The 100 Best Pop Punk Bands

Because we all get nostalgic at times for Warped Tour, Hot Topic and Mountain Dew

The Offspring, photo courtesy of the artist
The Offspring, photo courtesy of the artist

    Editor’s Notes: This feature initially ran in July 2016. It’s being revisited this week as The Offspring return with their brand-new album, Let the Bad Times Roll. So, sit back as we sift through the slush pile to pinpoint the 100 best pop punk bands of all time.

    Punk has always thought of itself as radically progressive, but that’s not really true. Go all the way back to the Sex Pistols and their theatrical rejection of mainstream culture, and you’ll find something that’s a lot more reactionary than people give it credit for. (Malcolm McLaren was a clothes designer who stumbled on a new product and found a new way to package it — nothing revolutionary about that.) Sure, punk became a genuine movement with genuine ethics once bands like Crass and Black Flag and Fugazi came around, but the genre as a whole was never the antithesis of pop culture, no matter how many studs and safety pins it stuck in its thrift-store leather jacket.

    All of this is to preemptively silence those readers who might see a list of the “100 Best Pop Punk Bands” and immediately cry foul at the premise of the thing. Whatever kind of scene flag you’re so intent on waving, get it out of our faces right now. Pop punk is a legitimate (though admittedly very messy) subgenre that has birthed hundreds of bands since it first came into existence. It’s also an undeniable product of its time and place. Arriving 15 years or so after punk’s initial heyday, pop punk owes its existence to the changes that swept across America in the 1980s and necessitated a different kind of rebellion (or pseudo-rebellion, as it were). Malls sprouted across suburbia, skateboard culture gave jocks and weirdos a common reference point, and that capitalist sentiment that ran roughshod over everything in the Reagan era taught corporations the same lesson that McLaren had learned years earlier: Punk sells.


    And boy, did it ever sell. Vans Warped Tour, Hot Topic, Mountain Dew, Famous Stars & Straps — all of these names eventually became as tied up in pop punk as names like Green Day and Blink-182. Not every pop punk band participated in corporate culture, with some as adamant about maintaining their DIY ethics as Fugazi and the Dischord crew were in the ‘80s. Still, it’s impossible to divorce the genre entirely from its commodification.

    It’s also hard, as we found, to figure out what exactly “pop punk” really means. Is Operation Ivy a pop punk band, despite their obvious debt to ska? (Yes, we suppose.) What about Bad Religion, who grew up in the suburbs but maintained close ties to hardcore throughout their long career? (No, we guess.) The best we could do was come up with a sort of gut test: If the band seems more pop punk than anything else, they get to stay. This obviously led to a lot of tough cuts (and a lot of arguing), but rest assured that we don’t consider Bad Religion the 101st best pop punk band ever.

    Otherwise, if you don’t find your favorite band on this list, it’s probably because they suck or never made it outside your rinky-dink hometown. That’s fine. Just post a link to their Bandcamp in the comments section and let people figure it out for themselves. DIY or die, right?

    –Collin Brennan
    Associate Editor


    100. Good Charlotte


    There’s a slew of pop punk bands that are hard to applaud for creativity, but when their melodies come under scrutiny, it’s clear they were doing something right. That’s the deal with Good Charlotte: they knew how to write songs that not only stuck in your head but that you would remember the lyrics to over a decade later. After forming in 1995 during high school, the Madden brothers and the rest of Good Charlotte dropped their self-titled debut to underground success followed by 2002’s The Young and the Hopeless, their hit-stuffed full-length. They knew the key recipe for anthemic pop punk songs: uplifting chord progressions played with a bit of grit and a call to arms to those in need of a loser anthem. Be it the hilariously stereotypical gender dynamics of “Girls & Boys” or the income mockery of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, Good Charlotte always found complaints the community could sing about and their eyeliner could run to. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”

    99. Lit


    Lit may best be known as the band responsible for “My Own Worst Enemy”, an anthemic earworm that blistered the charts in 1999, but remarkably they are still around to this day. Sure, after “Miserable”, another single off their certified platinum sophomore album, A Place in the Sun, there hasn’t been much mainstream success for the group, but maybe there doesn’t need to be. “My Own Worst Enemy” remains one of the signature pop punk songs of the late ’90s/early ’00s. For more proof, go no further than the nearest karaoke bar, millennial wedding, or high school reunion. The car may be sitting in the front yard, but Lit’s most iconic track is definitely still pumping through many a speaker. –Zack Ruskin

    Essential Track: “My Own Worst Enemy”

    98. Dopamines

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    The Dopamines are perhaps the most bubble-gum like batch of the bunch. Their sweet flavor of pop punk is normally upbeat and full of sarcastic social commentary. They’ll be the first to admit they never took themselves too seriously. Formed in 2006, the Cincinnati-based trio originally comprised drummer Matt Hemingway, guitarist/vocalist Jon Lewis, and bassist/vocalist Jon Weiner. After a dispute in 2008, however, Hemingway opted to quit the band. Most of the band’s recordings were done by The Queers’ drummer Matt Yonker, who would often fill in on drums once Hemingway left. The trio’s self-titled debut was released in 2008, and Expect the Worst followed two years later while their last record, Vices, came out in 2012. According the group’s Facebook page, the band is still alive and well. –Kyle Eustice


    Essential Track: “Public Domain”

    97. Nerf Herder


    Like Family Guy? You’ll probably like Nerf Herder, a band that’s 90% references. Hell, their name is a Star Wars callback, for Christ’s sake, and the rest of their catalog is equally nerdy. They found success early on with their 1996 self-titled debut and went on to score the theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Diminishing returns and a stubborn refusal to evolve led to a split in the early aughts, but their 2005 reunion has been fruitful, with a new album, Rockingham, released just a few months ago. It has songs about Weezer, Ghostbusters III, and even podcaster/@midnight social media producer Allie Goertz. She must be charmed? Their fans sure are; consistency certainly counts for something. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “Van Halen”

    96. Good Riddance

    Good Riddance

    Good Riddance brought the progressive politics of ’80s hardcore into the pop punk realm, and the subgene is all the better for it. Formed in Santa Cruz in 1986, the band meshed an ear for melodic hardcore with frontman Russ Rankin’s principled lyrical bent, a combination that no doubt influenced future political pop punks (and eventual label mates) Rise Against and Against Me! Good Riddance released seven records on Fat Wreck Chords before splitting in 2007. The group reformed in 2012, releasing Peace in Our Time in 2015. –Ryan Bray

    Essential Track: “Dry Season”

    95. No Use For A Name


    One of the keys to No Use for a Name’s protracted success was their focus on songwriting. Sure, their tunes are about as catchy and spirited as anything the mid-to-late-’90s punk era has to offer, but the late Tony Sly wrote songs that could stand on their own two feet when stripped down to an acoustic guitar and vocals. Sly died in 2012 and fans are still feeling the loss. Fortunately, No Use for a Name left behind eight records of air-tight pop punk jams for us all to feed off of. –Ryan Bray


    Essential Track: “Soulmate”

    94. Gatsby’s American Dream


    Before vocalist Nic Newsham and guitarist Bobby Darling went full pop rock in The Money Pit, they laced pop punk with The Strokes and mid-2000s blog rock for something that sounds like a sweet mix of Panic! At the Disco and Billy Joel. Sometimes serious, sometimes jokey, always enjoyable, almost any track by Gatsby’s American Dream has something worth humming along to. Touring troubles prevented them from taking over the world, but at least we’ll always have their three albums. Though they never broke up, they’ve been dormant for years; maybe a reunion is something to keep an eye out for. Listen to “Theatre” if you want to get a song stuck in your head or their cover of “Just Like Heaven” if you want to see how you can modernize The Cure by adding Ratatat-like guitar harmonies. –Dan Bogosian

    Essential Track: “Theatre”

    93. The Soviettes


    Minneapolis-based group The Soviettes were formed after Annie “Sparrows” Holoien and Susy Sharp met Dillinger Four’s Bill Morrisette, who suggested they start a band with his girlfriend Maren “Sturgeon” Macosko. They eventually landed a deal with Fat Wreck Chords in 2004 after catching the label’s attention at a show in San Francisco. In 2003, they released their first full-length, the simply titled LP, and followed up with 2004’s LP II and LP III in 2005. Although they haven’t officially been a group since 2006, they’ve secured a dedicated fanbase thanks to opening slots for label mates Against Me! and Epoxies. The female-fronted group delivered catchy, in-your-face tunes in a way that ignited a wave of support. Too bad it didn’t last. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “Roller Girls”

    92. The Copyrights

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    Six albums and five EPs into their career, The Copyrights remain as reactionary as ever, adamantly refusing to acknowledge the fact that music didn’t actually begin with the Ramones and end with Screeching Weasel. Hell no, that’s not a criticism; not every punk band needs to start a revolution. On the contrary, the scene needs bands like The Copyrights to stomp around in the three-chord middle ground and remind us why we fell in love with this shit in the first place. You won’t find another band on this list that rocks harder or with a greater sense of urgency. This is beard punk for dudes who don’t have beards and haven’t yet drowned their aspirations in a pitcher of warm PBR. It’s lean, mean, and aimed straight for the jugular. –Collin Brennan


    Essential Track: “Kids of the Black Hole”

    91. Rufio


    Oh, Rufio. You just wanted to hold them. Set against Scott Sellers’ Muppet-like vocals, songs like “One Slowdance” and “Why Wait?” were almost unbearably earnest. What saved them from drowning in a sea of sugar was Mike Jimenez’s frantic, kit-crushing drum work, as well as a pair of guitarists who were heads and shoulders above many of their contemporaries. They released four albums before slowly splintering off in the late 2000s, but none coalesced quite like their 2001 debut, Perhaps, I Suppose, a sweet, adorably maudlin collection of songs that evokes an early, more spastic version of Saves the Day. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “Still”

