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50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums

From Blink-182 to the Buzzcocks, we count down the best of punk’s most lovable, lovelorn offshoot

In a 2016 tweet, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong declared war on pop-punk. “I’ve always hated the phrase,” he explained later in Kerrang! “I think it’s a contradiction in terms. Either you’re punk, or you’re not.”

But in one way or another, that contradiction – the idea of a staunchly underground art form with serious mainstream appeal – has been there all along. From hooky Seventies aces (The Buzzcocks, The Undertones) to Eighties hardcore heroes (Misfits, Descendents), Nineties hitmakers (Green Day, Blink-182) and beyond, punk bands have always championed great songwriting alongside their anti-authoritarian stance. And punk’s focus on speed, concision and three-chord simplicity is a natural fit with pop’s core values.

Over the years, what we now know as pop-punk has transformed rapidly, evolving with the times and the trends. As New Wave and college rock, followed by ska, rap, emo and even boy-band aesthetics have made their way into the mix, one feature has remained constant: Pop-punk is for the teens – or at least the young at heart. It’s inherently bratty, angsty-ridden, self-deprecating and generationally divisive. It’s also tender and romantic, thriving on nostalgic, swooning scenes of first loves, life-changing kisses and tragic heartbreaks. It is the OC, the One Tree Hill, the teen soap opera of contemporary rock. The early music of standout acts like Blink-182, Simple Plan, Sum-41 and, yes, even Green Day, was always about arrested development, a stubborn desire to never grow up. And fans returning to these classic albums 10, 15, 20 years on can feel like maybe they never did – a state of “What’s My Age Again?” bliss.

“The whole spectrum of human experience, all that longing and self-doubt, is perfectly sketched out in those formative years,” The New Yorker‘s Amanda Petrusich wrote in 2016 of the potency of adolescent emotion, while reflecting on Blink-182’s comeback. “That’s where pop-punk lives. Its rawness lies not in the music but in the heady newness of those feelings.”

In celebration of this durable, fiercely beloved movement, we count down the 50 best pop-punk albums so far. From the Buzzcocks to 5 Seconds of Summer, here is punk’s new canon.

The Jam, Snap! (1983)
26

The Jam, ‘Snap!’ (1983)

Though
he was only 18 when the Jam first charted in 1977, frontman Paul Weller matured quickly
as a writer, drawing on influences ranging from Pete Townshend and Ray Davies
to English novelists George Orwell and Colin MacInnes. Brilliant songs
like “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight,” “Going Underground”
and “Town Called Malice” eloquently reflected the frustration
and alienation of working-class life in Thatcher’s Britain. “When
I see all these other fuckin’ groups — all the really fraudulent bands that’re
around — that keeps me in check,” Weller told The Face in May 1982. “That keeps me realizing what we should
be doing — showing that bunch of wankers up for what they are.” While that
kind of intensity ultimately proved impossible to sustain (Weller broke up the
band in late ’82), the
band’s incredible six-year run of U.K. singles – many of which weren’t included
on their albums – is captured exquisitely on Snap!, a 1983 compilation that showcases the ringing chords,
pointedly observational lyrics, passionate shout-along choruses and watertight
musical attack that would prove enormously influential on such pop-punk
threesomes as Green Day and Alkaline Trio. D.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
25

Jimmy Eat World, ‘Bleed American’ (2001)

After the vaguely experimental cult classic Clarity, Jimmy Eat World challenged themselves to go simpler, and the result was Bleed American, an album that helped introduce the band – and a new wave of pop-punk – to the mainstream. Reissued as Jimmy Eat World after 9/11, the album is a collection of catchy anthems that rely on the genre’s trustiest themes: alienation, death, growing up, love found and lost, and the simple comfort of singing along with your favorite bands. And in late 2001, there was no song more inescapable than the album’s second single, “The Middle,” which was crucial to landing the band everywhere from TRL episodes to Taylor Swift’s headphones. “I wish every kid who goes through those same feelings of loneliness could hear how Jim Adkins sings,” said Swift, who eventually covered it with Adkins himselfP.V.

