[Pop-punk showdown!] NOFX by soufex

Probably not the best way to start off an article about how great a band is, but… NOFX aren’t really that great. They’ve been around for 25 years, although I’m not really sure why. Their live shows are hit-and-miss. Half their records kind of suck. They recently “totally sold out” or whatever and made a TV show. To quote the band, they’re kind of at 60 or so percent.

So, yeah. They’ve been around since 1983, but most people don’t give a shit about anything pre-White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, and only give a shit about White Trash because of Bob. Occasionally Stickin In My Eye, but it’s mostly Bob. Everyone sort of likes Linoleum. I could probably go on about how people sort of maybe like NOFX the way NOFX are sort of maybe a good band, but I really wouldn’t be doing this article much justice if I did.

I love NOFX!

No, seriously, I do. I’ve been into them since I was fifteen years old, and I vaguely remember them earlier than that, but I lived in my own little personal void of weirdness for most of my early teens so I couldn’t be expected to know these things then. The first album I bought was So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes, from a record store in Amsterdam called Boudisque, back when I thought emo was an old 90s thing involving Sunny Day Real Estate and Fugazi, punk rock was ALL and No Use For A Name and I was hella into desert/stoner grunge rock. (I also bought Bad Religion’s The Empire Strikes First. Both of which are still two of my more favourite albums.) Shoes wasn’t my turning point for getting into punk rock properly, but it certainly geared on the process. That summer I saw them play Reading from fairly far back, but it wasn’t a big deal. They were still just one of those bands I liked.

In fact, it actually took a good few years for me to really realise how awesome they were. I had a handful of albums that I would listen to semi-regularly, I think I’d bought The Decline EP because it was cheap and never really paid attention to it… and then when I was pushing 18 I suddenly realised they were kind of cool. I read up, educated myself on these hapless old dudes, wow it’s so cool, Mike’s the dude behind Fat Wreck Chords and they’re an awesome record label! They weren’t really one of absolute favouritest bands until I started art school, listening to The Decline to pass the time on a train trip, and I got hooked like crack from there. That year, Naja was staying with me, and NOFX were playing shows in the UK, so we went and saw them a bunch of times, got to know the guys- band and crew- as people, made friends with some incredibly cool people that I still talk to regularly today, and Naja proposed to me onstage. (Which I actually sometimes forget and then I remember and go fuck, that’s awesome.)

NOFX aren’t so much a band but a part of my life, to be honest. It’s kind of weird. Where some couples go hiking or collect stamps, Naja and I go to NOFX shows. They’re a highly integral part of the last few years, have set off all kinds of big life decisions and events. And Heavy Petting Zoo is a really good album, seriously. I wouldn’t start there but it’s definitely worth a listen. I think the main problem with NOFX’s albums is they tend to be full of filler, but there are always a handful of really, really stellar songs, stuff that makes me warm and fuzzy when I hear it live or on record.

I’ve really forgotten where I was going with this…. uh.

NOFX are awesome. A bit shit, but awesome. And they’re really nice guys in person. (Which I have to tell people a lot because they don’t believe me.)

Yeah, NOFX are awesome.

[Pop-punk showdown!] Millencolin by Ripper

I just don’t know what it is with Swedish music and me, but we seem to have this love affair with each other that never ever gets boring. For my entry into the pop-punk showdown series, I’ve decided to look at Millencolin, Sweden’s number one export. Well, after Abba, Dennis Lyxzen and Little Gamers, that is.

So, where do we start with Millencolin? Millencolin are a pop-punk band from Sweden on Burning Heart Records. They formed in 1992 and are still going strong today, with a total of eight studio albums to their name. And other than that, Millencolin are fairly hard to describe. They’re more punk than pop, but have more energy than the Duracell bunny on coke. Their lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but at the same time, who else can write a song where their new car sounds more like their new girlfriend? While Millencolin don’t really break any boundaries, they write songs which are fun, upbeat and give you a musical punch in the face – and that’s how pop-punk is done best.

While they may not be great innovators within the scene, Millencolin are fairly well rounded for a pop-punk band. There’s all your pop-punk staples in there – love, hate, anger, joy, rejection – all wrapped up in a deliciously riffy package. However, as Millencolin get older, their albums get a little more ballsy, a little more profound and a lot more awesome. Whilst it’s not my favourite album (but isn’t far off), Home From Home is a great example for this, picking up where Pennybridge Pioneers left off but with a lot more swagger and some incredible riffs. As a (vague) guitarist myself, I love being able to pick up a guitar and breaking out into Punk Rock Rebel. It just gives me this incredibly badass feeling, and if a pop-punk song isn’t doing that, it’s not any good.

While Millencolin albums on their own are pretty darn spectacular, it’s just not the same as seeing them live. Millencolin are absolutely fantastic live – energetic, hilarious and (pop)punk as fuck. See for yourself – this is some footage from a show they played in Stockholm. If you get the opportunity, I urge you to go to a Millencolin show, because the only place you would have more fun would be in a room filled with trampolines, free balloons and ice cream.