    90. Lemuria


    Buffalo, New York’s Lemuria is a pop punk band that blurs the line of indie rock, with front person Sheena Ozzella’s gentle, sugary vocals and drummer Alex Kerns’ dry harmonies as comfortable on bouncy, straight-ahead rock songs as they are in moodier waters. The band’s rise more firmly plants their pop punk roots; Paramore’s Haley Williams helped the trio connect with Bridge 9 records to release their second and third albums. With only three albums and a collection of early releases over the course of 12 years, Lemuria are just as comfortable sharing bills with The Queers as they are with The Thermals, prime examples of a genre that’s shed its Warped Tour skate punk reputation over the last decade. –Philip Cosores

    Essential Track: “Chihuly”

    89. Mixtapes


    As of three years ago, Cincinnati, Ohio, band Mixtapes were still playing Warped Tour and seemingly destined for greatness. Vocalists/guitarists Maura Weaver and Ryan Rockwell had an undeniable charisma, and their bandmates, Paul Kupper and Boone Haley, didn’t seem to have any trouble keeping up. After three albums, including 2010’s Maps and 2013’s Ordinary Silence, the group called it quits, although it’s not clear whether or not that’s a permanent thing. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “I Accept That”

    88. Martha


    Sometimes the places that need pop punk most are the areas where suburbia has yet to take over. DIY four-piece Martha formed in a tiny village of 6,000 people called Pity Me (Yes, really) in northeast England. Though their self-descriptions sound more in line with a hardcore lifestyle (“Vegan, straight edge, and anarchist”), they churn out the spirit of Weezer and Radiator Hospital, honing their sound into the type of hooks that wiggle their way into your brain. Sure, they may only have two albums out, but Martha know how to make songs like “Present, Tense” and “Dust, Juice, Bones and Hair” ring with their own style while tempting you to pick up a guitar and figure out the tabs. The non-American accents help, too. –Nina Corcoran


    Essential Track: “Dust, Juice, Bones and Hair”

    87. Weston


    Before Beach Slang’s James Alex Snyder became a dad and started writing the kind of lyrics that teenagers rush to get tattooed on their bodies, he played guitar in a little band from Bethlehem, PA, called Weston. With sing-along lyrics like, “You are so retarded/ I must be retarded too,” this is about as far from poetry as punk can get, but you’d be [insert politically correct term for retarded] to discount Weston as pop-punk also-rans. Their first album for Go Kart Records, 1996’s Got Beat Up, is a genuine overlooked classic of the genre and a perfect artifact for explaining how pop-punk went from Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy to Saves the Day’s Through Being Cool in a matter of five years. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Retarded”

    86. Armchair Martian

    armchair martian

    They hail from Colorado, not Minnesota, but Armchair Martian make a case for what Hüsker Dü may have gone on to sound like if Bob Mould never embarked on a solo career. In other words, their 1997 self-titled album could have been the Hüskers’ own version of Pleased to Meet Me — the can-opener guitars and rich vocals making the listener ask why these guys never made it onto the radio when Social Distortion did. Anyway, that’s one too many reference points for an act that’s in a class all their own, so just ignore the alienating band name and listen to these guys. –Dan Caffrey

    Essential Track: “Crestfallen”

    85. Monsula


    Green Day may have blossomed into one of the biggest rock bands in the world, but the East Bay scene sprouted more than a few pop punk bands that never made waves in the mainstream. Monsula were staples at 924 Gilman Street in the mid-’90s heyday of Lookout! Records, but their sound was a little too rough around the edges (and eventually a little too indebted to Fugazi) to garner much attention beyond the West Coast. Still, the band’s Nickel 7-inch has become a bona fide collector’s item among pop punk diehards thanks to the sloppy, brokenhearted bliss of songs like “Razors” and “Firecracker”. –Collin Brennan


    Essential Track: “Razors”

    84. Sugarcult


    Sometimes the name really does say it all. Infinitely more pop than punk, Santa Barbara’s Sugarcult come across like the living, breathing, bouncing-off-the-walls embodiment of Jolt Cola. Few bands on this list sound more tailor-made for the Warped Tour stage, a fact that goes a long way in explaining Sugarcult’s biggest strength (they knew exactly what they were) and their fatal flaw (they lacked the distinctiveness of a Green Day or a Blink-182). Though they’ll probably remain a footnote in the greater history of pop punk, Sugarcult did everything they could to bring the genre closer to the mainstream. A case in point: The video for “Bouncing off the Walls”, which features Van Wilder star and future A-lister Ryan Reynolds (and Tara Reid, too!). –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Bouncing Off the Walls”

    83. Dear Landlord


    While No Idea Records doesn’t have the same presence in the punk scene as it did in the late ’90s and early 2000s, bands like Dear Landlord are a reminder why the small Florida-based label is still important. From the glass-gargling vocals to the economic guitar solos, the Midwestern quartet recalls older No Idea acts like Gunmoll, albeit with a higher currency on melody. They’ve only released one full-length thus far — 2009’s Heartbroken Handshakes — so hopefully their success won’t be as short-lived as some of their forefathers. –Dan Caffrey

    Essential Track: “I Live in Hell”

    82. Midtown


    Midtown felt phony. They cast themselves as emotive, cash-strapped artistes, but frontman Gabe Saporta was a Rutgers alum with well-documented business acumen, a quality that manifested when the band scored a cheesy intro video for the Real World Road Rules Challenge and took full advantage of its romantic proximity to a Real World cast member for screen time. There’s also Cobra Starship, the pandering cash machine he formed after Midtown. Set all that aside, though, and you’re still left with some pretty slick tunes. Their 2000 debut, Save the World Lose the Girl, opens with not only Midtown’s best songs, but also one of the best of that era: “Just Rock and Roll”, an infectious and meticulously crafted slice of teen angst. Their follow-ups weren’t half-bad, either, so long as you’re cool with listening to radio pop cloaked in punk’s clothing. I sure am. –Randall Colburn


    Essential Track: “Just Rock and Roll”

    81. Banner Pilot


    Of all the various subgenres that make up punk rock, pop punk seems the least interested in exploring the wide world beyond the status quo. Bands such as Minneapolis’ Banner Pilot show why this isn’t always such a bad thing. Hopelessly (some might say shamelessly) indebted to bands such as Jawbreaker, Dillinger Four, and The Lawrence Arms, these Midwestern beard punk acolytes have never tried to rewrite the book. Instead, they’re content to translate it into a slightly poppier text. Early EP Pass the Poison (2006) is a true ripper, but the band really rounded into form with 2009’s Collapser and the gruff melodies of songs like “Skeleton Key” and “Central Standard”. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Skeleton Key”

    80. ALL


    Rising from the ashes of the original incarnation of the Descendents, ALL got together in 1987 and featured former Descendents members Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez, and Stephen Egerton. Finding a permanent singer would prove to be nearly impossible — Dag Nasty/DYS singer Dave Smalley, Scott Reynolds, and Chad Price have all stepped into the role, although they never lasted too long. ALL’s 1998’s Mass Nerder and 2000’s Problematic are two of their strongest. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “The World’s on Heroin”

    79. Lagwagon


    Skate punk? This band was on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 soundtrack, and it was glorious. Touching on a certain amount of emotional sincerity (true stories for songs!) while also keeping a punk’s arm-length of irony away from being over-the-top-emotional (album title: Let’s Talk About Feelings!), the band drove the Fat Wreck Chords road to success in the ’90s and is still around today. Vocalist Joey Cape is best known to some as the guitarist in Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, but don’t let that fool you: he’s best in Lagwagon, bearing his heart over moshpits with a sneering smile. –Dan Bogosian

    Essential Track: “May 16”

    78. The Matches

    the matches

    The Matches joined Epitaph in 2004. Along with fellow labelmate Motion City Soundtrack, this heralded a shift away from “the tattooed, mohawk punks when you thought of the Epitaph catalog,” according to frontman Shawn Harris. The Oakland quartet’s discography encompasses just three studio albums — the last arriving in 2008 — yet they still managed to capture a dedicated following. After Harris left, the band entered a hiatus starting in 2009. They got back together again in 2014, though, with a sold-out reunion show in San Francisco. And last year, the band resurfaced with their easygoing “Life of a Match”/”Crucial Comeback Song (Mary Claire)” EP. –Killian Young


    Essential Track: “Chain Me Free”

    77. Spraynard


    Spraynard is a working-class band, the kind that garnered their sizable fan base while balancing an intensive touring schedule with day jobs back in their hometown of West Chester, PA. Their sound, muscular and anthemic, reflects that homespun grit, though it belies the band’s fierce strain of positivity. The trio often sing songs about the importance of friendship and community, and they’re noted in the scene for their progressive values and ethics. That, combined with fist-pumping songs that evoke Dude Ranch-era Blink and Northeast contemporaries like Iron Chic, make them an easy band to rally behind. Catch ‘em live and see for yourself — Spraynard fans are nothing if not loyal. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “Everywhere”

    76. Teenage Bottlerocket


    Another former member of the Fat Wreck Chords family, Teenage Bottlerocket hails from the vast open spaces of Laramie, Wyoming. Founded by twin brothers Ray and Brandon Carlisle, their catalog is peppered with influences ranging from Screeching Weasel to Misfits. Beginning with 2003’s Another Way and culminating with 2015’s Tales from Wyoming, each album is more polished than the last. Sadly, the band took a devestating blow in 2015 when Brandon was found dead at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was replaced by drummer Darren Chewka earlier this year. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “Skate or Die”