Stiff Little Fingers, 'Inflammable Material' (1979)
24

Stiff Little Fingers, ‘Inflammable Material’ (1979)

Punk was evolving by 1979: The Clash put out a double album filled with ska, reggae, and rockabilly songs, while new influences from dub to krautrock could be heard across the genre. That trend alone would make “Suspect Device,” the ringing, anthemic opening track off Inflammable Material, the debut from Belfast’s Stiff Little Fingers, stand out among the pack. But the track is also a blueprint for the shape of pop-punk to come. The lyrics rail against an uncaring system (“They put up the wall/On each side, time and prime us/And make sure we get fuck all”) but with a poppy melodicism buried underneath all the speed and rage, foreshadowing not just Green Day but their American forebears Hüsker Dü and the Replacements. The record also influenced members of another Irish band: As Bono told The Guardian in 2007, “For me it was more about rage, still is really. My soundtrack was more ‘Alternative Ulster’ by Stiff Little Fingers.” J.D.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
23

Alkaline Trio, ‘From Here To Infirmary’ (2001)

Shortly before Alkaline Trio released their third album, From Here to Infirmary, guitarist-singer Matt Skiba told The Chicago Tribune, “We definitely like to write songs about darker things, but we like to think of it as a celebration of the evil ideas that run through everybody’s head.” Skiba, bassist-vocalist Daniel Andriano and drummer Mike Felumlee (of local pop-punk heroes Smoking Popes) nailed that sweet spot throughout From Here to Infirmary, especially on “Armageddon,” which mines self-doubt, romantic woe and, yes, the end of the world for a limber, rocket-fueled burst. Alkaline Trio’s taste for gothy aesthetics was as strong a hook as their ironclad melodies, and they started raking in new fans with From Here to Infirmary. But as much as their taste for darkness set the trio apart from every other suburban Chicago pop-punk band of the day, From Here to Infirmary also showcased the Trio’s strengths as succinct songwriters who knew how to command the pulse of the living. L.G.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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The Rezillos, ‘Can’t Stand the Rezillos’ (1978)

From Edinburgh, Scotland – birthplace of the Bay City Rollers – high-octane goofballs Rezillos mixed surf rock, garage, glam, rockabilly and New Wave quirko-costumes into a punk-rock band that feels like the B-52’s if they listened to more Cramps than Chic. Their lone studio album (until a 2015 reunion), Can’t Stand the Rezillos combines the greasy kids’ stuff of Fifties sci-fi (“Flying Saucer Attack,” “2000 A.D.”), the giddy highs of the Sixties beat groups (covers of Dave Clark Five, and Gerry and the Pacemakers), and the art-school-hewn drollness of Seventies post-punk (one of the album’s catchiest songs is “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”). “We all came from a similar place and we met somewhere that set us in a similar direction, which was to do something that was very rock & roll–y and drawn from lots of arty things that had to do with pop culture and very rooted in garage rock,” co-vocalist Fay Fife told Noisey. “People didn’t really like that then, but we liked it.” C.R.W.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
21

Operation Ivy, ‘Operation Ivy’ (1991)

“Everyone’s got their band,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Spin in 2005, “and I’ve got to say Operation Ivy was definitely one that changed me.” The Green Day lead singer wasn’t the only one whose life was changed by the band that included future Rancid members Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman; for better or worse, the outfit could be thanked for the entire ska-punk sound that they left in their wake. But taken on its own merits, the their entire studio discography of less than 30 songs (collected on a self-titled 1991 Lookout Records comp) pulses with youthful energy, anger and urgency, all set against a raw, poppy sound that countless bands would try to imitate, but none could duplicate. The band epitomized the scrappy East Bay scene that spawned Crimpshrine, Mr. T Experience, and, of course, Green Day, who would record a honky tonk-style cover of Op Ivy’s “Knowledge” on their second seven-inch. J.D.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
20

All Time Low, ‘So Wrong, It’s Right’ (2007)

Think of All Time Low as the kings of a new pop-punk wave – or heroes of the late TRL generation. Led by goofy guys Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat, the Maryland band became icons for their youthful outlook, as displayed on second LP So Wrong, It’s Right: “Shameless” outlines the bittersweet sensation of crushing on the cool girl; “Stay Awake, is the moment when she finally looks your way. The album as a whole indulges the teenage fantasy of making a night, a dance, a relationship last forever. The songs’ characters dream of “Vegas” in place of their usual suburban haunts, or “Poppin’ Champagne” in lieu of 40s in their school parking lots. In many ways, the album’s diverse sound – the unexpected “California!” aside in “Let It Roll,” the mournful acoustic balladry of “Remembering Sunday,” the ecstatic vivacity of the four-times platinum “Dear Maria, Count Me In” – is the perfect template for late-2000s pop-punk as a whole. “Everything we do is a little bit weird and a little bit wrong but everyone seems to like it,” Gaskarth told BuzzNet in 2008M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Good Charlotte, ‘The Young and the Hopeless’ (2002)

