I’ve been a huge pop punk fan for years. When Lookout Records went under I had some serious concerns that some of the best music would become unavailable to the next generation of fan. Although some of the key releases have become much harder to find on CD or vinyl streaming services, Youtube, and a million other apps and platforms have kept the genre alive and kicking.
When I see the pop punk bands that are talked about today, it makes me feel old. Good Charlotte considered ‘old school’ just makes me feel Ancient! There is a ton of amazing pop punk out there and I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I highlighted some of my personal favorite releases from decades past. I will do my best to not get too obscure with the recommendations, however, a few of these bands/releases may be tougher to find than others. Additionally, I am not here to split hairs and argue with people what is punk, pop punk, emo, etc… This post isn’t to define who is or is not in the pop punk genre, its only purpose is to highlight some melodic punk rock that may be overlooked by kids today. Kids who might really enjoy hearing some good music. With that said, here is part one of bands, albums, and songs that are worth chasing down and checking out (Bands A-K).
- Some extremely well known bands and bands that are still releasing music on a regular basis are not listed here: ex. Brand New, Bad Religion, Blink 182, Descendents, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day (an exception was made for Alkaline Trio because I felt like it!).
The Abducted – This D.C./ Virginia based punk band’s best songs rivals anything found on Lookout Records. Check out Nobody Wants You Around, Why Don’t You Die, and Whatever It Is I Don’t Care.
AFI – Although this band still keeps putting music out, their style has continually changed and what they do today bears next to no resemblance to their earlier work. The band’s perfect moment for me was the scorching track, Sacrifice Theory.
Alkaline Trio – This is one of my Top 5 Favorite Bands of All Time. Every release is fantastic in its own way. However, the album From Here To Infirmary has it all. It’s dark, it’s catchy, and it’s songwriting and production is exactly on point. You can also cherry pick some of their early work, especially the songs, Radio, I Lied My Face Off, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, and Bleeder.
Avail – A band that combined a pop/melodic punk presentation with an underlying hard edge. The vocals are gruff which also moves the band slightly further away from a pure pop sound. However, check out Fifth Wheel and Observations for songs that move towards a pop punk sound.
Big in Japan – Check out the song Hell Before Reno. It’s the best Elvis Costello song that wasn’t an Elvis Costello song.
Bigwig – A great NJ punk band. Unmerry Melodies put them on the map (check out Dylan’s Song, Girl In The Green Jacket, and Your In Sample).
Bouncing Souls – Maniacal Laughter. The Bouncing Souls led the charge of punk bands coming out of the New Brunswick scene. Every song is a winner on here and well worth the 20 something minutes it takes to play through the 12 tracks. A must own! Check out one of my favorite tracks here.
Catch 22 – This ska punk band had a ton of talent. Compared with Operation Ivy when they first came on to the scene (although that’s a bit of a reach). Check out their two strongest songs – As The Footsteps Die Out Forever and Keasbey Nights.
Cletus – Johnny Puke had a great under the radar pop punk band with Cletus. Each full length was uneven in song quality but the winners really stand out. Check out the songs Stupid After All, Joe Queer Don’t Drink No Beer, and Here Comes Your Mom.
Dillinger Four – Great punk rock for the mid-west. Noisy with some muddy production but man, can these guys write some catchy tunes! Check out Doublewiskeycokenoice, Get Your Study Hall Outta My Recess, and Noble Stabbings.
The Donnas – Great all female Ramones sounding band. They went from Lookout to a major label and shifted between rock n roll, pop punk, and glam metal. Check out Take It Off, I Don’t Wanna Go To School, and Better Off Dancing.
Down By Law – The song All American was my personal anthem for a number of years. So much to love about that song! They do a damn fine cover of 500 Miles too.
Fabulous Disaster – Created a pop punk masterpiece with the song, Last Big Joyride.
Face To Face – This band recently put some new tunes out for the first time in a while but you can’t go wrong with their first release (Don’t Turn Away), especially the song Disconnected. It’s perfect melodic punk with flashes of hardcore from start to finish. Also, be sure to seek out a few of their other songs including A-OK, Blind, and How To Ruin Everything.
Fenix*TX – A goofy pop punk band that received a major push from Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. These are super polished sugary songs. Check out Minimum Wage, All My Fault, and Rooster Song.
Gamits – A band heavily influenced by early Green Day. No one song or album stands out above the others but if you like early Green Day, you may get into their releases. Check out the song Sorry for an example of their work.
Goin’ Places – This NY band stole a page from Mr. T Experience and created song after song about girls. Extreme pop with a nod to late 50s and early 60s rock in roll. Check out the songs Girl Songwriting 101 and The Only Way.
Guns N’ Wankers – This band unfortunately put out only a single 8 song release on Fat Wreck Chords. Although the entire release is an aggressive and melodic steamroller, the standout songs are Skin Deep and Raise Your Glass. You’d be a fool not to check this out.
The Hi-Fives – The song, Transistor Sister is a short wild romp of bright pop punk goodness.
The Huntingtons – These guys are so Ramones-core that they recorded multiple Ramones releases. They also put out a number of great originals. I suggest tracking down I’m No Good, Aloha It’s You, Potty Mouth, and Judy Jetson (Judy Jetson isn’t an original).
Jawbreaker – A seminal punk band that many emulated but few could duplicate. Check out Boxcar, Want, Sluttering, and The Boat Dreams From The Hill.
John Stamos Project – A great pop punk band from Long Island, New York. Witty lyrics and tight musicianship. For fans of the Queers, Ramones, and Screeching Weasel. Check out Date From Hell, Living In Norway, and Hands And Knees.
Kid Dynamite – Self Titled CD. This was an amazing band that put out a diverse catalog of songs. Many times the product was closer to hardcore than pop punk however, a few are more melodic and pop punk. The whole album is perfection but if you are turned off from the more aggressive tunes on this disk, check out Bookworm and 3 O’Clock.
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You may also like:
Direct Hit! – A closer examination of their amazing CD, Brainless God.
Screeching Weasel – A look back at all their releases and which to check out.
Mr. T Experience – Dr Frank Interview and a look back at the classic Love Is Dead CD
Lookout Records – A book review about the rise and fall of the pop punk label.