    75. Sum 41


    Get your pop punk on, Canada! One of the Great White North’s most memorably snotty exports is the quintet known as Sum 41. From the moment All Killer, No Filler gave the world a soundtrack to blast at skateparks and nights out in dad’s car, they’ve been power chording their way into our hearts. “Fat Lip” and “In Too Deep” may be the band’s best known offerings, but later albums like Does This Look Infected?, Chuck, and Underclass Hero confirm this is a group with staying power. Now that founding member Dave Baksh has potentially returned to the fold, Sum 41’s future looks as strong as ever. –Zack Ruskin


    Essential Track: “Fat Lip”

    74. Groovie Ghoulies


    Like a Misfits for the pop punk generation, Sacramento’s Groovie Ghoulies took equal inspiration from campy horror movies and the discography of some band called the Ramones. Lead singer and lean ball of energy Kepi Ghoulie never took himself as seriously as Glenn Danzig, but he committed to the shtick with the kind of go-getting enthusiasm it requires to pull off songs with titles like “(She’s My) Vampire Girl” and “Til Death Do Us Party”. The perfect Halloween band for a hot summer day, if that makes any sense at all. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “(She’s My) Vampire Girl”

    73. Parasites


    Lookout! Records didn’t make it far into the 21st century, but the legendary East Bay label pretty much had the ‘90s in a vice grip as far as pop punk was concerned. The Parasites may be the most prototypical Lookout! band from that era — loud, fast, and catchier than the goddamn Zika virus. If you opened up the chest of these Berkeley punks, you’d find a heart made of bubblegum and powered by an impressive string of singles and compilation appearances. If you like your pop punk with a thin layer of cheese and an extra dollop of earnestness, do yourself a favor and seek out the Hang Up 7-inch from 1997. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Hang Up”

    72. The Lillingtons

    The Lillingtons

    Wyoming isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when recalling the best breeding grounds for a pop punk scene, but sure enough The Lillingtons are from the tiny town of Newcastle. The Queers’ Joe King initially took interest in the four-piece and released their first 7”, I Lost My Marbles, in the late ‘90s. After Zack Rawhauser quit, Cory Laurence, Kody Templeman and Timmy V O’Hara continued on as a trio, often drawing comparisons to the Ramones. In 1996, they released their first official full-length, Shit Out of Luck. Three years later, their most interesting project to date, Death by Television, was released without any help from a record label and somehow managed to become their most revered album. After breaking up yet again, they briefly reunited for Riot Fest in 2013 and a Northeast tour the following year. –Kyle Eustice


    Essential Track: “War of the Worlds”

    71. American Hi-Fi

    american hi fi

    American Hi-Fi is the rare example of a band with a single that is probably more easily recalled than the name of the group responsible for it. “Flavor of the Weak” was pop punk perfection — stupid-catchy, a takedown of a jerk boyfriend, and a song that features the immortal lyrics “too stoned/ Nintendo.” What you may not know is that American Hi-Fi got their name from a suggestion The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards made personally to singer Stacy Jones. While “Flavor of the Weak” may have peaked in 2001, American Hi-Fi is still around today, shaming bad boyfriends for having pictures on the wall of all the girls they’ve loved before. –Zack Ruskin

    Essential Track: “Flavor of the Weak”

    70. Chinese Telephones

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    Screeching Weasel casts a long, weasel-shaped shadow that stretches far beyond Chicago’s city limits, occasionally snaking up the I-94 to settle in Milwaukee’s basements and bar venues. Chinese Telephones aren’t the first Midwestern band to ape Screeching Weasel’s snotty, three-chord ferocity, but they might be the best. The band’s self-titled 2007 debut came after years of mounting hype, and it proved that there’s more to their sound than the simplest comparisons suggest. But Chinese Telephones will always be remembered best by those who went to the shows, sang the songs, and offered up their sweat to the mix. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Back to You Again”

    69. The Vandals


    The Vandals were the clowns of the early ‘80s LA punk scene, favoring sarcasm and laughs over the sweaty aggression of contemporaries like T.S.O.L. and Black Flag. Consider it a sustainable approach, because The Vandals have been able to tailor their sound to a number of punk movements, from the rise of NOFX and Pennywise in the early ‘90s to the institution known as the Warped Tour. Though comparing early albums like When in Rome Do As the Vandals with turn-of-the-century fare like Internet Dating Super Studs might find cleaner production and brighter vocals, the band’s carefree ‘tude has remained intact. They’re reliable that way, a hilarious friend you can turn to when the last thing you want is to take any single thing seriously. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “My Girlfriend’s Dead”

    68. Tacocat


    If cities were identified on the color spectrum, Seattle would be gray. That’s not a dig. It’s just a fact that us locals have come to accept. Yet, it’s also a city that’s birthed Tacocat, one of the most colorful bands in the world, both literally and musically. Their vibrancy is a guiding light during the long winters and an essential come the hot summers. As an integral part of Seattle’s thriving feminist punk scene, they throw in loads of snark and humor while they grapple with woes like gentrification (“I Hate the Weekend”) and rampant sexism (“Men Explain Things to Me”). Even when things look miserable, their enthusiasm and chanting hooks make life just a little more bearable. –Dusty Henry


    Essential Track: “I Hate the Weekend”

    67. Fenix Tx


    Fenix TX weren’t innovators. Their riffs were standard, their lyrics bland, and much of their success can likely be credited to Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, who managed the band after his sister started dating guitarist Damon DeLaPaz. After a brief run as Riverfenix, the band was forced to change their name, leading to a self-titled debut in 1999 as Fenix TX, which found some success due to its “All My Fault” being used in MTV’s original movie Jailbat (they even have a cameo!). Hints of heavy metal and soaring alt-rock distinguished their 2001 follow-up, Lechuza, but nothing on the record had as memorable a hook as early single “Minimum Wage”, which today serves as a perfect portrait of pop punk as it stood at the turn of the century, when whatever fangs the genre still had were sanded down to nubs. The band’s probably best remembered as a gateway act, its pop leanings serving as an inviting lure for the better bands that bob beneath the surface. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “Minimum Wage”

    66. New Found Glory

    new found glory

    New Found Glory’s ascent in the late ’90s and early ’00s was intertwined with the glory days of Warped Tour, which also featured the likes of peak Green Day and Blink-182. Sticks and Stones and Catalyst still represent the band’s commercial peak, but 2006’s Coming Home remains a gem in their mid-career discography. Buoyed by jubilant piano flourishes, the album features strong melodies and more refined love songs. The band has also released two editions of From the Screen to Your Stereo, which covered songs from movie soundtracks (including a pretty damn good version of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”). –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “My Friends Over You”

    65. The Wonder Years

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    Dan Campbell is a man of many words. The Wonder Years’ songs are rife with righteous riffs and plenty of palm-muting, but it’s Campbell’s emphatic vocals that steal the show. He sings about the existential weight and self-loathing of your teens and 20s with emotion and insight, crafting songs that, despite their hyper-specific details, resonate for their universality. The band’s 2013 album, The Greatest Generation, remains their most fully realized effort, though its precursors are required listening for fidgety high schoolers, and their latest, last year’s No Closer to Heaven, points to a future sound that’s more reliant on intricate alt-rock than thunderous power chords. –Randall Colburn


    Essential Track: “Dismantling Summer”

    64. The Sidekicks


    There’s probably not much overlap between fans of The Sidekicks’ earliest releases and their latest album, last year’s Runners in the Nerved World. One of pop punk’s reigning concerns is the question of what constitutes “growing up”; for The Sidekicks, it was embracing warmth, melody, and pop songwriting. Not that the band was ever all that distanced from it; even on an early release like 2007’s So Long, Soggy Dog, the band was loud but never alienating, already brimming with ample bounce-alongs. Their career is, in many ways, a microcosm of pop punk’s evolution from sloppy, endearing crustiness to songwriting that’s shiny, emotive, and deceptively complex. Runners in the Nerved World could only be considered pop punk in our modern era, when aesthetic and ethos seem as considered as much as the music. Regardless, it’s bound to please anyone who loves a good hook. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “DMT”

    63. All Time Low

    All Time Low

    All Time Low scored their first big hit with the single “Dear Maria, Count Me In”, which would eventually go platinum. Taken from So Wrong, It’s Right, that song and the rest of the band’s sophomore LP has aged solidly due to its straightforward pop hooks that evoke high school night drives, beer-soaked parties, and evenings spent gazing up at the stars. (Sure, “We’re the party/ You’re the people” isn’t Shakespeare, but the record still captures the blissful simplicity of being a teenager.) After emerging from the suburbs of Baltimore, the band have sustained their dedicated fanbase with every album since: Each cracked the Top 10 of Billboard’s charts, with their most recent effort, Future Hearts, skyrocketing all the way to #2. –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “Six Feet Under the Stars”

    62. Latterman


    There’s a certain style of pop punk that only truly makes sense in a live setting — the kind where every song is a shout-along, every riff is a ripper, and every moment feels like a life-or-death struggle between the good guys (everyone in the room) and the bad (everyone else). It wouldn’t be accurate to say that New York’s Latterman invented this style, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they perfected it. The group’s seminal album No Matter Where We Go…! married melody and ferocity in a way that hasn’t really been duplicated since, so long as you don’t count all the bands (RVIVR, Iron Chic, Tender Defender) that Latterman’s members eventually went on to form. –Collin Brennan


    Essential Track: “My Bedroom Is Like for Artists”

    61. The All-American Rejects


    There is pop punk that struggles on the fringes, making its way by touring hard and paying dues for years, and then there is The All-American Rejects. The band that formed in high school in Stillwater, Oklahoma, saw their first single (“Swing, Swing”) from their first album reach the top 10 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart thanks to the major label support of Dreamworks. It wasn’t a fluke and the band went on to have a notable career, complete with even bigger hits like “Dirty Little Secret” and “Move Along”. It might be the fact that they often diverge from pop punk with sentimental ballads or straight-ahead, radio-ready pop rock (i.e. their biggest pop hit, “Gives You Hell”) that becomes their defining trait. Still, the band has jams for days, and their piece of the pop punk legacy is firmly in place. –Philip Cosores

