The Seven Basic Pop-Punk Songs

You may or may not have heard of a book called The Seven Basic Plots. According to Christopher Booker’s enormous tome, there are only seven basic plots in all of literature, and that everything else is just a derivative from those plots. Well, I’m here to tell you that actually, there are only really seven pop-punk songs. You’ve been to a pop-punk show, you own a Blink-182 album or two. You know it to be true! So without further ado, here’s the seven basic pop-punks and how to spot them.

1. Hometown Blues, Thy Name is Ennui

The first, and possibly the most recognisable pop-punk song, is the one about hating where you come from. And is this not something we’ve all experienced, predominately when we’re about 16 and it feels like the whole world outside of our suburban hellholes is just waiting to be discovered? Plenty of people have made a lot of money writing about this kind of disillusion.

This pop-punk can be flipped on its head as well, and the common theme of ‘I left but dammit, I miss everything and I want to go home to my mum where everything is nice and simple forever’ isn’t exactly uncommon either. And just occasionally, you’ll find both sides slammed into the same song, which is really what it all ends up as when you’re a little bit older and wiser and not just pretending to be a teenager for the record label.

Top pop-punks: Simple Plan – I’m Just A Kid, Good Charlotte – Waldorfworldwide, Count To Four – Lavender Town (actually, this one is basically ALL of these pop-punks in one)

2. That Girl Ripped My Heart Out of My Chest and Pissed On It

Pop-punk found its roots in songs about girls. Descendents built pretty much a whole career on writing albums about their feelings, and Blink-182 perfected it on their classic track ‘Dammit’. And let’s face it, a pop-punk album wouldn’t be the same without a track about how a girl (or well, anyone really) totally broke the singer’s heart and how everything sucks.

Unfortunately, these days, there’s a lot of pop-punk bands who don’t know how to write about anything else, or how to acknowledge that actually, there might be some problems that are their own fault too and not just their lovers. Buuuuut sometimes, when you feel like you’ll be broken forever, there’s nothing like falling back on some good old-fashioned rage. It’s impossible to find a record that doesn’t have traces of heartbreak hidden all over it, or splashed wildly across it.

Top pop-punks: Real Friends – I’ve Given Up On You, Fall Out Boy – Sending Postcards From a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here), Never Heard Of It – She’s A Dick

3. Positive Mental Attitude, Brah

Hey! Keep your chin up! Do something cool! It’s all about the PMA, dude. And pop-punk has got plenty of it. Far less anger about real important things than straight up punk, but with a sense of fun that punk can easily forget, pop-punk provides the great middle way, full of sugary, colourful fun. If pop-punk was a drink, it’d be orange soda, and not the diet kind.

These are my favourite kind of pop-punk tracks. They’re full of fun and life. These are the kind of tracks that pick me up when I’m down. They keep me on course, and they keep me thinking posi. And that’s what it’s all about. Keep it real, yo!

Top pop-punks: Millencolin – No Cigar, New Found Glory – Selfless, The Movielife – Me And You Vs Them

4. Hanging With The Bros Forever and Ever

It’s time to head out on tour and get crazy! There might lots of drinking, or even a few illicit narcotics, but there’s absolutely bound to be mad hijinks, skateboarding injuries and a prison trip. You guessed it – our next pop-punk trope is about hanging with your bros.

If there’s one thing pop-punk does well, it’s solidarity. All that bitching about your hometown and wasted opportunities just melts away into the background when your friends come into the mix. Just don’t forget that chicks can be bros too.

Top pop-punks: Set Your Goals – Summer Jam, Blink-182 – Reckless Abandon, Mest – Rooftops

5. I’m In Love and I Don’t Care Who Knows It

Of course, before all the torment and the heartbreak, there has to be love. And a good pop-punk love song has absolutely no competition. Pure of heart with loads of melody, you can’t help but feel swept up in a romance that isn’t even yours. And if you are madly in love, then every single song describes how you feel, because they’re way more real and appropriate than anything the Beatles did, or anything in a musical, right?

As one of the happier pop-punk tropes, it’s also one of my top ones. I’ve had a pop-punk romance playlist going since about 2005 and I’ve got no sign of slowing that down.

Top pop-punks: Sugarcult – Lost In You, Say Anything – Crush’d, Candy Hearts – I Miss You

6. I’m Just In Touch With My Feelings, Jeez!

Pop-punk can be deep too, you know. It can reach down into the very essence of human emotion and get all introspective and speculative. Don’t you even accuse it of being pretty and vacuous. Of course, it’s not as brainy as emo, and many of pop-punk’s graduating class (like Brand New, and if anyone says the first record isn’t pop-punk, I’ll fight you) have moved onto bigger, more serious art forms.

However, something neat tends to happen when pop-punk gets serious. Whether it’s battling personal demons, figuring out where it all went wrong or even just trying to decide where to turn to next, a lot of bands tend to turn out some of their best stuff when they start to think a little left-field. And that’s why we’ll never get a decent All Time Low record.

Top pop-punks: Descendents – When I Get Old, Amber Pacific – Follow Your Dreams Forget The Scene, Green Day – Redundant

7. I Hate Everything. Even That Puppy. And Your Mum.

Despite the assumption that pop-punk is a happy genre full of bouncy songs and floppy haircuts, it’s often filled with a lot of rage as we’ve seen above. However, a lot of the time, that rage is simply directed towards anyone and everything, because let’s face it – everything sucks.

Bands like Descendents absolutely own tracks like this, but they do it in a way that isn’t cliché or overstated, opting for a bit of humour instead. Of course, you can go the other way entirely, but virtually everyone knows ‘I’m Not A Loser’ and can’t remember the name of that song by those dudes who supported New Found Glory one time, so I guess they can suck it.

