Pop-Punk Ain’t Dead: Renaissance or Ruins?

The genre that dominated the mainstream two decades ago seems to be rising slowly from its angsty grave. We investigate its chance of survival today and debate the frequently ridiculed category.


‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ is not only a popular song from Green Day‘s seminal album ‘Nimrod’, but the track’s title also represents the two juxtaposed emotions many feel when remembering the sweeping emo fringe they once cowered behind in school, and headbanged with at their first gig. Whilst we may want to expel all memories of that troubled stage of listening to Sum 41, Fall Out Boy and New Found Glory, the nostalgia and desire for catchy songs fuelled by punk’s fast tempos and guitars is still prevalent if we admit it. Perhaps you feel as though you’ve outgrown pop-punk sonically and lyrically; rapid riffs tire you and you’re no longer cooking in hormones and parental pressure. Maybe the bands of your childhood have surged into mainstream popularity losing their authenticity and distinctive sound to auto-tune and dance-driven beats. This would be true, however, the genre has experienced a minor renaissance recently. In the last few years as it returned to its DIY roots and now sees a return to its former popularity and acceptance. But what will this new era look like and where will it go?

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This new wave of pop-punk features bands such as The Story So Far, Neck Deep, Real Friends, Moose Blood, Knuckle Puck, State Champs and The Wonder Years just to name a few. Iconic record labels such as Fearless and Hopeless have began to sign up young pop-punk bands and allow these artists to take centre stage in a previously metalcore-dominated rock scene. The popularity of these bands comes from their raw sounds being darker and more mature than bands earlier in the decade who had attempted to take inspiration from ’90’s emo. The Wonder Years in particular have managed to resonate with a new generation, with magazine Rock Sound calling the band’s 2013 album ‘The Greatest Generation’ “the defining album of what may well have been the genre’s best year for a decade.” Both lyrically and musically the album pushed pop-punk to “new peaks of invention” and allowed similar bands to charge out of the underground. The Story So Far‘s bassist Kelen Capener has described the genre’s recent reemergence using the visual metaphor of a zombie, stating:

“I think pop-punk is a zombie. … It hushed down for a bit but then it got brought back to life in an almost undead fashion. … Back then it was mainstream, you would see it on MTV and things like that. Now, it’s different, it’s got a fighting chance and it’s crawling its way back up.”

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The Story So Far performing at Vans Warped Tour

Despite the fact that these bands are reviving the genre, there is no denying that they were all heavily influenced by earlier bands that thrived in pop-punk’s peak. UK emo/pop-punk band Moose Blood frequently declare their appreciation for bands before them, in particular Brand New. In their song ‘Boston’ the chorus sings “Bored with nothing to do / But lay around listening to Deja Entendu / Thinking about you”, clearly indicating the band’s love for Brand New‘s second album. Similarly, US emo band Jimmy Eat World get a similar shout out in Real Friends‘ track ‘Skin Deep’. Artists have also taken a deep sonic inspiration from ’90’s bands whilst also carving their own identities. By uniquely combining genres such as emo/punk/indie/rock/pop/hardcore new bands are gaining millions of fans whilst also drawing back the attention of those who thought their favourite genre was dead.

Welsh pop-punkers Neck Deep could be seeing the most success recently with their 2014 album ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’ charting at number 8 in the UK and earning AMPA Best Live Band this year. Despite this, it is the pop-punk veterans that have sprung out of their coffins and capitalised most on the genre’s resurgence. Iconic band and pioneers of mainstream pop-punk Blink-182 returned (well most of them did…) this year with a glitzy new album ‘California’ which knocked Drake‘s album ‘Views’ off the top spot after being unmoved for nine weeks. However, critically, this album was “a step back, rather than a throwback” with many fans being left disappointed in the band’s output. On the other hand, archetypal band Green Day just dropped a new track ‘Bang Bang’ to announce a new album ‘Revolution Radio’ to the delight of classic fans. Written as a reaction to the rise of US gun violence, the track shot to the top of the rock charts and is a solid reminder that those who led the genre in its first eras can still represent it today. Likewise, punk band NOFX who practically founded early pop-punk have returned from hiatus with the gritty single ‘Six Years On Dope’ bringing huge anticipation for their upcoming album ‘First Ditch Effort’.

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If modern Fall Out Boy and Hayley Williams are your only places of reference when discussing today’s pop-punk scene then you’re bound to squirm at the genre. But with a little research you’ll find sincere bands like Trash Boat, Roam, Joyce Manor and Modern Baseball who are tearing up live shows, saving people’s lives and doing the genre justice. Check out some great tracks below and have your say in our comment section. Thnks fr th Mmrs…

The Story So Far – ‘Heavy Gloom’:

Turnover – ‘Dizzy On The Comedown’:

Modern Baseball – ‘The Weekend’:

The Wonder Years – ‘Came Out Swinging’:

Green Day – ‘Bang Bang’:


Written by: James Wijesinghe

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