    Essential Track: “Dirty Little Secret”

    60. together PANGEA


    Santa Clarita’s together PANGEA have to be the freakiest act to ever land a deal with the GAP. Originally known as Pangea, the greasy punks churned out releases through DIY torchbearers like Lost Sound Tapes and Burger Records before finding the right balance of manic fury on their breakthrough record, Badillac. Lead vocalist William Keegan’s sneering vocals blend feverishly with the twisting guitar riffs on the record, reaching peak anthemic aesthetic on tracks like “River”. They represent the darker side of the California punk scene, the side that’s not afraid to devolve into a menacing jam session and puke outside the van after a show. –Dusty Henry

    Essential Track: “River”

    59. All Dogs


    Songwriter Maryn Jones has showcased her poetic prowess in acts like Saintseneca and Yowler, but it shines best atop the blaring guitars of All Dogs. Since its early days, pop punk was full of brokenhearted troubadours fielding their angst with distortion. Jones maximizes this idea with jarring portraits of her hollowed self. On “Black Hole”, she compares herself to the destructive regions of space, watching as everything she touches “slowly turns to dust.” Elsewhere on “Not That Kind of Girl’, she empowers herself and other scorned lovers. Whatever state of heartbreak she’s in, she always finds the best words to describe it. –Dusty Henry

    Essential Track: “Black Hole”

    58. Pinhead Gunpowder

    Pinhead Gunpowder

    Sure, Pinhead Gunpowder may not be the main attraction for Billie Joe Armstrong — that honor belongs rightfully to Green Day — but don’t confuse them for a side project. Pinhead Gunpowder is the product of Aaron Cometbus, a fixture in the East Bay punk scene. Paired with Armstrong’s guitar and vocals, and assists from fellow Green Day member Jason White and bassist Bill Schneider, the group have been elusively dropping brash lo-fi tracks since 1990. Though, in the same span, they’ve released precious few albums and played a total of less than 20 shows, the magic lives on in the hopes that another surprise Pinhead Gunpowder event could always be around the corner. –Zack Ruskin


    Essential Track: “West Side Highway”

    57. Smoking Popes

    smoking popes

    No one in pop punk sounds quite like Josh Caterer, vocalist of suburban Chicago quartet Smoking Popes. Josh and his brothers Eli and Matt started out playing straight punk, though their frontman’s growing love for Elvis Costello rounded his baritone even smoother and sharpened the quirky edges of his lyrics. Self-deprecating, lovelorn tunes like “Pretty Pathetic” (later covered by another band in this list, The Ataris) hook into the emotions a little deeper through Caterer’s voice than they might with the expected teenage angst-yelp of your average pop punk vocalist. Their moment fizzled a bit after an appearance on the Clueless soundtrack and the accompanying massive expectations for another hit, but they have since returned, Josh’s voice still ringing out sweetly throughout the Midwest. –Adam Kivel

    Essential Track: “Need You Around”

    56. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

    Me First

    Me First and the Gimme Gimmes might just be pop punk at its most purely distilled. No, seriously. The punk cover supergroup are gonna rock your face off and show you a darn good time. The guitars are frantic, the drums relentless, the vocals a mighty howl, and the songs straight from other artists’ greatest hits catalogs. Paula Abdul? ROCK! Dolly Parton? ROCK! “Sloop John B.”? ROCK ROCK ROCK! It’s so honest, so exactly what it is, and so much goddamn fun. Who needs originals? Long live the Gimmes. –Allison Shoemaker

    Essential Track: “I Believe I Can Fly”

    55. Cayetana


    Philadelphia’s Cayetana is one of the freshest bands on this list, but also one of the acts overflowing with potential. The band met and formed in their twenties, with none of the three members even able to play instruments yet, which makes them about as definitively punk as possible. But you would never know that hearing the group’s 2014 debut, Nervous Like Me, where confident melodies and performances are sold through frontperson Augusta Koch’s untamed, charming vocals. It’s spirited music from people that wouldn’t let something like experience come in the way of musical ambitions. –Philip Cosores


    Essential Track: “Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving”

    54. Panic! At the Disco


    Panic! at the Disco’s platinum debut album arrived hot on the heels of Fall Out Boy’s massive success with From Under the Cork Tree, inviting a persistent comparison from early in the Las Vegas band’s career. To be fair, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out remains far weirder than any of Fall Out Boy’s early material, blending a theatrical, baroque style with synth-pop and punk. Outside of powerhouse vocalist Brendon Urie, the band’s been a revolving door of backing members. This has supported the group’s chameleon-like evolution, from the underrated, Beatles-esque Pretty.Odd to the grandiose pop juggernaut (and first #1 album) Death of a Bachelor. –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “Build God, Then We’ll Talk”

    53. Something Corporate


    Hold up. Before you start typing a winding, heated comment about Something Corporate’s place on this list because of a 10-minute piano ballad, hear us out. From their formation in 1998 to their dissolve in 2006, the OC act wiggled their way into the pop punk scene by bringing love-filled, emo-like lyrics into a combination of anthemic chords and rock riffs — even in Christmas songs. A good chunk of their work is technically alt-rock, but another section is pop punk in its structure, particularly their biggest hits like “Punk Rock Princess” or “I Woke Up In a Car”. Something Corporate fostered a cult following shortly after the release of their debut LP, Ready… Break, in 2000, in part because of Andrew McMahon’s intense delivery, boy-next-door charm, and (later) his unfortunate battle with cancer, but it was 2002’s Leaving Through the Window that launched their yelled lines and sloppy-yet-tight melodies into the mainstream. It seems counter-intuitive to call a band with a pianist frontman pop punk, but Something Corporate made it work; every sold out show on their 2010 reunion tour proved that much to be true, as did the impulse to flip off anyone named Jordan that you met. —Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “I Woke Up in a Car”

    52. Sludgeworth


    One of the more short-lived bands on this list, Sludgeworth began as a Screeching Weasel side project featuring Dan Schafer and Brian Vermin. The Chicago group released their first and only record in 1991 and then went gently into that good night, but not before establishing an incredible blueprint for melodic punk rock that bands like The Ataris would later take to heart. Sludgeworth aspired to a lot more than the phrase “Screeching Weasel side project” might imply, and those aspirations eventually contributed to the band breaking up over creative differences. Listen to a song like the soaring “Someday”, however, and you’ll witness a real flash of brilliance that came at the very beginning of pop punk’s breakout decade. –Collin Brennan


    Essential Track: “Someday”

    51. Tiltwheel


    Despite sticking around for two decades, Tiltwheel released a mere three LPs — two if you don’t count Battle Hymns for the Recluse Youth. To be fair, the San Diego fellas are way more into playing live than they are about sitting in a studio. After forming in 1991, Davey Quinn, Bob MacPherson, and Aaron Regan saw the band’s lineup shift, but never the sound, due to personal differences and tragedies, including the death of bassist Jarrod Preston Adams. Yet for all the difficulties, Tiltwheel have gone through, the band never altered its punk ethics, clinging to the underground scene and putting out limited copies of their releases. To this day, they’re still revered for their Jawbreaker-esque hooks. Rumor has it Tom DeLonge filled in on guitar for a few tour dates several years ago, too, but only Davey himself can speak to the truth of that. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Fuck You This Place Is Dead Anyway”

    50. The Donnas


    The Donnas may have stood on the shoulders of giants, but they dug their heels in a bit while they were up there. At first, they sounded like the Ramones by way of The Runaways, then more like KISS, but without the makeup or the penises. It’s easy to project what one wants onto them — with their cock-rock ethos and bad girl lyrics, were they flicking off a misogynistic industry or selling out to make it big? But whatever you may think of their motives, it can’t be denied that with records like Get Skintight and Spend the Night, The Donnas throw a hell of a party. — Allison Shoemaker

    Essential Track: “Take It Off”

    49. Lifetime


    It’s telling that Lifetime shares its name with the (sometimes) heartfelt cable channel. We mean that as a compliment. Where many of their melodic-hardcore contemporaries turned to anger and political ranting, the boys from New Brunswick have always favored sweeter lyrics, or at least ones that carry a heavy dose of humor and introspection. Even their 2005 reunion statement reads like a well-written yearbook dedication, brimming with how much they all love playing with one another. That camaraderie carries over to the spirited playing on tracks like “Airport Monday Morning” and “Rodeo Clown”. –Dan Caffrey

    Essential Track: “Airport Monday Morning”

    48. Sicko


    If you’ve waded this far into the list and don’t recognize the name of Seattle three-piece Sicko, drop everything and go check out their entire discography now (thankfully, Red Scare made this easy by reissuing digital versions of the band’s first four albums back in 2009). Think of Sicko as the Pacific Northwest’s answer to everything that was going on in the East Bay at roughly the same time; their sound evinces shades of Jawbreaker and J Church, though a tad goofier and slightly more uptempo. Ironically, the band’s most “essential” song may well be their fantastic cover of Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine”. Pop punk — it takes all kinds! –Collin Brennan


    Essential Track: “Escalator Video”

    47. Face to Face


    Face to Face emerged from the same early ‘90s SoCal scene as The Offspring and Guttermouth, but their sound was infinitely more textured. Early single “Disconnected”, the standout track from their ‘92 debut, serves as a fine primer to the band’s melodious harmonizing and aggressive instrumentation, which anchored itself on the battering ram that is frontman Trever Keith’s voice. Face to Face eventually found themselves on Vagrant Records (home of Saves the Day and Hey Mercedes), but could never quite find a place in the turn-of-the-century pop punk boom. After a brief split, the band is still touring, having released a new record, Protection, this year. They still sound like Face to Face, and, for that, we’re grateful. –Randall Colburn

