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.

From Chicago Softcore to Arena Tours: Can Fall Out Boy Still Be Punk?

I went to go see Fall Out Boy last month. This probably doesn’t come as much as a surprise to anyone who knows me, or anyone who reads this zine/blog/collaborative punk rock endeavour on the regular. The number of times that I’ve seen Fall Out Boy live throughout the years has clocked into the double digits, only beaten by New Found Glory’s insane touring repertoire. But last month, it was the first time I’d ever seen them take to an arena stage, and for me, the magic had gone.

There’s a light on in Chicago, but nobody’s home any more.

Fall Out Boy were probably in the best form they’ve been in for years. Patrick’s weight loss is more than just cosmetic – he can sing without losing his breath, and he dives around the stage like a charismatic little maniac. He has, finally, become the frontman he always should have been. Joe’s still an absolute hero, pulling off sweet guitar solos like nothing else matters, and Andy’s Andy; a vegan straight-edge no-nonsense motherfucker who gets down to business. Pete looked a little weathered, and the realisation that the entire front four rows are just screaming teenage girls meant that he didn’t dive into the crowd for ‘Saturday’ like before, but hey, we’ve all got to grow up sometime, and there’s still a little bit of that devilish charm left in our boy Wentz. Perhaps that’s it – Fall Out Boy are finally grown-ups, and Pete is no longer Peter Pan; those tired eyes are no longer hidden behind smeared black eyeliner. This added maturity obviously isn’t bad at all, and Save Rock and Roll is an extremely accomplished album. Ten solid slices of radio-friendly rock gold (and ‘Save Rock and Roll’ but we don’t talk about that), all tied together with one weird video concept, which actually made a great backdrop for the night. The stage at the NIA was backed by a huge array of screens, showing various bits from the Save Rock and Roll videos. They played a couple of token tracks off Take This to Your Grave. There was a good selection off From Under the Cork Tree. In theory, it had the makings to be one of the better sets I’ve seen from Fall Out Boy, but I left feeling a little bit empty. It’s not their fault; they’ve just moved on.

From Under The Cork Tree hasn’t hit the fire just yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

To truly understand why this hurts, you have to realise what a huge part of my adolescence Fall Out Boy were. I didn’t have a great amount of friends in high school. I was the school goth for a while, and after that, I was just another loser. The friends that I did have didn’t quite get my love of punk rock, black metal and Japanese pop music. There was one boy who did, and he pretty much took my heart and stomped on it, over and over. But Fall Out Boy were always there for me. Pete’s perfect poetry and Patrick’s dulcet tones carried me through, and I developed a fervour for them that even my adoration of AFI didn’t quite match. My love affair with AFI is a lifelong, consistent dedication – always there, burning slowly in the background. My obsession with Fall Out Boy was more like young love; it hit me fast and hard. I made friends with a bunch of people on online forums who felt the same, and when I felt lost, they were always there for me. My sister and I went to as many FOB shows as our parents would drive to, and we would sit wide-eyed in the back seat on the way home, awestruck by what we’d just witnessed. It’s not necessarily that FOB were technically that good (as a live band, they seriously took it up a notch at the NIA last month, but I’ve seen them just going through the motions before), but we always felt at home in those festival crowds, at those London venues, and we screamed the lyrics until we couldn’t scream any more.

I sang a little at the show last month. I mouthed the words a bit. I’m not totally jaded; give me a sweaty punk rock basement show and I’ll throw down with the best of them. Eyeliner can always be reapplied, clothes can always be changed, but the spark that the right show can ignite is priceless and dangerous. There’s a reason why punk rock and authority have never been great bedfellows. Fall Out Boy no longer ignite that spark in me. In a huge arena, denim vests covered in Fall Out Boy patches sell for £50, and boys in SoulCal polo shirts shrug when the show ends on ‘Saturday’. Middle-aged women who heard ‘Young Volcanoes’ on Radio 1 dance drunkenly around me, and there’s a girl in a Ramones t-shirt that didn’t recognise ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’ when they played it through the PA before the set started. I can’t say that Fall Out Boy sold out; who am I to deny them the success that they completely deserve? Moving on musically increased their popularity phenomenally after the trainwreck that was Folie a Deux (I mean seriously, what the hell was that), and Save Rock and Roll is still a great album, even if it lacks the emotional depth and the youthful arrogance of its predecessors. And I don’t want to be elitist; I don’t want to claim FOB for myself and teenage girl misfits everywhere. I just want to feel something when I listen to their records. I just want to feel connected when I see them up on that stage. I just want to feel unafraid and reckless.