By 2002, pop-punk was part of the mainstream, and young bands were unapologetic in their pursuit of fame. “Joel and I always wanted to be in a big band,” Benji Madden told Rock Sound of the twin brothers’ ambition. “We never set out to be the cool, underground band that the elite listened to: we wanted to play shows all around the world, to anyone who would hear us.” And they did just that, while taking the elite gatekeepers down a peg with songs like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “The Anthem,” blending traditional pop-punk kiss-offs with light hip-hop break-beats and tales of broken homes, riot grrrls and bloody valentines. B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Bad Religion, ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ (1994)

Formed in 1980, Bad Religion were already the granddaddies of SoCal pop-punk in 1993, when they shocked the punk world by leaving Epitaph Records – the label run by BR guitarist and co-founder Brett Gurewitz – for Atlantic. But Stranger Than Fiction (their major-label debut, and eighth full-length overall) was actually a rousing reaffirmation of Bad Religion’s seemingly innate ability to harness switchblade-sharp melodic hooks and incisive social commentary to a lean and muscular guitar roar. “I think there’s a lot of question out there with our loyal fans as to whether we’re going to change our musical style to try to appeal to, say, the KROQ audience or the Pearl Jam fan, you know what I mean, since we’re now on a major label,” Gurewitz told The Big Takeover in 1994. “I wanted to let them know that here’s a record that our loyal fans can stand behind because it’s punk as hell.” Stranger Than Fiction became the first and only Bad Religion album to go gold, while “Incomplete,” “The Handshake,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and a swaggering re-recording of “21st Century (Digital Boy)” from 1990’s Against the Grain remain some of the best-loved songs in the band’s extensive catalog. D.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Rancid, ‘…And Out Come the Wolves’ (1995)

After a charmed run as the socially conscious, ska-punk heroes of Operation Ivy, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman founded Rancid together in 1991. Curiously enough, the band thrived commercially in spite of the grunge boom of the Nineties; their rousing 1994 record Let’s Go climbed up the Billboard 200, following endorsements by fellow Berkeley punks Green Day and Epitaph labelmates the Offspring. To their great dismay, Rancid’s sudden market viability would trigger an influx of major-label offers, including one from Madonna’s Maverick Records. “They started coming to gigs. … We didn’t ask them to,” guitarist Lars Frederiksen told Rolling Stone in 1995 – thus spawning the title of the band’s third LP, …And Out Come the Wolves. But what Rancid lacked in pop ambition, they made up with their brilliant storytelling. Using traditional song structures, Rancid specialized in street-punk lore sourced from their real, tempestuous lives on the road, from the skinhead vignette “Time Bomb” to “Olympia, WA,” a rock & roll elegy to Armstrong’s tanked relationship with Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail. Certified platinum in 2004, the spirit of Out Come the Wolves still rings more punk than pop – but it remains a timeless touchstone for young troublemakers across generations. S.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Green Day, ‘American Idiot’ (2004)

Pop-punk, in theory, was never meant to grow up, but with American Idiot, Green Day found a brilliant, political loophole. In direct response to George W. Bush’s presidency, the trio crafted an immersive, urgent rock opera fueled by rage and love, and told from the perspective of a dejected young Jesus of Suburbia itching to leave his deadbeat town. “We did everything we could to piss people off,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2005. It was an ambitious, anti-pop-punk move for the band, to create sprawling nine-minute stadium-worthy songs filled with characters, plot development and a terrifying reflection of reality. But it worked: American Idiot was a big comeback moment for the former bratty upstarts. “I felt like I was too old to be angry anymore,” Armstrong continued. “It’s sexy to be an angry young man, but to be a bitter old bastard is another thing altogether.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Sum-41, ‘All Killer No Filler’ (2001)

