From its early iterations in the New York punk scene, making its way to the state parks of SoCal, and basking in the moodiness of the American Midwest, pop punk has acted as an enduring marker of angst and catharsis for years.
The divisive genre has soundtracked the singalongs of summer, mended millions of heartbreaks, and continues to flourish as an essential element of the rock-sphere, constantly breeding nuanced acts that push the boundaries of the style.
Sometimes boxed in as merely moments in time plagued with Peter Pan syndrome, subgenres like easycore, emo, and even indie rock have all made their way to the stages of Warped Tour without compromising the core catchiness and boisterously fun crux that defines pop rock.
With pioneering easycore act Four Year Strong marking the 10 year anniversary of their seminal LP Rise Or Die Trying by heading to Australia for Unify Gathering in January and playing a slew of epic sideshows, we’re looking back on just a few of the important records that have shaped pop punk into the constantly-evolving genre it is today.
Four Year Strong – Rise Or Die Trying
As one of pop punk’s most niche offshoots, ‘easycore’ was tried by many but mastered by few. Although the trend didn’t endure for too long, Four Year Strong continued to build on the undeniably energetic foundations that had been laid, ultimately helping to shape the genre into what it is today.
Rise Or Die Trying is a marker of just how creative and boundary-pushing pop-punk can get. It combines the aggression of metalcore in the form of punishing breakdowns and bombastically heavy guitar riffs with subtle pepperings of straight-up pop choruses and gang-vocal harmonies, culminating in what can only be described as an entirely overwhelming listening experience – in the best kind of way.
‘Beatdown In The Hey of Happy‘ and ‘Abandon Ship Or Abandon All Hope‘ are just a couple of examples of the mosh-worthy, flailing limb screamers that take every element to its most extreme, and defined a genre in the process. Definitely not a live show for any punk fan to miss, so check out the full Aussie tour dates below.
Descendents – Milo Goes To College
Taking cues from melodic hardcore of the ’80s and pumping it with the jet fuel of 1000 high school dramas, parent problems, and toilet jokes, Descendents acted as the pioneers for an entire genre.
Inspiring many-a SoCal skateboarders to pick up guitars and yell into the suburban void until someone started to listen (who wasn’t a nagging parent), Milo Goes To College depends on a furiously catchy 1-2 punch formula that fails to tire throughout the album.
Elements of tracks like ‘Hope’ and ‘Parents’ are still kicking on today, proving a power chord combo played with just the right level of sloppiness and distortion can thump with an ever glowing intensity.
blink-182 – Enema Of The State
Not much can be said about Enema that hasn’t already been pondered upon – it’s the genre-defining album that spawned iconic hit singles and catapulted blink to the heights of mainstream success for the rest of eternity.
For most people to this day, Enema is still the first pop punk album that resonates entirely, with the opening riffs to ‘Dumpweed’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me’ still ringing out of guitar stores worldwide.
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
Bleed American is a showcase of blistering guitar riffs and gentle musings on the state of the world that were a cut above above their pop punk contemporaries at the time.
Injecting the scene with a healthy dosage of alt-rock that subdued anything too whiny, the crisp power-pop choruses on ‘Sweetness’ and ‘A Praise Chorus’, and the iconic acoustic musings of ‘Hear You Me’, still pack the same punch they did in 2001.
Jimmy Eat World bred the ’00s fascination with sounds that were a little darker than what most sunny-minded cargo-short wearers were after, with Bleed American stepping up as the benchmark for the sound.
New Found Glory – Sticks & Stones
New Found Glory are the enduring pop punk lifers who’ve shown more dedication to the genre than Converse-wearing blue-haired 2001 Warped Tour punter. The riffs are meaty and the hooks are gargantuan – it’s hard to feel entirely nostalgic listening to Sticks and Stones because of how its youthful passion and exuberance resonates throughout.
Fall Out Boy – Take This To Your Grave
Hot take: This is could be the greatest pop punk album ever. In 2017, it’s about time we give Fall Out Boy the clout they deserve. Although their most recent efforts have seen them descend into the realms of by-the-numbers indie-pop, their highly-developed ability for memorable, bleary-eyed songcraft and experimentation is commendable.
