk wave — or heroes of the late TRL generation. Led by goofy guys Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat, the Maryland band became icons for their youthful outlook, as displayed on second LP So Wrong, It's Right: "Shameless" outlines the bittersweet sensation of crushing on the cool girl; "Stay Awake, is the moment when she finally looks your way. The album as a whole indulges the teenage fantasy of making a night, a dance, a relationship last forever. The songs' characters dream of "Vegas" in place of their usual suburban haunts, or "Poppin' Champagne" in lieu of 40s in their school parking lots. In many ways, the album's diverse sound — the unexpected "California!" aside in "Let It Roll," the mournful acoustic balladry of "Remembering Sunday," the ecstatic vivacity of the four-times platinum "Dear Maria, Count Me In" — is the perfect template for late-2000s pop-punk as a whole. "Everything we do is a little bit weird and a little bit wrong but everyone seems to like it," Gaskarth told BuzzNet in 2008. M.S.
By 2002, pop-punk was part of the mainstream, and young bands were unapologetic in their pursuit of fame. "Joel and I always wanted to be in a big band," Benji Madden told Rock Sound of the twin brothers' ambition. "We never set out to be the cool, underground band that the elite listened to: we wanted to play shows all around the world, to anyone who would hear us." And they did just that, while taking the elite gatekeepers down a peg with songs like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "The Anthem," blending traditional pop-punk kiss-offs with light hip-hop break-beats and tales of broken homes, riot grrrls and bloody valentines. B.S.
Formed in 1980, Bad Religion were already the granddaddies of SoCal pop-punk in 1993, when they shocked the punk world by leaving Epitaph Records — the label run by BR guitarist and co-founder Brett Gurewitz — for Atlantic. But Stranger Than Fiction (their major-label debut, and eighth full-length overall) was actually a rousing reaffirmation of Bad Religion's seemingly innate ability to harness switchblade-sharp melodic hooks and incisive social commentary to a lean and muscular guitar roar. "I think there's a lot of question out there with our loyal fans as to whether we're going to change our musical style to try to appeal to, say, the KROQ audience or the Pearl Jam fan, you know what I mean, since we're now on a major label," Gurewitz told The Big Takeover in 1994. "I wanted to let them know that here's a record that our loyal fans can stand behind because it's punk as hell." Stranger Than Fiction became the first and only Bad Religion album to go gold, while "Incomplete," "The Handshake," "Stranger Than Fiction" and a swaggering re-recording of "21st Century (Digital Boy)" from 1990's Against the Grain remain some of the best-loved songs in the band's extensive catalog. D.E.
After a charmed run as the socially conscious, ska-punk heroes of Operation Ivy, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman founded Rancid together in 1991. Curiously enough, the band thrived commercially in spite of the grunge boom of the Nineties; their rousing 1994 record Let's Go climbed up the Billboard 200, following endorsements by fellow Berkeley punks Green Day and Epitaph labelmates the Offspring. To their great dismay, Rancid's sudden market viability would trigger an influx of major-label offers, including one from Madonna's Maverick Records. "They started coming to gigs. ... We didn't ask them to," guitarist Lars Frederiksen told Rolling Stone in 1995 — thus spawning the title of the band's third LP, ...And Out Come the Wolves. But what Rancid lacked in pop ambition, they made up with their brilliant storytelling. Using traditional song structures, Rancid specialized in street-punk lore sourced from their real, tempestuous lives on the road, from the skinhead vignette "Time Bomb" to "Olympia, WA," a rock & roll elegy to Armstrong's tanked relationship with Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail. Certified platinum in 2004, the spirit of Out Come the Wolves still rings more punk than pop — but it remains a timeless touchstone for young troublemakers across generations. S.E.
Pop-punk, in theory, was never meant to grow up, but with American Idiot, Green Day found a brilliant, political loophole. In direct response to George W. Bush's presidency, the trio crafted an immersive, urgent rock opera fueled by rage and love, and told from the perspective of a dejected young Jesus of Suburbia itching to leave his deadbeat town. "We did everything we could to piss people off," Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2005. It was an ambitious, anti-pop-punk move for the band, to create sprawling nine-minute stadium-worthy songs filled with characters, plot development and a terrifying reflection of reality. But it worked: American Idiot was a big comeback moment for the former bratty upstarts. "I felt like I was too old to be angry anymore," Armstrong continued. "It's sexy to be an angry young man, but to be a bitter old bastard is another thing altogether." B.S.
