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”