Canadian pop-punkers Sum-41 emerged in a dense 2000s pop-punk marketplace, oversaturated but hungry for more. Their debut, All Killer No Filler, was an immediate success – due in large to their partnership with pop-punk producer extraordinaire Jerry Finn, but also to their respect for the genre and motivation to expand upon it. While the record drowns in its adolescent insecurity (“Motivation”) and a clichéd pop-punk desire to break out of one’s hometown (“Crazy Amanda Bunkface”), it also employed emo-pop hooks years before they became the norm (“Rhythms” and “Handle This.”) And like few other pop-punk acts, Sum-41 experimented with rap, as on teen-angst anthem “Fat Lip,” a rallying cry against conformity and societal pressure. “White rock bands got really lame – they have broken hearts and all that shit. But the hip-hop guys, like DMX, they’re badass with strip clubs and booze,” drummer Steve Jocz told Rolling Stone in 2001. “That’s what we want to be doing.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
14

New Found Glory, ‘New Found Glory’ (2000)

New Found Glory’s self-titled second LP is exactly what you’d expect from a bunch of baby-faced punks who kept an altar to Britney Spears in their van. Yet diva-worship aside, these guys were no Mouseketeers. An export of the South Florida hardcore scene, the group took cues from neighboring punks Discount and even metalcore band Earth Crisis to brew combustible anthems such as the splashy opener “Better Off Dead” or crushed-up morsels of rock candy like lonely tour ballad “Dressed To Kill.” Their breakout single “Hit or Miss” would be the band’s lucky charm: legend goes that Drive-Thru Records signed the band after NFG tourmates Midtown played the song for co-owner Stephanie Reines in a blizzard. Made unforgettable by the piercing trill of frontman Jordan Pundik – “The needle on my record player has been wearing thin,” he sings. “This record has been playing since the day you’ve been with him!” – their pop melodrama was contagious. “It was one of those CDs that never found its way out of my CD player,” Mark Hoppus told Alternative Press in 2010. “New Found Glory just had something different and unique.” As guitarist Chad Gilbert told Chorus.fm, “When New Found Glory started, our genre didn’t really exist. There was Blink and West Coast punk that was big, but that was a different style. [NFG] and Saves the Day were blending more emotional lyrics with punk/hardcore-influenced stuff. When we started writing songs, it just came out. We didn’t overthink it. Is this punk? Is this not? Is this whatever?” This genre-shifting, yet super accessible formula ensured New Found Glory‘s position on the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks, and continued to pay off big-time on their 2002 major-label debut, Sticks and Stones. S.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
13

The Offspring, ‘Smash’ (1994)

While Green Day were the poster boys of the Nineties punk boom, the Offspring were integral in giving the genre an added mainstream boost. In 1994, the Orange County band’s third LP, Smash, broke the Billboard Top Five and became the biggest-selling independent album to date. The band racked up mega-hit singles – the quirky, gang-violence–themed “Come Out and Play”; the sardonic loser’s anthem “Self-Esteem” – without toning down their signature hard-edged crunch. Of course, the band’s pop appeal came with a price: Punk purists cried foul when they broke big and signed to Columbia following the release of Smash. “Isn’t it ironic?” frontman Dexter Holland reflected to Rolling Stone on the album’s 20th anniversary. “You start a punk band because you feel like you’re being ostracized. Then your punk band gets big and you get ostracized again.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
12

Jawbreaker, ’24 Hour Revenge Therapy’ (1994)

Home to luminaries like Green Day and Rancid, the Bay Area was the epicenter of underground punk in the early-to-mid-Nineties – and no band evoked the spirit of that time and place better than Jawbreaker. Their third album, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, captures the sense of rebellion that united different punk factions throughout Jawbreaker’s adoptive hometown. Although formed at NYU, the trio made the ambitious move to California in 1987, where they were embraced as fiercely as any band born in Oakland. Listeners didn’t need to know the scene politics of beloved nonprofit venue 924 Gilman Street to relate to the streetwise grit and melodic euphoria of timeless punk fight song “Boxcar” or the redemptive, surging “Condition Oakland,” which, as singer-guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach told Pitchfork, encapsulated the album. “It addressed those ideas of loneliness and struggling to be an artist in a kind of rough environment,” he said. “It has a lot of immediate truth to it.” L.G.