Canadian pop-punkers Sum-41 emerged in a dense 2000s pop-punk marketplace, oversaturated but hungry for more. Their debut, All Killer No Filler, was an immediate success — due in large to their partnership with pop-punk producer extraordinaire Jerry Finn, but also to their respect for the genre and motivation to expand upon it. While the record drowns in its adolescent insecurity ("Motivation") and a clichéd pop-punk desire to break out of one's hometown ("Crazy Amanda Bunkface"), it also employed emo-pop hooks years before they became the norm ("Rhythms" and "Handle This.") And like few other pop-punk acts, Sum-41 experimented with rap, as on teen-angst anthem "Fat Lip," a rallying cry against conformity and societal pressure. "White rock bands got really lame — they have broken hearts and all that shit. But the hip-hop guys, like DMX, they're badass with strip clubs and booze," drummer Steve Jocz told Rolling Stone in 2001. "That's what we want to be doing." M.S.
New Found Glory's self-titled second LP is exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of baby-faced punks who kept an altar to Britney Spears in their van. Yet diva-worship aside, these guys were no Mouseketeers. An export of the South Florida hardcore scene, the group took cues from neighbouring punks Discount and even metalcore band Earth Crisis to brew combustible anthems such as the splashy opener "Better Off Dead" or crushed-up morsels of rock candy like lonely tour ballad "Dressed To Kill." Their breakout single "Hit or Miss" would be the band's lucky charm: legend goes that Drive-Thru Records signed the band after NFG tourmates Midtown played the song for co-owner Stephanie Reines in a blizzard. Made unforgettable by the piercing trill of frontman Jordan Pundik — "The needle on my record player has been wearing thin," he sings. "This record has been playing since the day you've been with him!" — their pop melodrama was contagious. "It was one of those CDs that never found its way out of my CD player," Mark Hoppus told Alternative Press in 2010. "New Found Glory just had something different and unique." As guitarist Chad Gilbert told Chorus.fm, "When New Found Glory started, our genre didn’t really exist. There was Blink and West Coast punk that was big, but that was a different style. [NFG] and Saves the Day were blending more emotional lyrics with punk/hardcore-influenced stuff. When we started writing songs, it just came out. We didn’t overthink it. Is this punk? Is this not? Is this whatever?" This genre-shifting, yet super accessible formula ensured New Found Glory's position on the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks, and continued to pay off big-time on their 2002 major-label debut, Sticks and Stones. S.E.
While Green Day were the poster boys of the Nineties punk boom, the Offspring were integral in giving the genre an added mainstream boost. In 1994, the Orange County band's third LP, Smash, broke the Billboard Top Five and became the biggest-selling independent album to date. The band racked up mega-hit singles — the quirky, gang-violence—themed "Come Out and Play"; the sardonic loser's anthem "Self-Esteem" — without toning down their signature hard-edged crunch. Of course, the band's pop appeal came with a price: Punk purists cried foul when they broke big and signed to Columbia following the release of Smash. "Isn't it ironic?" frontman Dexter Holland reflected to Rolling Stone on the album's 20th anniversary. "You start a punk band because you feel like you're being ostracized. Then your punk band gets big and you get ostracised again." B.S.
Home to luminaries like Green Day and Rancid, the Bay Area was the epicentre of underground punk in the early-to-mid-Nineties — and no band evoked the spirit of that time and place better than Jawbreaker. Their third album, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, captures the sense of rebellion that united different punk factions throughout Jawbreaker's adoptive hometown. Although formed at NYU, the trio made the ambitious move to California in 1987, where they were embraced as fiercely as any band born in Oakland. Listeners didn't need to know the scene politics of beloved nonprofit venue 924 Gilman Street to relate to the streetwise grit and melodic euphoria of timeless punk fight song "Boxcar" or the redemptive, surging "Condition Oakland," which, as singer-guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach told Pitchfork, encapsulated the album. "It addressed those ideas of loneliness and struggling to be an artist in a kind of rough environment," he said. "It has a lot of immediate truth to it." L.G.
NOFX's fifth LP best displays the mix of crass wit and songwriting chops that have made them pop-punk mainstays for well over three decades. "To me, that was our best album," guitarist El Hefe told the Associated Press in 2014. "I had no idea that it was going to sell that big. Gold? That was probably the furthest thing from our mind. I thought, 'Wow, this is great, but okay, it's punk music, and how much money can you really make in the punk scene?' From there, it was like the rollercoaster just took off." Driven by frontman Fat Mike's grating sneer and Hefe's flamboyant shred, the album juggles hard-hitting punk, silly ska and tightly crafted rock songs about busking and fighting Nazis. The Muffs' Kim Shattuck makes a cameo in "Lori Meyers," a labor song for the girl-next-door turned sex worker. Punk in Drublic's gritty melodicism in songs like "Linoleum" and "Dig" gives the record a timeless quality; their button-pushing anti-PC stance, not so much. But if at its heart, much of pop-punk is cringe-inducing, this scuzzy manifesto — an inspiration to scores of bands, from Blink-182 to Lagwagon — is canon. M.S.