Top pop-punks: Say Anything – Hate Everyone, Descendents – Everything Sucks, Midtown – Empty Like The Ocean

Don’t get me wrong – for all my gentle mocking, I love a lot of pop-punk. But I’m yet to truly uncover a pop-punk track that doesn’t somehow fit into these broadly termed categories. Go on, pop-punk kids of the internet – prove me wrong. Write me a song that doesn’t fit into emotions typically associated with being in your teens or twenties. Or, if you’ve found another basic pop-punk trope, stick your answers on a postcard and email them to! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put the entire New Found Glory discography on repeat forever and ever and ever.

Review: Heavyweights – Keep Your Friends Close [EP]

Baltimore’s Heavyweights have got a pretty solid record on their hands with Keep Your Friends Close. It wasn’t long ago that Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low loudly declared that pop-punk will live forever. I sincerely hope that All Time Low’s brand of derivative drivel will die out, but Heavyweights’ new EP harks back to pop-punk’s golden age and gives it a fresh, enthusiastic shot to the heart.

Did you like Fenix TX or Allister back in 2002? Did you ever listen to Tsunami Bomb, or even Good Charlotte’s first album? Be prepared for a wave of nostalgia to hit you in the face hard as soon as the first bars of ‘It’s Not Pretty, But It’s Us’ start to play out. The Heavyweights EP could have come straight out of that scene and you wouldn’t know any different. Is this a bad thing? Hell no. Are you going to remember Heavyweights in ten years like those bands? Maybe not with this EP, but they’re definitely on to something. After an echoey riff, ‘It’s Not Pretty, But It’s Us’ launches a full pop assault – expect fast guitars, bouncing basslines and ridiculously infectious hooks. ‘Dior 999’ and ‘Bonfire’ are much of the same, absolutely chock-full of melody and malice with some really catchy choruses. Of course, it wouldn’t be a homage to 00’s pop-punk without a cheeky cameo, and Mike Hayden of Count To Four fame steps up to the plate in ‘Bunkbeds’. And then it ends on a banger of a ballad with ‘Anna Marie’, which starts out deceptively slow with a fantastic half-time breakdown before speeding up for a total thrill-ride. It’s an incredibly tight record, and Heavyweights have truly got their sound down just right.

Yet, as much as Heavyweights embrace pop-punk’s conventions and all its glories, Keep Your Friends Close has also inherited a few of its clichés. The EP’s still all about girls and how much they suck because they’re all heartbreakers, but I guess you write what you know. Most of that at least rhymes, which I’m down with, but it almost feels like Dave Heilker is singing the same song after a while with a different melody. There’s also very little variance in style between the tracks – possibly due to the fact that it’s an EP – and although each track is fantastic in isolation , it all starts to get a bit wearing after five fast-and-loud numbers.

All in all, it’d be great to see what Heavyweights can do with a full-length record, as they seem to be another one of those bands who perpetually come out with EPs. Keep Your Friends Close is plenty of fun, and although they’re not quite there yet, Heavyweights are onto a winner.

3.5 out of 5 high fives!

Count To Four – Between Two Cities

It’s been well documented that on TwoBeatsOff, we’re big fans of the beard. To this day, the number one search string that leads you to our website is ‘punk rock beards’, which links you to the page of ours that gets the most hits – this top ten article I did on a presumably dull afternoon when I was 18. And if you like beards, then it stands to reason that you’ll like Count To Four, because they cram a ridiculous amount of beard references into their lyrics. The guys themselves range from the sexy five o’ clock shadow to the standard-yet-awesome beard punk grizzle. And that’s kind of how their debut, Between Two Cities, feels – ranging between playful, almost flirty pop-punk licks to deeper notions of troubled hearts.

Opener ‘I Hope Not’ is as good an indicator of this as any. Filled with clever puns (and those all important beard gags) as well as devastatingly catchy verses, it’s sweeter than a slice of Victoria sponge. Beneath all the bouncy riffs though, it’s a journey of self realisation; an affirmation that in fact, that one girl might not be life or death after all, and that’s okay. Count To Four continue to charm and disarm throughout the rest of the album. Tracks like ‘Plastic Dinosaurs’ and ‘Tear It Apart’ are all about growing up and getting out without losing sense of yourself, all layered over with ridiculously speedy palm mutes and pounding drums. It never really lets up, either. Sure, there’s tracks like ‘Get Into It’, which feels far more intimate due to the lyrics and a slower tempo, but they still provide a massive rush and provoke enormous grins. And yet, Count To Four are perhaps at their best when they throw down to some minor chords. ‘My M.O’, an ethics driven plea, is the most impassioned song on the album, and it’s filled with wonderful touches like a xylophone in the bridge and unexpected breakdowns. Not to mention that’s overlooking the fact that it’s the track where Mike Hayden’s vocals break from their usually measured and dulcet tones to a desperate and damning shout – and it works.

If there is any fault with Between Two Cities, it’s that the band don’t take a risk when they really should, and while for the most part, what they’ve got there is excellent, there’s a couple of tracks that could benefit from taking the plunge. For example, ‘Bottles and Books’, the closer, tries to deliver a similar kind of “you suck and I’m okay without you” effect as some of the earlier songs but nowhere near as well, perhaps due to a lack of ‘My M.O’ style passion coming through the vocals.

It’s very clear where Count To Four pull their influences from – there’s a strong sense of that early 2000s Drive-Thru kind of sound throughout – but Between Two Cities still sounds totally fresh. If you like your pop-punk with an old school feel but with a revived sense of reckless abandon and twenty-something feels, then Count To Four are the band for you. And beards, man. Beards.

4 out of 5 high fives!