Fall Out Boy saw the perfect culmination of musical talents – a hardcore kid drummer, a total metal head guitarist, a lead vocalist that sounded as though they could front a boy band – with Take This To Your Grave acting as a scathing journey through heartbreak that hits where it hurts most and stings in areas you’d rather not confront (try listening to the chorus of ‘Tell Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today’ without thinking about how badly you treated your ex…).
Getting nostalgic and terrifyingly sentimental on tracks like ‘Homesick At Space Camp’, the band have spawned hundreds of imitators who have fallen seriously short of their charm and magic.
Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This To Memory
Taking schizophrenic synths and anxiety-inspired anthems that blend equal parts chaos and order, Commit This To Memory saw Motion City Soundtrack usher in a new era of vulnerability and eccentrics.
Justin Pierre’s vocals ring true of pure sarcasm and wit, leaving just enough space for some of the most inventive drum fills the genre has ever had to offer, that soar in tracks like ‘When You’re Around’ and ‘LG.FAUD’.
Produced by Mark Hoppus, the album is one the most unique offerings in the pop punk arsenal with its influence evident in modern acts like The Wonder Years, Real Friends and Man Overboard.
Ramones – Ramones
The OGs. A list referring to the trajectory and history of pop punk wouldn’t be complete without New York’s Levi jean, leather jacket wearing pioneers. Proving three guitar chords and bubble-gum hooks could change the world, Ramones set up the founding infrastructure for bratty kids to shout their tales of rebellion and mischief for the rest of eternity.
Paramore – RIOT!
Breaking through the unfortunate pop punk boys club, Paramore tore into the mainstream stratosphere with their 2007 offering, RIOT!, the frenetic octave chord riffage and Hayley William’s signature snarl singing revenge to millions of teens across the globe, and the lyrics of ‘That’s What You Get’ finding their way onto the pages of school diaries for years to come.
These days, the incredible band are making their mark in straight-up pop territory, releasing one of the year’s most acclaimed albums in After Laughter, but their influence on pop punk will always be set in stone.
The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All, And Now I Am Nothing
Suburbia is an ode to fallen dreams, realizations, and the knowledge that even though the light at the end of the tunnel may seem dim, its emergence is worth fighting for.
The album is an emotional onslaught of introspection, driven by Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s poetic lyricism and allusions to beat poetry, rich instrumental textures and songs that build into monolithic anthems.
Opening with the ultimate mission-statement of positivity, ‘Came Out Swinging’ and closing with the balladry of ‘And Now I Am Nothing’, The Wonder Years truly transcended pop punk and rendered themselves in a field of their own.
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
Never Hungover Again is the soundtrack to every hipster love story of the modern era. The album is a tale of Gen Y youngsters who grew up equally enamored with Jawbreaker as they were with Weezer, with tracks like ‘End Of The Summer’ and ‘Heart Tattoo’ striking the perfect equilibrium between jaded indie rock squandering and saccharine pop punk musing.
Green Day – Dookie
1994 is widely known as the ‘year punk broke’, as Green Day arrived on the scene proving a group of stoned teenagers could pay equal homage to The Beatles and Ramones, ultimately becoming ever-reigning overlords of the genre.
Dookie‘s rich harmonic textures and masterful pop structuring combine in a saccharine feast of sickly-sweets hooks and earworms, rounded out by grungy brick-layered distortion and manic lyricism. Before graduation-core anthems and political statements, Green Day were simply searching for a break from mundanity – and found it in the form of a perfect pop punk album.
Four Year Strong 2018 Australian tour
Supported by Knocked Loose
Wednesday, 10th January
The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Thursday, 11th January
Arrow On Swanston, Melbourne (Unlic. / All Ages)
Saturday, 13th January
The Metro Theatre, Sydney (Lic. / All Ages)
Sunday, 14th January
The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (Lic. / All Ages)
Tuesday, 16th January
The Triffid, Brisbane (Lic. / All Ages)
Also playing UNIFY Gathering 2018