You might not know it, but you’ve probably heard a Millencolin song before. If you’ve ever played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, you’ve heard Millencolin, in the form of No Cigar, potentially one of their best songs and the one that brought them to fame in the punk scene. Millencolin, as any good pop-punk band should, have their origin in skateboarding – even their name is a variation of the skateboarding trick ‘melancholy’. They have their own skate shoes, a skate video (sort of – Millencolin and the Hi-8 Adventures is a behind the tour video with lots of skating in it) and their own skate competition. The Millencolin Open is a three day skate fest, held once a year at their own skate park, attracting sponsors and skaters from all over the world. In the words of our very own fightclubsandwich, “that is fucking sweeeeet!”

The truth is, I’ve essentially grown up with Millencolin, and I think this is why I love them as much as I do. My first foray into the world of pop-punk began with the Tony Hawk’s games, and Millencolin with that. Pennybridge Pioneers was one of the first albums I listened to that wasn’t in the top 40. Millencolin were one of the first bands I saw live, when they supported Good Charlotte in 2005. There’s all kinds of little things that I love about them, such as the fact that they did a split EP with Midtown, another of my favourite pop-punk bands. Millencolin are still going, and every new album they bring out is as good as the last, if not better. Millencolin are here to stay, so you might as well love them.

Recommended material:

Official website
Video for Kemp (trust me, this is awesome)

[Pop-punk showdown] Green Day by ninthandash

Green Day have been my favourite band since I was nine years old. That’s a long time, and so I’m bound to be incredibly biased when I think that they are, without a doubt, one of the best pop-punk bands out there. A lot of people write them off after the release of American Idiots — “sell outs” is a term thrown around a lot.

To be honest, if Green Day have sold out, they did it with Dookie. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Green Day have one of the best discographies of any band, with barely a bad album in there. Warning is, to some people, a disappointment but I personally love it as much as any other.

Green Day have, for starters, catchy pop-punk tunes. They’ve produced classic songs known by practically everyone below a certain age. Excluding American Idiot (because Boulevard of Broken Dreams, while wellknown, was also undeniably overplayed), Green Day have Basket Case and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).

I’m not articulating my feelings on Green Day very well, mainly because they’re a band very close to my heart. If you’re not persuaded how awesome they are yet, well, that’s okay. I’ll admit that I can — and will — do better.

With Green Day, for me, there’s nothing that can beat the feeling I got when I sat in front of the TV and heard Good Riddance for the first time. Say what you like about Green Day, love them or hate them, but there is something about that song… Haunting and nostalgic, all at the same time, it conjures up feelings and memories that you never knew you had. Billie Joe’s voice is at its best and it’s a song that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Compare that to the raw insanity of Basket Case, and immediately Green Day are not just a one trick pony. Their two greatest hits (again excluding American Idiot) are both completely different, and Basket Case encompasses the feeling that you’re going completely crazy and it doesn’t even matter. Best listened to loud.

But for me, the real gems of Green Day can be found in their albums. Take Worry Rock, from Nimrod. Another sentimal argument and bitter love/Fucked without a kiss again and dragged it through the mud. There is something about their ability to use the most rough phrases and contrast it with a catchy tune that gives their songs such an impact.

Like I said, it’s difficult for me to state objectively just how I feel about this band. Listening to their albums, I can trace different parts of my life. They’re one of those special bands which only comes along once in a lifetime. That said, I do believe that there will be at least one Green Day song for everyone.

If I haven’t convinced you of their sheer awesomeness, that’s okay. I won’t push it. But do me a favour. Pick up one of their albums and listen to it, all the way through. Open your mind and tell me there is not one song on there that you like. And once you’ve done that, I’ll call you a liar. Because I don’t think that’s possible.

[Pop-punk showdown!] – The Ergs by fightclubsandwich

The break-up of The Ergs! has left me feeling sourer than the break-up of any other band of recent times. Bands like Gorilla Biscuits or Operation Ivy or The Misfits (you know, the good version of The Misfits) broke up before I could talk, so they’ve always seemed sort of mythic and unreachable, and not at all the bands of my own generation. The very idea of seeing them play a live show feels like the idea of sitting up on Mount Olympus, chugging nectar with Zeus himself.

Then again, if the music is truly timeless then it doesn’t matter too much that the band broke up. It doesn’t feel like anything’s been lost, there’s none of that sting that if you weren’t there, you’ll only ever know a part of what that music was, because it was so much more than just music. Operation Ivy are a great example of this, because their popularity exploded so astronomically after their break up. They recently vetoed the idea of a reunion just because they only played tiny little clubs when they were around, and couldn’t figure out how Op Ivy would work in the massive venues that they’d have to play if they came back.