11

NOFX, ‘Punk in Drublic’ (1994)

NOFX’s fifth LP best displays the mix of crass wit and songwriting chops that have made them pop-punk mainstays for well over three decades. “To me, that was our best album,” guitarist El Hefe told the Associated Press in 2014. “I had no idea that it was going to sell that big. Gold? That was probably the furthest thing from our mind. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great, but okay, it’s punk music, and how much money can you really make in the punk scene?’ From there, it was like the rollercoaster just took off.” Driven by frontman Fat Mike’s grating sneer and Hefe’s flamboyant shred, the album juggles hard-hitting punk, silly ska and tightly crafted rock songs about busking and fighting Nazis. The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck makes a cameo in “Lori Meyers,” a labor song for the girl-next-door turned sex worker. Punk in Drublic‘s gritty melodicism in songs like “Linoleum” and “Dig” gives the record a timeless quality; their button-pushing anti-PC stance, not so much. But if at its heart, much of pop-punk is cringe-inducing, this scuzzy manifesto – an inspiration to scores of bands, from Blink-182 to Lagwagon – is canon. M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Misfits, ‘Walk Among Us’ (1982)

For some, hardcore was about social commentary or emotional release, but Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig was just looking to have a good time. “More people are into the band now, but we’re still misunderstood, especially by the political punks,” the New Jersey–born singer told the Flesh and Blood zine in 1983. “They’re looking at the music as ‘what can punk rock do to further my political beliefs?’ and we’re looking at it as ‘yeah, let’s have fun.'” If that was the band’s objective, Danzig & Co. never achieved it more fully than on Walk Among Us, an album that mashed together aggro three-chord riffs, bubblegum-pop hooks (complete with “whoa-oh” sing-alongs), and lyrics packed with B-horror-movie imagery and stomach-churning violence. The songs’ frantic tempos and loutish backing vocals couldn’t obscure Danzig’s extraordinarily supple, Elvis-indebted pipes, which gave even Walk‘s most antisocial moments – “Skulls” (“Hack the heads off little girls/And put ’em on my wall”), “Astro Zombies” (“And your face drops in a pile of flesh/And then your heart, heart pounds/Till it pumps in death”), “Hatebreeders” (“Murder one inborn into your every cell/It’s in your blood and you can’t shake it”) – a timeless teen-idol appeal. Pop-punk’s heyday was still a decade off when the Misfits broke up in ’83, but the band’s influence looms large: No self-respecting band in the genre is without a Walk Among Us cover or three in its repertoire. “We can play almost every Misfits song,” Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba told the Dallas Observer. “I love The Misfits, but it’s not brain surgery.” H.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Paramore, ‘Riot!’ (2007)

Though the majority of pop-punk fans are female (51 percent of Warped Tour attendees are women), the genre has always been a whiney boy’s world, a scene often preoccupied with villainizing an unrequited crush. But the emergence of Paramore helped tip the scales: Frontwoman Hayley Williams’ four-octave soprano pushed the boundaries of what a pop-punk performance could sound like. Similarly, lead single “Misery Business,” a boyfriend-stealing anthem of arena-size proportions, flipped the genre’s gender script on its head. Riot! remains a touchstone of its time, not just because it brought a much-needed new feminine energy to pop-punk, but because its songs were simply better than most of what Paramore’s contemporaries were churning out – and just as bitter. “There was an excitement around it that we knew was different from anything we’d experienced up until then,” Williams told Track 7 of Riot!, “It was a lightning in a bottle moment in time.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Blink-182, ‘Dude Ranch’ (1997)

In 1997, pop-punk fans were largely allergic to the idea of major-label deals, but Blink-182 believed in their mass-market potential before the rest of the world did. They signed to MCA and got to work on their sophomore LP, Dude Ranch, still honoring the same DIY spirit that drove their early releases. Bassist Mark Hoppus wrote “Dammit,” the loser’s anthem that would launch the album, after playing around on an acoustic guitar that was missing two strings. Still, the record’s juvenile overtones often concealed real poignancy: “Dick Lips” is an empathetic ode to a teen fuckup (“Remember I’m a kid/I know not what I did”), while “Josie” is a sweet song about a considerate, burrito-retrieving girlfriend. The album’s disarming combo of humor and raw pop smarts helped Dude Ranch go platinum, paving the way for Blink’s future megastardom. But the band never lost the wide-eyed attitude on display here. “The biggest compliment of all is a kid saying we opened up his eyes to a new style of music,” Hoppus would later tell Rolling Stone. “We’re kind of like Fisher-Price: My First Punk Band.” M.S.

