Admitting to loving punk rock’s smilier, happier, dweebier cousin won’t earn you much in the way of cred among sneering musical snobs, but who cares when you’re grinning from ear to ear and screaming along to choruses so catchy they literally stay with you for decades? Few genres fall victim to as much apparent punching down as pop-punk yet continue to deliver so much genuine pleasure to its truest true believers.
Just so we’re clear, we’re not referring to the Ramones, Descendents or bands of that ilk here. They’re punk acts who played fast, had a thing for melody and stood out because they weren’t as pretend-tough as their peers. Maybe they sparked the germ of an idea, but it’s more accurate to think of them as a footnote in the pop-punk story than outright headline stars. Truthfully, the term is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s got little to do with either element of its portmanteau’s origins. Sure, pop-punk might borrow the economy and democratisation of punk, but it kicks the politics out, swapping fury for feelings and replacing songs about The Man for romantic misadventures. Instead of lashing out at the world, proponents tend to shine a mirror up to themselves and generally draw conclusions about their own faults and failings. When it’s really on it, pop-punk can capture what it feels like to be a loser in a world when all around you seem to be winning… all while simultaneously having a laugh and sounding like life is one big party. It’s a unique skillset, often made to look easier than it is.