    Essential Track: “Disconnected”

    46. The Mr. T Experience


    One of the cornerstone bands of Berkley’s fabled Gilman Street scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, The Mr. T Experience were getting their heads around this pop punk thing some 10 years before it was primed for huge, mainstream success. All you have to do is listen to “On the Team” from 1989’s Big Black Bugs Bleed Blue Blood to see where those Green Day critters got some of their loud, sugary cues from. The Bay Area band never rose above cult status, but MTX was one of the early bands mapping out the sonic blueprint for generations of pop punkers to come. –Ryan Bray

    Essential Track: “On the Team”

    45. Reggie and the Full Effect


    To understand Reggie and the Full Effect, you have to understand James Dewees’ humor or, at the very least, the role comedy plays in the band’s existence. The Get Up Kids’ keyboardist created his solo project when Matt Pryor heard a cassette tape of four songs Dewees was handing out as a joke. After convincing him to record more, Pryor got Dewees into the studio in 1998, the result of which was the first Reggie and the Full Effect album, Greatest Hits 1984-1987. While there’s quality humor both in the titles of Dewees’ albums (Promotional Copy or No Country for Old Musicians, anyone?) and their videos (the courtship of peanut butter and jelly or a synth battle over street dancing), he maintains enough self-awareness in the music to not let it override the genuinely good pop punk he sang over. The release of 2005’s Songs Not to Get Married To saw Reggie and the Full Effect garner the praise they deserved. Their biggest hit, “Get Well Soon”, summed up why. While the song’s video — an entertaining clip of the Loch Ness monster’s descent into post-divorce depression — is hard to disassociate from the song, its chorus of hopelessness and bitter resignation felt relatable despite a puppet chugging shots onscreen. –Nina Corcoran


    Essential Track: “Get Well Soon”

    44. Say Anything


    You can say what you want about Max Bemis’ early days: he was an amazing songwriter with a strange set of issues. (At one point, he believed he was always being filmed for a documentary, and when he met strangers on the street, he thought he was meeting with friends in a film. You can’t make that up.) But that sort of madness also led to more than an album’s worth of mad-scientist-like genius: …Is a Real Boy, …Was a Real Boy, and even In Defense of the Genre reach a sort of greatness few artists ever come close to reaching. “Admit it!!!” in particular reaches a level of social-awareness that bands like Sorority Noise and Modern Baseball have rose to fame writing about too, but back in 2004, it was mind-blowing. They’ve changed since — no more Coby Linder on drums means Say Anything is only Bemis — but Bemis will always have his car and his guitar. For that, we’re grateful. –Dan Bogosian

    Essential Track: “Admit it!!!”

    43. MxPx


    Growing up near Bremerton, I couldn’t imagine anyone actually trying to convince someone to move there. Therein lies the brilliance of MxPx’s “Move to Bremerton”. Their pleas aren’t so much a vie for tourism but a massive upsell to get a crush closer to you, even if it means her relocating to a naval town without much going on. It’s a sentiment that runs throughout the band’s discography. They took skate punk sounds and made them about failings of love and heartbreak. They might not be the first band to do it, but few executed it with as much finesse. –Dusty Henry

    Essential Track: ”Move to Bremerton”

    42. The Distillers


    Pop punk might not be the easiest classification for The Distillers, given mastermind Brody Dalle’s gravelly voice, the group’s gruff presentation, and the band reminding of the Misfits’ most accessible moments. But at its heart, the group’s ascension, and particularly their final record and major label debut, Coral Fang, hit on many of the same anthemic gutter rockers that groups like Rancid and Pennywise made famous. Some pop punk could kick your ass, and though The Distillers only existed for three records in eight years, they might go down as one of the most intimidating outfits in the genre’s history. –Philip Cosores


    Essential Track: “Drain the Blood”

    41. Sweet Baby

    Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 4.17.28 PM

    Before Green Day and Blink-182, there was Sweet Baby. Formed in 1986 by Berkeley native Dallas Denery, the group was originally called Sweet Baby Jesus. Guitarist Matt Buenrostro, bassist Crispy Jim, and drummer Dr. Frank completed the original lineup, which would later become a revolving door of members. Not surprisingly, they broke up in 1987 without releasing a single album, but reformed a year later. One of the group’s only albums, It’s a Girl!, drew influences from the Ramones, Beatles, Undertones, Beach Boys, and Chiffons. Completed in 1989, it didn’t get the push it deserved until Lookout! Records gained the rights to the music several years later. Green Day changed its name from Sweet Children to avoid any confusion. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “Gotta Get a Girl”

    40. Less Than Jake

    To some, Less Than Jake’s tried-and-true blend of punk, ska, and power-pop is catnip. To others, it’s anything but. One thing that can’t be denied, however, is that these dudes know a thing or two about longevity and a few things more about showing their audiences a really, really good time. They’ve had missteps here and there — you try being a band for more than 20 years without releasing the occasional dud — but nearly a quarter century later, they’re still letting loose those horns, hooks, and that top-notch sense of humor. It may not be your cup of tea, but you can’t deny it’s as sweet as Pez candy. –Allison Shoemaker

    Essential Track: “The Science of Selling Yourself Short”

    39. The Dickies


    The Dickies are one of the first pop punk bands, leaning into more Ramones-style silliness and bubblegum-influenced melodies than the aggressive sounds of their LA counterparts. The presence of electric piano and saxophone doubles down on the ‘60s-inspired sound and their high-octane covers classics of rock and pop tunes straddle the line between punk rock snottiness and reverence. The band’s best known tune is arguably the theme song to 1988’s cult-classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space and puts their pop tunefulness (and sense of humor) on display with hooks around every corner and a killer carnival-inspired guitar lick that could only work in this song. –Mike Vanderbilt

    Essential Track: “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”

    38. Taking Back Sunday


    While they may not have ever garnered the critical acclaim of their fellow Long Island rivals (are they friends again?) in Brand New, Taking Back Sunday’s lasting impact on the genre is perhaps even more pronounced. While the rotating array of members implied the drama in their songs was far from fictional, they had a flair for bringing theatrical angst into their music, boosted by the inclusion of two lead singers who would often sing dueling hooks at the same time. One of the few emo bands to truly cross into the mainstream with three gold records and two that debuted in the top five, Taking Back Sunday knew how to inspire fervent devotion with shameless, emotional yearning that has aged better than you remember it. –David Sackllah


    Essential Track: “Cute Without the “E” (Cut from the Team)”

    37. The Ataris

    The Ataris

    Before relocating from Anderson, IN, to the sunnier climes of Santa Barbara, CA, Kris Roe and The Ataris were a pretty good pop punk band that managed to break up the three-chord monotony with cheekily titled songs (“Angry Nerd Rock”) and the occasional Jawbreaker cover (seriously, check out “Boxcar” from their 1997 debut, Anywhere But Here). The next stage of their career found them knee-deep in pop punk’s late-‘90s heyday, even contributing one of its most enduring anthems in “San Dimas High School Football Rules”. Roe and Co. hardly resembled a pop punk band by the time So Long, Astoria dropped in 2003, opting for a more self-serious sound that thankfully didn’t suck the fun out of their only true smash hit, a cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “San Dimas High School Football Rules”

    36. Unwritten Law


    They’re not as splashy as most pop punk acts, but Unwritten Law’s punk-revival songs embrace the pop side of the genre in their structure. The southern California band go hand in hand with summer songs despite ditching the tones of giddy hits. The hooks of 2002’s Elva and 2005’s Here’s to the Mourning, particularly “Seein’ Red” and “Save Me”, launched them into the national spotlight as their original punk formula began taking on the natural shifts and chord progressions of pop. It was that change that made their angsty lyrics all the more fun to sing along to, even if they took themselves a little too seriously to admit it, and allows their songs to stay fresh over 10 years later. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Save Me”

    35. Modern Baseball


    “Where many second-wave pop punk and emo songwriters would respond to romantic rejection by shaming the opposite sex,” wrote our own Dan Caffrey in a Pitchfork piece about Modern Baseball, “Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald strive for something more even-handed.” File that as one of several ways the Philly-based quartet has become the thinking kid’s band of choice. They pin down what it’s like to feel like shit without ever becoming self-indulgent. Each successive record has been less about not getting the girl and more about the big things: mortality, addiction, mental illness, friendship, and the kind of ache that even pizza and aspirin won’t cure. Attaboys. –Allison Shoemaker


    Essential Track: “Rock Bottom”

    34. Wavves


    By now, it should be obvious how good San Diego is at churning out quality pop punk bands. Blame it on the beach or the lack of LA pretension, but the city knows how to influence its acts. While it’s easy to clump Wavves in with the ever-growing, continually-vague umbrella of indie rock (they’re too formulaic for that) or the carefree vibes and drum-heavy sound of surf rock (singing about the beach doesn’t equate to surf music), both those genres lack the accuracy that pop punk has in regards to their music. It’s a new style of pop punk that doesn’t feel the need to represent the values of punk just because they keep the tone of it. In just over 30 minutes, 2010’s King of the Beach offers back-to-back songs of pure pop punk goodness fed through fuzz pedals (“Post Acid”) and relentless drumming (“Super Soaker”). They keep the caliber high on Afraid of Heights and V, too, showing little signs of slowing down. For guys who smoke a ton of weed, Wavves never seem to run out of energy. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Post Acid”