For some, hardcore was about social commentary or emotional release, but Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig was just looking to have a good time. "More people are into the band now, but we're still misunderstood, especially by the political punks," the New Jersey—born singer told the Flesh and Blood zine in 1983. "They're looking at the music as 'what can punk rock do to further my political beliefs?' and we're looking at it as 'yeah, let's have fun.'" If that was the band's objective, Danzig & Co. never achieved it more fully than on Walk Among Us, an album that mashed together aggro three-chord riffs, bubblegum-pop hooks (complete with "whoa-oh" sing-alongs), and lyrics packed with B-horror-movie imagery and stomach-churning violence. The songs' frantic tempos and loutish backing vocals couldn't obscure Danzig's extraordinarily supple, Elvis-indebted pipes, which gave even Walk's most antisocial moments — "Skulls" ("Hack the heads off little girls/And put 'em on my wall"), "Astro Zombies" ("And your face drops in a pile of flesh/And then your heart, heart pounds/Till it pumps in death"), "Hatebreeders" ("Murder one inborn into your every cell/It's in your blood and you can't shake it") — a timeless teen-idol appeal. Pop-punk's heyday was still a decade off when the Misfits broke up in '83, but the band's influence looms large: No self-respecting band in the genre is without a Walk Among Us cover or three in its repertoire. "We can play almost every Misfits song," Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba told the Dallas Observer. "I love The Misfits, but it's not brain surgery." H.S.
Though the majority of pop-punk fans are female (51 percent of Warped Tour attendees are women), the genre has always been a whiney boy's world, a scene often preoccupied with villainising an unrequited crush. But the emergence of Paramore helped tip the scales: Frontwoman Hayley Williams' four-octave soprano pushed the boundaries of what a pop-punk performance could sound like. Similarly, lead single "Misery Business," a boyfriend-stealing anthem of arena-size proportions, flipped the genre's gender script on its head. Riot! remains a touchstone of its time, not just because it brought a much-needed new feminine energy to pop-punk, but because its songs were simply better than most of what Paramore's contemporaries were churning out — and just as bitter. "There was an excitement around it that we knew was different from anything we'd experienced up until then," Williams told Track 7 of Riot!, "It was a lightning in a bottle moment in time." M.S.
Though he made his biggest commercial mark in the Eighties, some of Billy Idol's finest work can be found on the self-titled 1978 debut of London punks Generation X. Packed with zippy chord progressions, instantly catchy choruses and gobs of streetwise attitude — the patented Idol sneer was already in full effect — songs like "Ready Steady Go," "Youth Youth Youth," "One Hundred Punks" and the dramatic "Kiss Me Deadly" were generally considered too poppy and shallow to be taken seriously at the time, but they've aged remarkably well. "We were trying to communicate our experiences in a romantic but still realistic way, instead of just shouting grievances, as was the fashion at the time," Idol wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Dancing With Myself. "This new direction pulled us away from the old punk, allowing us to maintain its aggression and attitude while advancing musically by exploring other, more complicated emotions and feelings." The approach also left its mark on numerous pop-punk practitioners to come; as Billie Joe Armstrong put it back in 1994, when Rolling Stone asked him about being an icon for twentysomethings, "The only thing I know about Generation X is that I really liked their first record a lot." D.E.
Buzzcocks formed the same year Paul McCartney sang "Silly Love Songs" and broke up two years before Johnny Rotten declared, "Love is two minutes, 52 seconds of squishing noises." In that time, they explored the common ground between poppy romance and punky aggression with a series of short, lustful bursts of melodic tension (and, incidentally, one of their greatest-ever songs, "What Do I Get?" lasts 2:52, for maximum squishiness). Although the Mancunian crew — which formed after seeing a Sex Pistols gig — released a number of brilliant long-players, none of their albums topped the compilation Singles Going Steady, which traces the origins of pop-punk one 45 at a time and has influenced artists as diverse as the Offspring and Fine Young Cannibals. Beginning with 1977's confessional, hilarious "Orgasm Addict" ("Butchers' assistants and bellhops/You've had them all here and there"), they'd mastered pinning quirky hooks to electrifying guitar. After original frontman Howard DeVoto split to form Magazine, guitarist Pete Shelley took over and wrote one catchy, devastating, sexually ambiguous confused-love song after another: "Ever Fallen in Love ... (With Someone You Shouldn't've)," "What Do I Get?" "Promises." Lyrically, the songs bemoaned how happiness is always just out of reach (literally, in the case of the downright funky "Why Can't I Touch It?"). Musically, they were a marriage of the Kinks' and David Bowie's melodiousness with the bludgeon of Ramones. "To me it was just like the stuff I'd grown up with in the Sixties, like With the Beatles," Shelley said in 2015 of his early songs. "We wanted to be intelligent, but not intellectual. We wanted to be entertaining, but not entertainers." K.G.