Generation X, 'Generation X' (1978)
7

Generation X, ‘Generation X’ (1978)

Though he made his biggest commercial mark in the Eighties, some of Billy Idol’s finest work can be found on the self-titled 1978 debut of London punks Generation X. Packed with zippy chord progressions, instantly catchy choruses and gobs of streetwise attitude – the patented Idol sneer was already in full effect – songs like “Ready Steady Go,” “Youth Youth Youth,” “One Hundred Punks” and the dramatic “Kiss Me Deadly” were generally considered too poppy and shallow to be taken seriously at the time, but they’ve aged remarkably well. “We were trying to communicate our experiences in a romantic but still realistic way, instead of just shouting grievances, as was the fashion at the time,” Idol wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Dancing With Myself. “This new direction pulled us away from the old punk, allowing us to maintain its aggression and attitude while advancing musically by exploring other, more complicated emotions and feelings.” The approach also left its mark on numerous pop-punk practitioners to come; as Billie Joe Armstrong put it back in 1994, when Rolling Stone asked him about being an icon for twentysomethings, “The only thing I know about Generation X is that I really liked their first record a lot.” D.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Buzzcocks, ‘Singles Going Steady’ (1979)

Buzzcocks formed the same year Paul McCartney sang “Silly Love Songs” and broke up two years before Johnny Rotten declared, “Love is two minutes, 52 seconds of squishing noises.” In that time, they explored the common ground between poppy romance and punky aggression with a series of short, lustful bursts of melodic tension (and, incidentally, one of their greatest-ever songs, “What Do I Get?” lasts 2:52, for maximum squishiness). Although the Mancunian crew – which formed after seeing a Sex Pistols gig – released a number of brilliant long-players, none of their albums topped the compilation Singles Going Steady, which traces the origins of pop-punk one 45 at a time and has influenced artists as diverse as the Offspring and Fine Young Cannibals. Beginning with 1977’s confessional, hilarious “Orgasm Addict” (“Butchers’ assistants and bellhops/You’ve had them all here and there”), they’d mastered pinning quirky hooks to electrifying guitar. After original frontman Howard DeVoto split to form Magazine, guitarist Pete Shelley took over and wrote one catchy, devastating, sexually ambiguous confused-love song after another: “Ever Fallen in Love … (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” “What Do I Get?” “Promises.” Lyrically, the songs bemoaned how happiness is always just out of reach (literally, in the case of the downright funky “Why Can’t I Touch It?”). Musically, they were a marriage of the Kinks’ and David Bowie’s melodiousness with the bludgeon of Ramones. “To me it was just like the stuff I’d grown up with in the Sixties, like With the Beatles,” Shelley said in 2015 of his early songs. “We wanted to be intelligent, but not intellectual. We wanted to be entertaining, but not entertainers.” K.G.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Fall Out Boy, ‘Take This to Your Grave’ (2003)

The 2000s saw Green Day and Blink-182 growing up and pop-punk becoming omnipresent, soundtracking teen flicks and filling arenas. Fall Out Boy’s debut ushered in a whole new, genre-blurring scene, in which heavy riffs and a screamo aesthetic mingled with old-fashioned teen heartbreak. The album is full of yearning, as Patrick Stump inquires where a girl’s boy is tonight, hoping he’s a gentleman (“Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy”) and looks to the future while celebrating friendship and the freedom of the weekend (“Saturday”). The album, which began as a demo, helped secure Fall Out Boy’s future even before their sophomore LP would take them to unimaginable heights of rock success. “Up to that point in the band’s history, we were merely something to do before we were forced to give in to the pressures of real life,” singer Patrick Stump wrote in a blog post celebrating the album’s 10th anniversary. “We saw ourselves as a pretty cool excuse for a semester off of college.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Descendents, ‘Milo Goes to College’ (1982)