    33. The Starting Line

    the starting line

    There’s a heartfelt, naive type of emotion at the core of The Starting Line that never truly left their music. Maybe it’s because frontman Kenny Vasoli started the group when he was 14 years old. Maybe it’s because this was 1999 and effusive confessions sounded cooler than they do now. Maybe it’s because the band knew that if delivered correctly, their lines would be yelled back to them at shows by thousands of die-hard fans. Whatever the reason, the Philly act signed to Drive-Thru Records in 2001 and released their debut LP, Say It Like You Mean It, the following year. With songs like “The Best of Me” and “Hello Houston”, it’s a staple in the pop punk genre. As they grew up and stopped dying their hair, they put out full-lengths that worked seamlessly from front to back like 2005’s Based on a True Story and 2007’s Directon, even while zoning in on tighter production. They quit at a high point — calling a hiatus in 2008 — only to return for several live shows and, as of February of this year, an EP, reminding us what it’s like when a pop punk band knows how to be gushy and heartfelt without making guitar lines that are soft to match and, in turn, songs that are still worth blasting on roadtrips. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “The Best of Me”

    32. Fastbacks


    Formed in 1979, singer-guitarists Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo lent the trio an innocence hard to capture in the punk rock genre, but somehow they did it with their pop tendencies. Although they broke up in 2001, they have reunited on occasion for one-off performances, bringing the initial magic they delivered at the height of their career. They do an interesting cover of Mudhoney’s “Swallow My Pride”, too. –Kyle Eustice


    Essential Track: “Swallow My Pride”

    31. Pennywise


    Talk about exhaustive. Hermosa Beach’s Pennywise managed to release an album every two years on Epitaph throughout the ’90s and the early aughts. Lead singer Jim Lindberg’s throaty anthems soundtracked the lives of every self-respecting skater, thanks to sticky psalms like “Perfect People”, “Same Old Story”, “Society”, and, naturally, “Bro Hymn (Tribute)”, their now-iconic ode to their late bass player, Jason Thirsk. They’ve had their ups and downs — Lindberg even jumped ship for a short while — but it’s really been the same ol’ story for these guys since the beginning. Why fix what’s not broken? — Michael Roffman

    Essential Track: “Perfect People”

    30. FIDLAR


    When your dad played in T.S.O.L., it’s probably hard not to get into punk music. That’s the case with Elvis and Max Kuehn, who make up half of FIDLAR. The LA quartet got their start playing raucous house shows, which often ended when the police showed up. As the punks burst on the scene with their balls-to-the-wall self-titled, the band paid homage to the pillars of rock ‘n’ roll: hedonism, drugs, and booze. Despite earlier songs like “Cocaine” and “Wake Bake Skate”, this self-destructive lifestyle had disastrous results that nearly ruined the band. Frontman Zac Carper delved into getting clean and growing up on the band’s sophomore effort, Too. The instrumentation remains mostly the same — punchy, fast, loud — but this time around Carper realized a harsh truth: “Life just sucks when you get sober.” –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “40 Oz. on Repeat”

    29. that dog.

    that dog

    A big chunk of alt-rock acts have that dog. to thank for learning how to wring layered vocal harmonies until they’re not oversweetened. The Los Angeles four-piece formed in 1991 and broke up several years later in 1997, but their hits still get passed around in DIY communities today. How could they not when guitarist Anna Waronker, bassist Rachel Haden, and violinist Petra Haden all contributed vocals in a way that stands out from the rest of the pack? They lightened power chords so that That Dog and Totally Crushed Out! don’t exhaust after repeat listens. They used violin without getting gimmicky. They knew how to strengthen melodies so well that several members contributed vocals to albums by Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, and more. For a band full of understated talent, that dog.’s biggest secret was their ability to effortlessly flip the ever-popular crush song pop punk acts seem bent on writing, creating their own versions that didn’t get as sappy but instead were self-aware. I mean, really. Listen to “Long Island” and try to argue that isn’t one of the most infectious crush songs out there. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Never Say Never”

    28. The Queers


    Back in 1981, a little band called The Queers popped up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Frontman Joe King, who then dubbed himself Joe Queer, gathered a group together to play rowdy, sweaty live shows for a few years before breaking up in 1984, later reforming in two years with a new lineup. It was only in 1990 that they released their first album, Grow Up. It’s an appropriate title given the band’s name. During their formation (and still at times today), their moniker caused controversy not just because none of the members have identified as being queer (and hence seem to profit off both the struggles and support of the LGBTQ community), but because Joe Queer supposedly named the band such in order to poke fun at the self-described “Art Fag” community in New Hampshire. Whatever hate others may initially expect to find in their music is quickly erased by songs like “Can’t Stop Farting” and “I Didn’t Get Invited to the Prom”, which waste no time making fun of trivial topics. Their Ramones-style punk brings simplicity to the forefront, paving the way for numerous street punk acts that followed in later years. Even when they quelled the goofing around for numbers like “Little Rich Working Class Oi Boy”, The Queers were able to shift the focus of punk material from the faults of the upper class and commercialism to the hypocrisies of their own starting points — offering a little more awareness than their poorly chosen name suggests. –Nina Corcoran


    Essential Track: “Punk Rock Girls”

    27. Cloud Nothings


    The moment Cloud Nothings made a record with Steve Albini, the Nirvana comparisons were going to be inescapable. Honestly, they’re not off base either. More than anything, songwriter Dylan Baldi has always been a melody man. The project started out as a solo bedroom pop project before evolving into a thrashing full band. Those formative years developed the core of what makes Cloud Nothings great. The hooks and self-deprecation are still there, just with layers of fuzz and propulsion from one of the best drummers in the scene right now, Jayson Gerycz. These are songs about growing up, hating life, and repeating the same mistakes. Isn’t that what pop punk is really about anyway? –Dusty Henry

    Essential Track: “Wasted Days”

    26. Millencolin


    Who knew a bunch of Swedish kids could be so goddamn catchy? That’s Millencolin, a one-time smörgåsbord of hooks, melodies, and oddball lyrics. Seriously. So many afternoons were spent trying to decipher Nikola Sarcevic’s bizarre poetry, from duck ponds to penguins and polar bears to whatever the hell jellygoose is. Most will point to 2000’s epic Pennybridge Pioneers as a must-own pop-punk album (and they’re certainly not wrong; see: “No Cigar”, “Material Boy”), but the rugged terrain they explored on earlier albums like 1995’s Life on a Plate and 1997’s For Monkeys remains a delectable blend of ska and punk. It doesn’t matter how old you are, that chorus on “Lozin’ Must” is a scorching swig of high school angst. Woo wee. –Michael Roffman

    Essential Track: “No Cigar”

    25. Joyce Manor

    Joyce Manor

    2016 pop punk looks a lot different than it did in 2001, but if you were to trace the lineage forward from its beginnings, Joyce Manor would be the current torch bearers. Informed by indie rock, emo, and hardcore as well, the South Bay four-piece is the present-day representation of Warped Tour and skate culture’s influence. Revered by a young and enthusiastic following, the band has offered up three LPs and a milk crate of EPs that continually hone and refine an artistic vision. The band doesn’t opt for candy-sweet harmonies, allowing frontperson Barry Johnson to hover outside his range and lean on a strong screaming ability, all without ever losing sight of a hook-first songwriting approach. Who said pop punk couldn’t please the critics, too? –Philip Cosores


    Essential Track: “Falling in Love Again”

    24. Propagandhi


    Among the earliest bands to sign to Fat Wreck Chords, Propagandhi doesn’t get enough credit for its contributions to the pop punk form. None other than Fat Mike himself credited the band’s ripping 1993 debut, How to Clean Everything, with helping lay down the now-classic Fat Wreck sound. The Winnipegers’ ferociously progressive politics have been outdone over the years only by their sound, which over time has morphed from blitzing pop punk into hell-raising metal riffage. Simply put, one of the truest, purest, and influential bands in the pop punk game. –Ryan Bray

    Essential Track: “Ska Sucks”

    23. Fall Out Boy


    Back before the NFL used their songs or Demi Lovato and Suzanne Vega made cameos, Fall Out Boy were busy mastering the art of puns and hooks. Looking back, it’s strange to acknowledge Fall Out Boy’s first members — bassist Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman — were staples in Chicago’s hardcore punk scene. By the time singer Patrick Stump and, after several rotating drummers, Andy Hurley joined the band, Fall Out Boy found their footing and released their debut full-length, the lo-fi and straightforward pop punk Take This to Your Grave, responsible for solid songs like “Calm Before the Storm”, but those paled in comparison to the hits of From Under the Cork Tree. Say what you want; there’s no denying their 2005 LP was chock-full of dramatic hooks, hyperbolic titles, and punchy guitar sections. From the camera shutters of opener “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” to the immediately recognizable bassline of “Dance Dance”, From Under the Cork Tree saw a pop punk band carving out a distinguished sound that they owned with total confidence. With it, they single-handedly revitalized label Fueled by Ramen in the process. Though Fall Out Boy ditched punk for commercial pop — starting with “Thanks fr th Mmrs” into “I Don’t Care” and “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” — the band’s early records still showcase their skill at crafting memorable, original pop punk that deserve more credit than critics give them. –Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”

    22. Bomb the Music Industry!


    With a rambunctious and progressive energy, Baldwin, New York’s Bomb the Music Industry! amassed a cult of fans with the band’s steadfast DIY philosophies: 1) All music will be released for free through a donation-based record label and 2) Live shows will be all ages with tickets costing no more than $10, and if you want a shirt, you can bring a blank one to the show where they’ll spray paint a stencil on for you. With punk savant Jeff Rosenstock at the helm, Bomb the Music Industry’s self-deprecating, last-party-you’ll-ever-be-invited-to anthems made being estranged and indecisive in your 20s perfectly okay. –Sean Barry


    Essential Track: “Syke! Life Is Awesome!”