The 2000s saw Green Day and Blink-182 growing up and pop-punk becoming omnipresent, soundtracking teen flicks and filling arenas. Fall Out Boy's debut ushered in a whole new, genre-blurring scene, in which heavy riffs and a screamo aesthetic mingled with old-fashioned teen heartbreak. The album is full of yearning, as Patrick Stump inquires where a girl's boy is tonight, hoping he's a gentleman ("Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy") and looks to the future while celebrating friendship and the freedom of the weekend ("Saturday"). The album, which began as a demo, helped secure Fall Out Boy's future even before their sophomore LP would take them to unimaginable heights of rock success. "Up to that point in the band's history, we were merely something to do before we were forced to give in to the pressures of real life," singer Patrick Stump wrote in a blog post celebrating the album's 10th anniversary. "We saw ourselves as a pretty cool excuse for a semester off of college." B.S.
Think of Milo Goes to College as pop-punk's Revenge of the Nerds—ian big bang. Descendents' classic lineup came together in the late Seventies, when guitarist Frank Navetta and drummer Bill Stevenson, who bonded as teenage fishing buddies in Hermosa Beach, met up with thirtysomething local bass whiz Tony Lombardo. Bespectacled fan-turned-frontman Milo Aukerman gave the band not only its signature melodic brilliance but also its lovably dorky image. "I went through my first few years of high school trying not to be different and not get beat up, and then at some point a switch got flipped and I just said, 'Fuck it, I don't care. I'm just going to be the nerdiest, geekiest guy I can be,'" Aukerman recalled in 2016. That mindset soon found its way into early Descendents favorites like lovelorn anthem "Hope," fishing-as-escape rallying cry "Catalina" and cool-kid takedown "I'm Not a Loser," with Lombardo contributing ironic masterpiece "Suburban Home," and its "I want to be stereotyped/I want to be classified" refrain. Though the band flaunted serious hardcore chops and shared bills with Black Flag, shameless goof-offs like "Weinerschnitzel" (a frantic fast-food order set to music) and "I Like Food" made it clear that they had no patience for stagy punk angst. True to their debut's title, Aukerman actually would ditch the band to further his education — before returning in the mid-Nineties for the stellar Everything Sucks, and sticking around on-and-off ever since — but the trademark silly-sappy blend of Milo Goes to College would become the blueprint for pop-punk as we know it. "They were like this punk-rock Beach Boys," Blink-182's Mark Hoppus told SiriusXM of their forebears. "All the punk rock that I'd heard before that was really angry and political and screaming and not really my thing. ... I really liked the melody and the harmony of the Descendents; you could sing along to it. It was stuff that I cared about, like food and friends and hanging out and girls and being pissed at your parents." H.S.
"[T]he band really wanted a hit, all of them — they wanted a hit bad," engineer Ed Stasium told Music Radar. "So by the third album, Rocket To Russia, we started doing more overdubs, almost to soften the sound a little bit. I remember references to Steve Miller being made when we did a few of those songs." Behind the chainsaw guitars, shredded blue jeans, breakneck tempos and disaffected idontwannas, the Ramones were always a pop band at heart, fans of vocal groups like the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Crystals. And Rocket to Russia was maybe their most pop moment. It certainly was from the most quantifiable position, since it featured the only three of their songs to chart on the Billboard Hot 100: "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," "Rockaway Beach" and their cover of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance?" "We came into our own on that record. We had a little higher budget, we were using really good recording studios," Tommy Ramone told The Huffington Post in 2012. "By that time our playing was really tight. We thought we were just one step away from being successful, you know, so we had a lot of enthusiasm." C.R.W.
Naturally, a band named after a day spent smoking pot would perfect youth disillusionment, making mega-hits about masturbation ("Longview"), anxiety ("Basket Case") and ditching suburbia ("Welcome to Paradise") on their major-label debut. Green Day's third LP is a pop-punk gut-punch, perfectly marrying tight melody with a get-bent mentality. After the grunge-dominated early Nineties, that irreverence was a breath of fresh air. "There was a lot of whining in rock at the time," Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone20 years after the album's release. "By nature, we're extroverts. So that's what came across in our songs. We knew we were entering an arena of bands that we didn't like."
Despite its underdog spirit, Dookie was a massive success. It was the first pop-punk album that proved the "pop" part of the subgenre tag to be completely feasible, in part because Dookie was an album aimed squarely at teens: either literal ones, or those who never quite left that era of their lives behind. The LP spawned a brand new generation of punks, making the form feel younger and more accessible than ever. "I could care less if people think I'm insignificant because I'm 22 years old," Armstrong told Rolling Stone in a 1995 interview. "That's great. We caused a generation gap." B.S.