Think of Milo Goes to College as pop-punk’s Revenge of the Nerds–ian big bang. Descendents’ classic lineup came together in the late Seventies, when guitarist Frank Navetta and drummer Bill Stevenson, who bonded as teenage fishing buddies in Hermosa Beach, met up with thirtysomething local bass whiz Tony Lombardo. Bespectacled fan-turned-frontman Milo Aukerman gave the band not only its signature melodic brilliance but also its lovably dorky image. “I went through my first few years of high school trying not to be different and not get beat up, and then at some point a switch got flipped and I just said, ‘Fuck it, I don’t care. I’m just going to be the nerdiest, geekiest guy I can be,'” Aukerman recalled in 2016. That mindset soon found its way into early Descendents favorites like lovelorn anthem “Hope,” fishing-as-escape rallying cry “Catalina” and cool-kid takedown “I’m Not a Loser,” with Lombardo contributing ironic masterpiece “Suburban Home,” and its “I want to be stereotyped/I want to be classified” refrain. Though the band flaunted serious hardcore chops and shared bills with Black Flag, shameless goof-offs like “Weinerschnitzel” (a frantic fast-food order set to music) and “I Like Food” made it clear that they had no patience for stagy punk angst. True to their debut’s title, Aukerman actually would ditch the band to further his education – before returning in the mid-Nineties for the stellar Everything Sucks, and sticking around on-and-off ever since – but the trademark silly-sappy blend of Milo Goes to College would become the blueprint for pop-punk as we know it. “They were like this punk-rock Beach Boys,” Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus told SiriusXM of their forebears. “All the punk rock that I’d heard before that was really angry and political and screaming and not really my thing. … I really liked the melody and the harmony of the Descendents; you could sing along to it. It was stuff that I cared about, like food and friends and hanging out and girls and being pissed at your parents.” H.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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The Ramones, ‘Rocket to Russia’ (1977)

“[T]he band really wanted a hit, all of them – they wanted a hit bad,” engineer Ed Stasium told Music Radar. “So by the third album, Rocket To Russia, we started doing more overdubs, almost to soften the sound a little bit. I remember references to Steve Miller being made when we did a few of those songs.” Behind the chainsaw guitars, shredded blue jeans, breakneck tempos and disaffected idontwannas, the Ramones were always a pop band at heart, fans of vocal groups like the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Crystals. And Rocket to Russia was maybe their most pop moment. It certainly was from the most quantifiable position, since it featured the only three of their songs to chart on the Billboard Hot 100: “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rockaway Beach” and their cover of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance?” “We came into our own on that record. We had a little higher budget, we were using really good recording studios,” Tommy Ramone told The Huffington Post in 2012. “By that time our playing was really tight. We thought we were just one step away from being successful, you know, so we had a lot of enthusiasm.” C.R.W.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
2

Blink-182, ‘Enema of the State’ (1999)

Blink-182 offered a new generation all the hooks of teen-geared pop without the schmaltz – even rocking white Backstreet Boys–style jumpsuits in the video for standout Enema of the State single “All the Small Things.” Enema was the album that defined Blink-182’s winning formula: palm-muted power chords, nasal vocals, earworm choruses, the airtight drumming of then-new recruit Travis Barker and plenty of adolescent lyricism mixed with adult skepticism. The album’s unapologetic mixed messages – from R-rated tracks like “Dysentery Gary” and ode to immaturity “What’s My Age Again?” to the somber, suicide-themed “Adam’s Song” – clearly resonated, as the record would go on to sell more than 4 million copies in the U.S. alone. “Everyone who starts a band dreams of being successful,” Tom DeLonge told Rolling Stone in Blink’s 2000 cover story, “But never do you dream of this.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
1

Green Day, ‘Dookie’ (1994)

Naturally, a band named after a day spent smoking pot would perfect youth disillusionment, making mega-hits about masturbation (“Longview”), anxiety (“Basket Case”) and ditching suburbia (“Welcome to Paradise”) on their major-label debut. Green Day’s third LP is a pop-punk gut-punch, perfectly marrying tight melody with a get-bent mentality. After the grunge-dominated early Nineties, that irreverence was a breath of fresh air. “There was a lot of whining in rock at the time,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone 20 years after the album’s release. “By nature, we’re extroverts. So that’s what came across in our songs. We knew we were entering an arena of bands that we didn’t like.”

Despite its underdog spirit, Dookie was a massive success. It was the first pop-punk album that proved the “pop” part of the subgenre tag to be completely feasible, in part because Dookie was an album aimed squarely at teens: either literal ones, or those who never quite left that era of their lives behind. The LP spawned a brand new generation of punks, making the form feel younger and more accessible than ever. “I could care less if people think I’m insignificant because I’m 22 years old,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone in a 1995 interview. “That’s great. We caused a generation gap.” B.S.

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