    21. Motion City Soundtrack


    Motion City Soundtrack’s upbeat, eclectic sound — led by singer Justin Pierre’s high-pitched voice and Jesse Johnson’s Moog synthesizer — helped set the Minneapolis band apart from the crowded pop-punk field. Emo music in the early aughts has been rightly criticized for creating oversimplified objects of affection for its lovelorn singers, but Pierre excelled at writing songs that examined the neuroticism inherent in relationships from a variety of perspectives. (“Hold Me Down” takes the viewpoint of Pierre’s lover during a breakup; “Time Turned Fragile” assumes the voice of his father; and “Antonia” details his wife’s quirks and his excitement for the arrival of his daughter.) After their solid debut LP, the band released three excellent mid-career records: two produced by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus (Commit This to Memory, My Dinosaur Life) and one produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek (Even If It Kills Me). Motion City Soundtrack recently announced they would call it quits after this final tour, and their distinct sound will surely be missed. –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “Hold Me Down”

    20. My Chemical Romance

    My chemical romance

    Never trust anyone who doesn’t list My Chemical Romance as one of their guilty pleasure bands. Sure, they were easy to make fun of with their over-the-top theatrics and a core of fans who only hung out at Hot Topic, but My Chemical Romance (who has now gone to join the Black Parade themselves) were all the better for it. So while you rolled your eyes at the “Helena” video for being too on the nose or making “Welcome to the Black Parade” meme-worthy, MCR were making some genuinely solid albums in the mid-aughts that energized and inspired an entire generation, whether they’d like to admit it or not. –Sean Barry

    Essential Track: “Helena”

    19. J Church


    Named for a Muni Metro light rail line in San Francisco, J Church have obvious ties to the punk sound that emerged from the Bay Area in the early ‘90s. Born from the ashes of another group called Cringer, the quietly but hugely influential band cycled through an impressive number of musicians throughout its career, but the one constant was vocalist and songwriter Lance Hahn. They jokingly called themselves “the band you love to hate,” but J Church endeared themselves to fans in the Bay and across the world with lean, spry punk songs that always knew when to get heavy and when to pull back. When Hahn died of complications from kidney dialysis in 2007, the punk scene lost one of its true unsung heroes. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “November”

    18. Saves the Day


    Through Being Cool is, to many people, the pinnacle of pop punk and the epitome of emo. It’ll never be the biggest or the most popular album, and it may not even be the best (though it sure comes close), but what that album did was establish the musical tropes every band since has come to water down, knock off, and wear thin. You can still listen to Saves the Day and see amazing musicians play every note like it’s their last, like everything matters more than anything before it, like every word was the only thing that needed to be sung, like pop punk was the only way to convey a personal connection. They’ve evolved and often go into other genres, but we’ll always know that Chris Conley and his crew of instrumentalists were some of the first guys to bear their soul through the hardcore scene and ended up leading the pack of a new scene entirely. For that, I’m grateful. –Dan Bogosian


    Essential Track: “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic”

    17. The Get Up Kids


    Caught between the dueling (and, to the greater public, indistinguishable) worlds of punk and emo, The Get Up Kids never quite fit in during their first decade-long stint. For starters, they were the first pop punk band to lean heavily on synthesized keyboards, a element that adds a simple, attractive power pop counterpoint to rein in the all-over-the-fretboard guitar melodies. While it might not have appealed to the bratty skate punks of the early ‘90s or the black nail polish crowd of the early ‘00s, the band’s 1999 classic, Something to Write Home About, still ranks among pop punk’s greatest achievements for a certain age group that, like The Get Up Kids themselves, always seemed caught between trends. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “I’m a Loner Dottie, a Rebel”

    16. Screeching Weasel

    Screeching Weasel

    Hailing from the Chicago suburb of Prospect Heights, Screeching Weasel’s sole original member, Ben Weasel, has tried to keep the band going since 1986, despite numerous breakups and makeups and lineup changes. Beginning with 1987’s self-titled effort, the group has 13 albums under its belt, including 1988’s Boogadaboogadaboogada!, 1991’s My Brain Hurts on Lookout! Records, and 1996’s Bark Like a Dog on Fat Wreck Chords. With influences such as the Ramones, Black Flag and D.O.A., Screeching Weasel are often mentioned in the same breath as Jawbreaker and Operation Ivy. They’ve laid the foundation for subsequent pop punk bands like The All-American Rejects and Green Day. In fact, Blink-182 did a cover of Screeching Weasel’s “The Girl Next Door” in 1994. This year marks Screeching Weasel’s 30th anniversary, and in honor of the momentous occasion, they booked a handful of reunion shows, beginning July 16th in Santa Ana, California, and wrapping up September 24 in Pittsburgh. In 2015, Screeching Weasel released the crowd-funded “punk rock opera” Baby Fat: Act I. Baby Fat: Act II is supposedly due in 2017. –Kyle Eustice

    Essential Track: “I Love to Hate”

    15. The Bouncing Souls

    Bouncing Souls

    New Jersey’s The Bouncing Souls’ esteem comes from a perfect storm of peaking in popularity at the same time pop punk was also peaking in recognition. 2001’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation wound up being their most heard record (and rightfully so, as it found the band at the height of their songwriting prowess), but going back further displays a gradual growth and a wealth of strong and influential material. Of particular note was the ’80s nostalgia that was imbued in both the lyrics and the sentiments of the band, something that wasn’t exactly en vogue at the time but in hindsight sets up an important blueprint of pop punk’s appeal. That is an idea young adults yearning for the simplicity of being teens and a teen audience hungry for the wisdom of elders can still relate to. It’s a symbiotic relationship that The Bouncing Souls embody as well as anyone. –Philip Cosores


    Essential Track: “True Believers”

    14. The Ergs!


    Jersey’s Best Prancers are also pop-punk’s proudest nerds, a trio of self-professed dorks who had the crazy idea to take punk beyond the simple three-chord song structure that propped up so many of their peers. While they never quite reached the status of avant garde, The Ergs! offered a fun, unpretentious antidote to all the Ramones wannabes … while also appealing to those same wannabes. Albums such as dorkrockcorkrod and Upstairs/Downstairs throw everything from jazz to country against the wall, but Mikey, Jeff, and Joey Erg were never above including a joke song or a Gin Blossoms cover to remind us of punk’s greatest tenet: We shouldn’t take this shit so seriously. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Pray for Rain”

    13. NOFX


    With more than 30 years as a band, NOFX’s music predates what we consider pop punk on most of this list. But what would be considered their high watermark, ’90s output that included key records Punk in Drublic and White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean, is firmly rooted in pop punk despite the band’s willingness to get political, to get crass, and to thwart mainstream success at any chance they get. A long unwillingness to market themselves to MTV or conduct press emphasizes the punk that separated them from contemporaries like Green Day or The Offspring and likely resulted in the band never reaching quite the same level of popularity. But their influence can still be felt in every pop punk band that puts humor at a premium, believing that antagonism can be a necessary form of rebellion. –Philip Cosores

    Essential Track: “Linoleum”

    12. The Offspring


    At some point, The Offspring started becoming a punk rock version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Dexter Holland’s band of misfits came out of Huntington Beach, California, swinging with primal rage that just so happened to pop like bubble gum. Their first four albums — 1989’s The Offspring, 1992’s Ignition, 1994’s Smash, and even 1997’s oft-underrated Ixnay on the Hombre — chewed up everything from horror punk to skate punk to ultimately the brash style of pop punk they’d eventually denigrate. Things boiled over, however, with 1998’s Americana, and from there, they turned insufferable, needlessly chasing after another “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” for over a decade. How they went from scathing political anthems like “L.A.P.D.” to treacly ballads like “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” is beyond comprehension, but man, ain’t nobody going to take away that first decade of punk rock perfection. Hell, this writer would argue that “Self Esteem” is the true teenage anthem of the ’90s. –Michael Roffman


    Essential Track: “Self Esteem”

    11. Rancid


    With one already highly influential musical group (Operation Ivy) under their belt, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman brought mohawks and tattoos to a revitalized ’90s mainstream punk scene that desperately needed them. But behind their rough exterior, Rancid offered up some of the catchiest pop punk melodies of the era, hooks so undeniable that they could transcend Armstrong’s growling, unpolished vocals. Peaking in both popularity and quality with 1995’s …And Out Come the Wolves, the Bay Area punks offered up a series of strong, beloved albums throughout the ’90s. Yet Armstrong’s scene presence extends even beyond his Rancid recordings, with his running of Hellcat Records, putting out albums of everyone from The Distillers to Dropkick Murphys. Armstrong and Rancid have essentially crafted a punk rock institution that has lasted for decades, as much a pillar in the building of pop punk as anyone. –Philip Cosores

    Essential Track: “Olympia, WA”

    10. Alkaline Trio

    alkaline trio

    Emerging from Chicago’s fertile punk scene, Alkaline Trio amassed quite a list of associated bands from touring, splits, and side projects. (Blink-182 fatefully tapped them as an opening act way back in 2001; they released an EP with Hot Water Music; and bassist Dan Andriano’s supergroup The Falcon also features members of The Lawrence Arms and Rise Against.) In tandem with their touring with Blink-182, Alkaline Trio’s three Vagrant studio albums (From Here to Infirmary, Good Mourning, and Crimson) reflected a shift to a sound that leaned more pop than punk. From “Stupid Kid” to “Mercy Me”, their singles of this era perfectly blended angsty emo lyrics with punchy pop punk instrumentation. The band created their own label, Heart & Skull, in conjunction with Epitaph for their last two LPs, and Andriano has expressed interest in a new record. Of course, those plans may have hit a snag as guitarist Matt Skiba replaced the estranged Tom DeLonge for Blink-182’s latest chapter, both touring and hitting the studio with the former mentors for California. –Killian Young

    Essential Track: “Stupid Kid”

    09. Brand New

    Brand New

    Perhaps the only thing more frightening than the intensity of Brand New is their own fans. The Long Island-but-technically-Merrick, New York, four-piece formed in 2000 and immediately garnered a cult following with the release of their debut LP, Your Favorite Weapon, which stands as their most pop punk record to date. Turns out post-breakup anger is pretty dang relatable. As the band transitioned from bitter insults (“Seventy Times 7”, “Mix Tape”) to the witty one-liners of Deja Entendu (“Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”, “Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis”), frontman Jesse Lacey flexed his lyrical prowess in ways that captivated the lyric-obsessed.

    Yet when they rolled out their crowning achievement, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, in 2006 — Vincent Accardi’s guitar work on “You Won’t Know” and “Degausser” never loses its edge — Brand New didn’t cash in. They still haven’t. All four members avoid the spotlight as much as they can, and it drives their fans all the more crazy. Perhaps that works to their benefit; they’re the only band on this list whose fanbase considers an unreleased album essential, guaranteeing those rabid listeners will sell out shows less than an hour after tickets go on sale. Brand New haven’t faded the way other 2000s pop punk acts have because their music is too well composed to be forgotten — as if the angsty girls of New York and Narragansett-crushing bros of New England would ever let us forget that. –Nina Corcoran


    Essential Track: “Seventy Times 7”

    08. Paramore

    Stonefield - Potrait

    Goddamn, Hayley Williams can sing. It’s not the Williams pipes alone that make Paramore such a hoot although that’s not a small piece of the pie. The group so earnestly captures the feeling of being young, heartbroken, blissed-out, and stupid that it’s nearly impossible to listen to one of their records — particularly 2013’s eponymous release and its Grammy-winning single “Ain’t It Fun” — without grinning like an idiot. The music, like the band, has grown up since first hitting the scene, but the patina that covers the music simply adds shimmer without dimming that infectious authenticity. Hell, even the inter-band drama feels authentic, complete with breakups, nasty notes, and probably some controversy over who can sit with them in the cafeteria. It may not be hip, but it’s undeniably real.

    So yes, Paramore may not sound much like the Paramore of 2007’s RIOT!. People, and bands, do eventually mature. But that honest, foolish, wonderful spirit comes through in just the same way. They said it best themselves: That’s what you get when you let your heart win. –Allison Shoemaker

    Essential Track: “Ain’t It Fun”

    07. Jimmy Eat World

    Jimmy Eat World - Futures 10

    While from album to album, Jimmy Eat World could shift from emo to pop punk on a dime, the band’s greatest legacy, i.e. their massive radio hits, are firmly pop punk masterpieces. That isn’t to say Jimmy Eat World didn’t make great albums. Far from it. Clarity, Bleed American, and Futures all sit as high points of both pop punk and rock and roll as a whole from that period. But the Mesa, Arizona, band’s legacy to the public as a whole will always be songs like “The Middle”, “Sweetness”, “Pain”, and “A Praise Chorus” that delivered pop punk to the masses without the snottiness or sophomoric attitude of Blink-182 or Green Day. Jimmy Eat world were never sophisticated, per se, but their allegiance to emo contemporaries imbued their music with wide-eyed sentimentality that resonates still. –Philip Cosores


    Essential Track: “A Praise Chorus”

    06. Operation Ivy


    Few, if any, bands can claim as much influence through as little recorded output as Operation Ivy. Only active for three years and with one recorded album to their name, the Berkeley band successfully bridged influence of two-tone ska and The Clash into what would become the template for pop punk. And, obviously, the group would splinter into Rancid, another one of the most important bands of all-time for pop punk. Musically, Operation Ivy is gritty and muscular, its pop leanings sometimes obscured by loose playing and a cavalier attitude. At its heart, as much as the band would likely recoil at the idea, pop punk runs strong in the project’s veins, the band’s “ska man” logo becoming one of the great symbols of the genre. –Philip Cosores

    Essential Track: “Take Warning”

    05. Buzzcocks


    Buzzcocks were in many ways a blueprint for the pop punk bands that came after them. They weren’t afraid to fully lean into catchy riffs and repeatable choruses. Yet, amazingly, they still felt dangerous. They scoffed at normalcy in music on “Boredom” with a guitar solo featuring only two notes repeated 66 times. Yet they could be undeniable with love ballads like “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldnt’ve?)” or “Why Can’t I Touch It?” They skirted that line between anti-establishment and universal appeal without losing credibility. The fact that guitarists Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are still out there touring the material is a testament to the music’s timelessness. Young punks and old punks can see themselves in the Buzzcocks, and that’s a beautiful thing. –Dusty Henry

    Essential Track: “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’tve?)”

    04. Descendents


    Sometimes it seems the Descendents fell into pop punk based on their absolutely nerdy likability. They were fueled in writing their head-rush jams, after all, by copious amounts of coffee rather than speed. They came and went periodically based on the availability of frontman Milo Aukerman and his advanced biology studies. Their logo (a drawing of “Milo” with glasses, tie, and spiky hair) graced many a Hot Topic-sold T-shirt, but was decidedly less menacing or tough than the Dead Kennedys or Misfits. Songs like “Everything Sux” and “Suburban Home” played out like the smartest kid in class getting frustrated and snarky, complete with earworm hooks. That encapsulation of youthful frustration is done in perfect nyah-nyah-nyah mockery — quite literally on “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”. From Milo Goes to College forward, Descendents have been delightfully self-aware, over-caffeinated, hyper-fun, and proud of it. –Adam Kivel


    Essential Track: “Suburban Home”

    03. Jawbreaker


    Toughness has always been an ancillary (some might even say contradictory) quality in the world of pop punk, but Jawbreaker could have chewed your damn head off. It all started with Blake Schwarzenbach’s snarling vocals, fringed with cynicism and never quite easy to swallow, like bubble gum mixed with glass. Underground rock music needed a bridge from the bitter torments of late ‘80s emo and post-hardcore to the sunnier, three-chord pastures of the ‘90s, and Schwarzenbach’s bleeding-heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics built one half of that bridge. The other half came with the music — catchy enough to stick in your head and nasty enough to keep your darkest thoughts company. Though they eventually earned a devoted fan base and legions of posthumous admirers, Jawbreaker were never built like their Gilman cohorts in Green Day. The trio’s recently reissued 1993 classic 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is a reminder that, before snot, piss and vinegar were the fluids that mattered most in pop punk. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Kiss the Bottle”

    02. Blink-182


    Much like emo, the definition of pop punk is split into two sides: an older, “original” sound that brings pop elements into punk, and a newer, “easier” sound that dresses up pop song structures with punk stylings. Depending on who you’re talking to, the genre’s definition is clear as day, and usually that factor’s determined by age. The latter interpretation has no more obvious band to thank for legitimizing its existence and equalizing its definition than California trio Blink-182. Right from the get-go, back when Scott Raynor drummed for them, they made it known that Buddha’s wavering pitches and Cheshire Cat’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics were exactly what a generation needed to hear. Punk had to lighten up, and boy, Blink-182 were happy to take that on themselves.

    The three of them changed the way pop punk acts wrote songs. Lord knows Tom DeLonge’s vocals have been mocked a million times by now, but they work. His yapping, whiny pitch makes every UFO dream, every sophomoric joke, every sappy The Nightmare Before Christmas shout-out stick in your head long after the song ends. Travis Barker went to town on his solos, encouraging drummers to bring whatever background they wanted to poppier songs (“Anthem Part Two”), even roping in hardcore techniques (“Stockholm Syndrome”) without squashing the giddiness of a song (“Dumpweed”). Then there’s Mark Hoppus, the bassist whose basslines and melodic vocals bring elasticity to numbers like “Man Overboard” and “Apple Shampoo”, yet he remains modest at heart (even for his solos).


    In 1997, Blink-182 first acknowledged this is what growing up feels like, and yet they refused to actually do so, later acknowledging that they didn’t act their age. They exaggerated the toilet humor. They mocked themselves in videos. They wrote music for listeners praying for prolonged youth and delivered it in a way that got you to sing along, even if you happily accepted adulthood. Even now, more than 20 years since their first album dropped, Blink-182 still stick to their pop punk roots. California may not boast the fart jokes and infectious riffs we hoped for, but it offered D-beat drumming on “Cynical” and choruses you can sing to on “Rabbit Hole” — keeping the teenage dream alive even when no one wants to admit they, nevertheless us, have grown up. —Nina Corcoran

    Essential Track: “All the Small Things”

    01. Green Day


    Say what you will about Green Day, but here are the facts: No other punk group since The Clash can reasonably lay claim to being “The Only Band That Matters,” an honor that necessitates sold-out arenas in Asia, sold-out theaters on Broadway, and a fixed place within the cultural conversation for two decades and counting. No other punk group has weathered the slings and arrows of time more gracefully, transitioning from snotty, Buzzcocks-inspired punk (Dookie) to middle-aged dad rock (Warning) to rock operas built on a teenager’s understanding of political systems (American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown).

    Has Green Day lost fans and gained detractors along the way? Of course, but that’s been the case ever since they left behind the cozy stage at 924 Gilman Street and became the first pop punk band to properly “sell out,” in scene parlance. Since that fateful day, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool have morphed into bona fide rock gods whose appeal spans several generations. Go ahead and ask a 30-year-old what record got her into punk; she’s as likely to say Dookie as anything else. Then go and ask a 20-year-old the same question, and don’t be surprised if he says American Idiot.


    Pop punk is still a relatively young genre, but it’s been around long enough to spawn a single giant, cross-generational band that gives all the others something to aspire to or — as has always been a cherished tradition in punk — react against. The best bands are built on a multiplicity of identities that allows fans to love them and hate them and argue incessantly about them. Sure, some of Green Day’s identities may contradict one another, but isn’t the phrase “pop punk” slightly at odds with itself as well? No band embodies the highs and lows — the glories and embarrassments — of the genre more than the one that started out as Sweet Children and ended up on top of the world. Let’s put it this way: Without Green Day, this list would have no reason to exist. –Collin Brennan

    Essential Track: “Basket Case”