My pop-punk tastes essentially developed in a bubble. When the “golden age” of the genre was happening, I was blissfully ignorant; my glory days happened a little later. This week, I’m looking at three tracks that define my earliest experiences with pop-punk. These songs are highlights of when I came into one of my favorite genres, and there’s a certain sense of nostalgia that will always keep them on that highest level that few other things will ever reach for me. Not only did they help to form my baseline for all of my later listening, these songs and albums have become as much a part of my personal history as anything else.
1. “All Downhill From Here” – New Found Glory
While the relationship I developed with Catalyst might not be the very first I ever had with pop-punk, it’s definitely the earliest I had that’s endured to this day. “All Downhill From Here” is that album at its best, from the drum fill intro to the very end of the track. I can’t imagine ever hearing this song and not immediately becoming excited. That main guitar riff is super tasty, and the drumming is just about everything you could ever want from this sort of song. The melodies are at once accusatory and catchy, and the acoustic bridge works perfectly as a sort of counterbalance before the rest of the band kicks back in at full strength. Everything about this song and album captivated me nearly a decade ago, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t do nearly the same thing today.
2. “Our Lawyer Made Us Change The Name Of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” – Fall Out Boy
For the last month of my freshman year of high school, I heard this song blasting from the room two doors down from mine nearly every day, and I had no idea what it was. All I knew was that I could hear the line “the ribbon on my wrist says ‘do not open before Christmas'” very clearly, and that I loved that line too much for how little I understood it. While From Under The Cork Tree is probably my fifth-favorite Fall Out Boy record today, this album defined two summers and much of the time between them for me, and coming in fifth on a list like that is like coming in first in most other lists, anyway. Everything about this song is spot-on, from the denseness of the opening to the sarcastic self-reference and embodiment of matured youth that seeps through every second. For me, Fall Out Boy is this genre, and From Under The Cork Tree is how they claimed that spot.
3. “Caller 10” – Punchline
Two things about the first time I saw Punchline: 1. I didn’t know who they were or that they were on that bill; and 2. They put on the best show of any band on the bill. I immediately bought 37 Everywhere from the band’s merch table, and it was maybe the best impulse buy I’ve ever made. “Caller 10” took a while to truly stand out to me, but the line “maybe fate can only take you so far” is enough to cement this song as one of my favorites in the band’s discography. It sums up the whole track, with no melody and no backing music. That sentence – eight simple words forming a perfectly-constructed conjecture – gives me chills every time I hear it. The song structure is flawless, with a powerful chorus, great storytelling in the verses, and one of the best bridges the genre has ever seen. There’s a number of reasons (37?) this record holds a spot on my list of favorite records, and this song contains more than a few of them.