Instead, I felt very alone that night, awash in a sea of perfectly practised motions. My boyfriend provided a much-needed lifeline (and he let me rant as much as my brain could handle) but Fall Out Boy are no longer the heroes I need. They may have saved rock and roll, and they once stirred my young and fragile heart, but they’ve gone onto bigger and better things. It takes something different to light that fire in the core of my soul now, but it burns stronger than ever. Thanks for the memories; they were truly great, but memories are now all they are.

Top 10 Songs of Spring

Forget the Saharan sand and the air pollution, spring is here! It’s like summer’s support act – not quite the big deal, but not bad all the same. Most of the time, anyway. So, my music taste tends to change with the season; my horrorpunk has (for the most part) been set aside for darker times, and I’m ready to approach something fresher. Here’s a bunch of songs that are the perfect lead-in to happy spring days.

10) Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
I haven’t been able to stop listening to this record since January, but the eponymous track on Against Me!’s storming sixth album is the most fantastic wake-up call. Laura Jane Grace has got some heavy shit to tell us, and she’s going to do it in style.

9) Asian Kung-Fu Generation – Rewrite
This was the opening track to a season of FullMetal Alchemist, which I totally burned through during an Easter holiday back in high school. But it’s easy to see why songs like these get chosen to lead in a story that’s as much about adventuring as it is about kicking demonic ass – because they’re really, really catchy.

8) Blink 182 – Aliens Exist
Enema of the State. What an album. Blink 182 usually makes it onto my summer playlists rather than my spring, but ‘Aliens Exist’ has just a touch of desolate paranoia that I can’t help but adore. Also, the Tom, Mark and Travis Show version is beyond perfect.

7) Eisley – Drink The Water
It’s impossible to listen to an Eisley album without falling into some state of perfect bliss. Every track is beautiful, and ‘Drink The Water’ from Currents is no exception. All of their songs are like fairy tales, and if you’ve never tuned in before, go right ahead and be amazed.

6) Fall Out Boy – Just One Yesterday
Save Rock And Roll is full of great vocal lines, but this song takes the chocolate-smothered cake with cherry on top. The guest vocals from Foxes are just sublime. Roll down the windows and belt it out down country roads for maximum effect.

5) Fidlar – West Coast
Surf-punk is one of my favourite things in existence, and by extension, Fidlar are pretty high up on that list. ‘West Coast’ is a massive song, totally singable and Henry Rollins makes a cheeky appearance in the video for no apparent reason.

4) Kevin Devine – Just Stay
Possibly my favourite Kevin Devine song, ‘Just Stay’ is a beautiful mix of country sensibilities and second-wave emo feelings. Simultaneously uplifting and crushing, just like spring tends to be with sunshine and showers.

3) Northstar – Like AM Radio
Who doesn’t love a bit of 2004 emo from Alabama that sounds like it should have come out of Long Island? I don’t know anyone, that’s for sure. Pollyanna is still a great record, and ‘Like AM Radio’ is its crowning jewel.

2) Allison Weiss – One Way Love
Allison Weiss is 100% adorable, 100% awesome and one hell of a talented songwriter. And I think that’s all I need to say: listen to the track and discover for yourself.

1) Andrew McMahon – Synesthesia
Andrew’s solo tour last year was incredible, and so was The Pop Underground, his first solo EP. Jack’s Mannequin doesn’t really count. If you like soft synths, sweet piano and Andrew’s dulcet tones (who doesn’t?), then this record is a must.

Records of the Year – 2013

I have been avoiding this list like the plague. In a year of such incredible music, especially from our own fair United Kingdom, putting a list together seems completely arbitrary and not really a celebration of the year at all. But convention dictates that I really should do something. So, in the traditional fashion, I’ve gone for a top ten. Except for the top spot, all of these could be fairly interchangeable as to how fantastic they are. In their own way, each of these records represents a perfect moment in time, whether it was a great return or a truly exciting debut. So, without further ado, I give you my top ten albums of 2013. Now go and have yourselves a bloody good Christmas and a cracking New Year.

Heartthrob was completely different to the usual Tegan and Sara style. Instead of mysterious indie-pop, they went full-on with a bunch of synths and explicit lyrics. And it was good. There are places that are so 80s, you’d swear you were wearing frilly sleeves and more eyeliner than is good for you, until it breaks into a pounding chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place at your local nightclub. Totally unexpected, highly irreverent, completely fantastic.

It was a big year for comebacks, and Fall Out Boy had one of the biggest ones yet. I’ll admit, I was wary of the FOB reunion to begin with. But Patrick Stump’s time crafting R&B hooks was put to good use and combined with a few pop-punk sensibilities, Save Rock And Roll is a complete progression. A necessary one, some might say, and it showed the world that Fall Out Boy were back in full force and ready to take your radio by storm. Also, the bass riff to ‘Where Did The Party Go’ is one of the best things they’ve ever done.

“THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.” That gang chorus was a sign. Bring Me The Horizon were not taking any shit. Also, it’s a remarkably uncommon word, very clever in its usage, and that’s what Bring Me The Horizon’s fourth album is – extraordinarily clever. It’s not necessarily intricate, there’s nu-metal influence everywhere, but it completely bends and breaks previous expectations of the band and creates a sonic journey like nothing else. From the vitriolic ‘Antivist’ to the beautiful ‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’, nothing about Sempiternal is imperfect.

Hey You Guys! are an amalgamation of some of the Worcester scene’s heroes, and these dudes have brought together an unmatched sense of humour, savvy lyrics and catchy-as-fuck hooks into one mindblowing record. Our interview with Hey You Guys! explains further why we love them, but Gasp Shock Horror is 28 minutes of sheer joy.

This record came at the perfect time for We Are Fiction. With bands like Mallory Knox, Young Guns and Canterbury making it big, it’s only a matter of time until We Are Fiction are massive, and they absolutely deserve it. One of the hardest working bands in the UK scene have brought out a record that echoes the glorious post-hardcore scene of the early 2000s while still remaining fresh and relevant. The dual vocal approach from Phil Barker and Marc Kucharski works so well, and it’s one of those records that has you hitting ‘repeat’ the second it’s done. Kate’s review of One For Sorrow says it all.

Let’s be honest, apart from In With The Out Crowd which was a bit iffy, Less Than Jake always deliver the goods. See The Light is no exception. From start to finish, it’s filled with ska-punk bangers. As sunny as a Floridian summer afternoon, no other album has made me smile so much this year, or want to dance as much, and I look forward to blasting this out in the summer at all the barbeques.

An absolutely solid effort from Bangers this year, Crazy Fucking Dreams is the kind of record other punk bands dream of making. Although they’re sticking with the tried and tested ‘big riffs, big rants’ formula, there’s still plenty of innovation here, and their story-telling skills are in full swing, with tracks that can’t help but speak to you. If you like your punk honest and raw, but actually listenable with wonderfully gruff vocals, Bangers are the band for you. And Crazy Fucking Dreams is brilliant.

Again, this was a record I was slightly wary of. Lead single ‘Miss Jackson’ didn’t impress me much, but as soon as ‘This Is Gospel’ made an appearance, I knew that Panic! were back on track to an absolute hit. Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! is ten straight tracks of pop glory. Every song has a totally different feel to it, but all of them carry something wonderful to the front, whether that’s a catchy chorus or a beautifully poignant melody. Continuing post-Ross is one of the best things Panic! could have done – this is exactly why.

It was clear from the days of Reuben that Jamie Lenman was an almost unnaturally talented songwriter – how was it possible for post-hardcore to be so good and yet maintain a distinctly British voice? It just hadn’t been done before. Like Muscle Memory hasn’t been done before. The first side, Muscle, is the most gut-wrenching hardcore record of the year, with crushing, dirgey riffs abound. It’s utterly glorious. However, second side, Memory, is a folky, poppy, acoustic-y, big band-y foray into something completely genius. Separately, they’d both be incredible records, but together, they combine to create something phenomenal. Not to mention, releasing two records like this together is punk as fuck.

A predictable entry into the list, but an extremely important one. Burials is the best thing AFI have done since The Art Of Drowning. It’s not to say that their efforts in-between have been bad, but Burials was outstanding. A raw, emotional journey juxtaposed with some of the most intricate songwriting that AFI has ever exhibited? Sign me up. Twice. You can read my full love letter to Burials here, or better yet, you can go and buy it and remember why you fell in love with music to begin with.

Best Friends, Ex-Friends To The End – why the Fall Out Boy reunion matters

Pop punk has already had its commercial golden age. It came in the mid 2000s, when I was going through high school. Fall Out Boy were the kings of that era, and we made sure to shout it from the rooftops. I have followed this band around on tour to the point where I probably knew the set list better than they did. Between my sister and I, we own every single album, single, B-side. My email address is a misheard Fall Out Boy lyric (which in this one case, actually turned out to be better than the original). I have plenty of Clandestine clothing. Everything points at me being one of Fall Out Boy’s number one fans, but I’m not. At least, I haven’t been for years. When high school ended, and Fall Out Boy released Folie a Deux, it was time to move on to different things.

Now I am twenty-two years old. Four years have passed since the last Fall Out Boy album and I’ve graduated from one degree and moved on to another. Pete, Patrick, Andy and Joe all went their separate ways for a while. This website, initially little more than a blog, grew up into something a little bit bigger. We can finally call ourselves a ‘zine’. I went and saw other bands on other labels. I read Patrick’s essay on Alternative Press, about how he wanted a break from music because of all the hassle and stress it was bringing. I watched from the sidelines as more and more of the Decaydance bands split. I had boyfriends who didn’t know who the fuck Fall Out Boy were, nor cared. Pete Wentz maintained his penchant for swearing lots on stage whenever he came to the UK with his god-awful side project. Other bands, like Blink-182 came out of hiatus. Rumours would fly every six months or so about a Fall Out Boy reunion, but none ever came to fruition. Patrick’s solo album was outstanding as far as I could see, but the critics didn’t rate it. Andy and Joe’s time in The Damned Things was pretty awesome. Time just… went by.

Occasionally, Fall Out Boy would come up on my shuffle, and I would smile. They were a reminder of my teen years, more so than any other band. I rarely decided to listen to an album though, too busy with the tidal wave of promos that threatened to decimate my inbox. It’s not that I didn’t care. I’ve always cared. I’d just burnt myself out on them. Like they needed a hiatus, I needed a break.

But I didn’t realise how much I needed a Fall Out Boy reunion until it happened. There’d been a few false starts, but as soon as the proper announcement and the video exploded all over my Twitter feed, I felt my heart race. I listened to the song. I listened to all the songs, and I found that I remembered every single word. I texted people. None of them were that bothered, but I was. I belted out the lyrics as I sped down the motorway. It wasn’t like I’d been transported back to my youth again at all, because let’s get one thing straight, no Fall Out Boy album has been the same as its predecessor. Pete’s lyrics have gotten more metaphoric and Patrick’s experimented more and more with different genres. It’s this change that arguably led me to become disenchanted with the band, especially thanks to Folie a Deux. I still maintain that Take This To Your Grave is the best thing they ever did, built from heartbreak and mayhem and distilled into gloriously irreverent bursts, but like Patrick said, there would be no sense in writing another TTTYG. They’re in a completely different moment of time. Save Rock And Roll is not going to be a pop-punk album, but I can’t wait to see exactly what it will be. I’m not waiting for Fall Out Boy to come and show the newcomers how it has been done, but how to do it now. The new track is audacious, laden with hooks and takes more than a few cues from the music that Patrick’s been writing in the downtime. This is not Fall Out Boy as we know it, but something new. And that’s why this reunion matters so much. I have grown up, and Fall Out Boy have too.

Just one thing – no more hardcore screams, Pete. Please.