In the past couple of decades, it's hard to think of a more-maligned genre than pop-punk. (That is, except nu-metal.) But it's a shame, and as someone who spent a lot of time listening to pop-punk in his preteens, I can appreciate why it still resonates. And so, in honor of Warped Tour's recent passing through these parts, here are the top five best pop-punk bands. In general, the focus was on the ones that broke out big across the country, so sorry in advance to any hardcore, opinionated Yellowcard fans.
5. The Offspring
You might not be the biggest Offspring fan, and their new music is getting bad reviews in some circles. But while it's easy to dismiss profiteering off wholesale teen angst, white-dude braids and endlessly petulant mall-jams, let's be honest: Every 21st century to-the-bones hardcore kid chewed through a lot of Offspring in their preteens. Americana had an edge to it, slightly rawer than the Green Day troublemakers or the MCR freaks. Unlike most of the other bands in their mold, The Offspring could occasionally concern your parents, which sent a generation of kids down a path towards scarier bands and increasingly strained familial relations.
This is not a stretch. The Ramones more or less invented ricochet, whiplash pop-punk back in the '70s. Sure they're the legitimizing, elder-statesmen on this list, but that doesn't make them any less relevant. The Ramones ultra-basic take on guitar-driven debauchery has always been the template. Three chords and a squeal, silly haircuts, songs mostly about girls, movies, cars, lighthearted melodrama and esoteric drugs — you could say the same things about, like, New Found Glory. 1976's Ramones ripped through 14 tracks in 29 minutes on a $6,500 budget. That bright, slapdash, carefree ethos would be in the DNA for generations to come.
3. Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World might've been the most earnest band of all time. After all, they were able to turn a phrase as fatalistically juvenile as “don't count yourself out yet” into an honest-to-god rallying cry. Blessed with brief MTV love and a legion of hopelessly rabid fans, Jimmy Eat World has stayed significant simply because of how seriously they take themselves. People hold Bleed American close for a number of dorky reasons, but the fact that it's stuck around for 11 years is a tribute to its eternal adolescent buoyancy. They remain a deeply charming band, mostly due to their lack of self-awareness. If pop-punk has an emotional core, it's Jimmy Eat World.
2. Green Day
Sure Green Day gained traction with the scruffy, high-school weed dealers for talking about boring masturbation sessions, but in 2012, they're basically U2. So much critical bluster continues to swirl around records like 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot, mostly because they don't sound like Dookie and Nimrod. All the Grammy nominations, scene-abandonment and hilariously overwrought mainstream reviews can distract us from the true, simple fact that Green Day has spent 20 years writing some pretty great rock songs. Revisionist Green Day haters are just people who spend too much time thinking about pop music. By their consistency, and their underrated willingness to be approachable, Green Day absolutely deserve their place in the canon.
Blink-182 is number one. After all, is there any pop band in the last 20 years who have owned an aesthetic as precisely as they have? Blink-182 remains synonymous with pop-punk because they were happy and willing posterboys. Hell, on “The Rock Show” Mark Hoppus straight-up sings about meeting a girl at the Warped Tour. So for all the middle-America parking lots they played, and no matter how much “Adam's Song” may suck, the cultural pervasiveness of Blink-182 is living proof that pop-punk was — and is — a scene worth documenting.