Basically, where I’m going with this article – although I’ll forgive you for missing this point since I’ve gone about it in such a messy, round-about sort of way – is that the music of The Ergs! is such perfection that I think it will apotheosise the band’s memory, (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll drop the mythology imagery now) and outlast them, and snowball and become as much a staple of the average punk-music-diet as Energy did.

Firstly, let’s be honest with ourselves, The Ergs! do sound an awful lot like most other pop-punk bands. Their most obstinate fans would have to concede to this – including myself, the writer of this article in support of them – because it is the truth. However, I doubt many pop-punk fans are really that bothered by ‘that nagging feeling’ that one song sounds suspiciously like another. Pop-punk is not a genre that takes itself nearly seriously enough for such accusations to stick. It is youthful and snotty and playful, it cares about dancing and crushes and fun and not at all what you might think of it. The best pop-punk bands are not renowned for their technical merit or sparkling innovation, they are beloved for their jaunty, catchy melodies and simplicity of expression – why would this singer use a four syllable word to describe his feelings for a girl he likes when his feelings are not that complicated to begin with?

There is, of course, a balance that has to be reached here. What makes pop-punk music interesting and lively and fun, or just plain boring and unoriginal is difficult to define because it doesn’t really come from anything we can measure critically. The Ergs! are unstoppably fun and lively, and even if a lot of what they’re doing is, musically, built upon hand-me-downs from The Ramones and Screeching Weasel and so on, who cares? Because they way they play it, it certainly sounds new and fresh. This is why I think their music deserves to – is going to – last forever. There’s a charm to The Ergs that’s going to keep appealing to people so long as The Kids are still Alright and listening to music.

In particular, the song Pray For Rain (off the album Dork Rock Cork Rod) is perhaps one of the most perfect pop-punk songs ever. The lyrics are at turns sweet and sour in sentiment, and just when you think they’re coasting on the most obvious rhymes, something clever comes along and knocks you out with a wit that you weren’t expecting. More than anything, these are purposefully rhythmical lyrics, designed to keep the song bouncing along, perky as ever. The subject matter (the lead singer can’t write a song about how infatuated he is by his love interest because “it seems like broken-hearted love songs are what I’m all about” and suggests, tongue in cheek, that they will have to break up so that he can write a song about “how everything went wrong. And you can sing along”) is a brilliant distillation of the entire basis of a genre, a clever but unpretentious little comment on the whole idea of love songs and the importance of angst and misery in love songs. The guitars are loud and clangy, as if they’re trying their hardest not to sound cute and melodic, but aren’t succeeding in the slightest, because that’s exactly how they sound.

Most importantly, this is a song that you will not get out of your head for months. When you finally do get it out of your head, it will likely be replaced with another Ergs! song because their musical canon is pretty much geared towards catchiness with all the intensity of a Britney Spears hit. Music can do a lot of things – it is a mysterious source with many mystical powers. The music of The Ergs! is designed to be ‘The Best Pop-Punk We Can Build’ and it does its job beautifully. If you want the distilled essence of why pop-punk is a genre that will never die, listen to The Ergs! and it will make a pop-punk fan out of you.

[Pop-punk showdown!] Blink 182 by Nox

So I love Blink 182 and I still remember watching the What’s My Age Again video on TRL and laughing at these three naked boys running through the streets causing so much havoc. Well, lets just say there are several things that make Blink 182 ultimately and undeniably awesome, and I plan to talk about them.

Blink 182 has that magic that makes everyone, fan or not, want to jump around their bedroom with a hairbrush and sing along at the top of their lungs. That same magic that undoubtedly ignites that urge to play air guitar to All The Small Things as your BFFL plays along on air drums. (Don’t try to deny it, we have all done it.) This is the magic clever entertainment execs try to capture by using Blink songs in movies, commercials, and television shows. They are catchy and rebellious and absurd and everybody loves them.

For me, I remember standing at the bus stop with my walkman listening to Adam’s Song and just appreciating how someone could put into words how my life felt at its lowest. Of course, there are the lighter fond memories of the car rides screaming along to Anthem and daydreaming about The Rock Show, which for me later seemed to come true.

I love that tingle that runs up my spine when Man Overboard comes on my iPod, and the slideshow that plays in my mind every time I hear I Miss You and Always. Blink 182 runs deep in my roots and I am so stoked they are back together. It is not every day a band can piss off a band that lives for pissing people off. On their Pop Punk Disaster Tour Blink 182 made Green Day feel as if they were ‘Making fun of’ the music they made, with their toilet humor and crude lyrics, but as guys they were cool – and it was that reckless full-throttle mindset that brought them to the top of their game.

Basically, if you are looking for catchy tunes that you can sing real loud to wake up the neighbors or rock out on your stellar air guitar or bounce around to at a show Blink 182 is your band. Because to be quite honest, they are fucking brilliant. And they are definitely three snot nosed punks that know just the three chords to play to make your heart beat faster.