With Summer in full-swing in the UK, and the festival season well under way – Adam Smith thought he’d celebrate by throwing together a list of his favourite pop-punk albums of all time.
By Adam Smith
10 – The Movielife – 40 Hour Train Back To Penn (2003)
With this album, Vinnie Caruana and co brought something new to the pop-punk scene by adding an intensity that is seldom seen from other bands of their ilk.
“Face and Kneecaps” and “Jamestown” offer a rockier edge to the pop-punk sound that had previously never been executed so convincingly, while “Jamaica Next” boasts arguably the most motivational chorus in the genre’s history.
Still, while the album is influential from both an instrumental and lyrical standpoint, it is Caruana’s emotive delivery that really made this stand out from the pack, paving the way for bands such as Set Your Goals and Daggermouth.
9 – Set Your Goals – Mutiny! (2006)
Blurring the lines between hardcore and pop-punk, Set Your Goals concocted a truly innovative formula on this album, which quickly turned into a modern classic.
Intertwining positive lyricism with soaring melodies and a smattering of breakdowns, the album followed on from The Movielife’s work and, with explosive tracks such as “This Very Moment”, added a faster pace to a genre that many felt was too rigid to be tampered with.
The vocal dynamic between Matt Wilson and Jordan Brown added a great vocal range to the band’s sound, allowing for a sound that is almost inimitable.
8 – The Story So Far – Under Soil And Dirt (2011)
As the newest addition to the list, it’s easy to question whether The Story So Far deserve their spot, but this album is simply flawless.
Parker Cannon’s bittersweet lyrics made for an excellent contrast to the album’s summery, upbeat tone and the earnestness of songs such as “Mt Diablo” allowed the album to be even more endearing. There is a clear influence from Set Your Goals, yet Under Soil and Dirt has its own sense of individuality that means the album carries an intangible quality, making it incredibly addictive and an essential purchase for even the most jaded of pop-punk fans.
7 – Hit The Lights – This Is A Stick Up, Don’t Make It A Murder (2006)
Although the Pop Punk’s Not Dead campaign has been spearheaded by New Found Glory over the past two years, the genre was first brought back from the dead in 2006 by a group of American kids going by the name of Hit The Lights.
There was nothing new nor experimental about the band’s approach with this record, though that doesn’t detract from the fact that it sounds absolutely sensational. “Save Your Breath”and “Bodybag” see Hit The Lights take the same catchy, energetic refrain that made New Found Glory so successful in 2000 and add their own spin, which helped to catapult them to the status of underground heroes.
6 – Blink 182- Enema Of The State (1999)
There’s very little I can say about this record that hasn’t been repeated dozens of times before, but the charm and youthful exuberance of Mark, Tom and Travis is everlasting on Enema Of The State, resonating with teenagers (and now adults) across the globe.
“All The Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again” are the main reasons why this album gained such spectacular mainstream success, yet it is tracks like “Going Away To College” and “Dysentary Gary” that struck a chord with kids across the world back in 1999.
By blending sophomoric humour with an abundance of poppy hooks, Blink 182 helped to carve out a stereotype for an entire generation, providing them with a terrific alternative to the mindless nu-metal that was circulating on the airwaves.
5 – The Starting Line – Say It Like You Mean It (2002)
Emerging shortly after Blink 182 started bothering the charts, The Starting Line were criminally overlooked by many people, who had their fill of pop-punk with Blink or NFG.
However, Say It Like You Mean it is one of the catchiest records of all time and should have sold millions. On top of this, it was also one of the first releases to successfully integrate old-school emo influences. Vocalist Kenny Vasoli has spoken fervently of his love for Jimmy Eat World and it really shows in this masterpiece.
“The Best Of Me” is just as good as any of Blink 182’s lead singles, while “Almost There, Going Nowhere” and “The Drama Summer” demonstrated that The Starting Line can pull off up-tempo tracks and poignant ballads respectively with equal panache, adding variety and quality that was rarely seen from their contemporaries in the scene at the time.
4 – Fall Out Boy- Take This To Your Grave (2003)
After the fame of Fall Out Boy turned them into a franchise rather than a band, it’s easy to forget that they were once one of the best purveyors of pop-punk in the world.
Even though their later output proved divisive for fans, Take This To Your Grave is simply timeless and one of the main reasons why the band picked up such hostility was a result of fans yearning for them to backpedal to the sound of this record.
From “Tell Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today”, the album grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck and plants choruses and hooks into their head.
Admittedly, the lyrical content doesn’t stray from the standard topics of love, loss and friendship, yet they are delivered with a slew of metaphors and imagery that no other band has mastered since.
3 – Brand New – Your Favourite Weapon (2001)
Akin to Fall Out Boy, Brand New underwent a transformative period following the release of this album, though their approach was at the opposite end of the spectrum, as the band shunned the mainstream exposure that showered Fall Out Boy and pioneered a darker sound.
Nevertheless, you wouldn’t have guessed such a drastic change was incoming after hearing this goldmine of hooks, which offered a more introspective take on the pop-punk genre, while sacrificing nothing in terms of catchiness.
Jesse Lacey’s songwriting was both personable and heartfelt, incorporating thought-provoking metaphors (THAT line in “Seventy Times Seven”) and popular culture references (“Jude Law and A Semester Abroad”, “Mix Tape”) while sounding completely raw and genuine.
Also, in “Soco Amaretto Lime”, Brand New delivered potentially the greatest album closer in pop-punk history.
2 – The Wonder Years – The Upsides (2010)
With this album, The Wonder Years proved that pop-punk can be mature by formulating one of the most sophisticated and relatable pop-punk albums ever.
Front man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell does not shy away from wearing his heart on his sleeve, with each track featuring anecdotes and inside jokes that chronicle his youth, upbringing and modern life, while bursting with utter positivity.
Such a realist stance had never been executed in such an articulate fashion before The Upsides, so how such personal lyrics are juxtaposed with the mammoth choruses heard on “Melrose Diner” and “Logan Circle” is nothing short of remarkable.
The Upsides has been elevated to cult status just two years after its release, emphasising the unerring excellence of The Wonder Years and indicating that the album’s legacy will last for years to come.
1 – New Found Glory – Self-titled (2000)
Apparently, Green Day’s “Dookie” set the template for pop-punk.
Nevertheless, in the year 2000, New Found Glory took the best elements of Green Day’s formula, added a lot of their own ideas and the world was better for it.
Despite Blink 182’s success at the time, Jordan Pundik’s vocal style gave New Found Glory their own identity and, while the impact of Chad Glibert’s hardcore background was subtle, it helped to implement a faster pace in the songs, as well as a number of gang-chants.
“Better Off Dead” is simply the greatest song ever created in the genre, whereas it is impossible to listen to “Second To Last” or “Vegas” and stay still.
The band even managed to compose a memorable ballad (“Eyesore”) without upsetting the tempo of the album, which celebrated its ten year anniversary two years ago and is motivating people across the world to pick up an instrument to this day.
Those that just missed out:
Midtown – Living Well Is The Best Revenge
Four Year Strong – Rise Or Die Trying
Fenix TX – Lechuza
The Ataris – Blue Skies, Broken Hearts..Next 12 Exits
Fireworks – All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion