This morning Screeching Weasel released two holiday songs titled “Christmas Eve” and “New Years Eve”, they also announced that they will be kicking off 2018 with two intimate shows on Friday, February 16th and Saturday February 17th at Reggies in Chicago (tickets on sale December 15th at 10am CST). Frontman, Ben Weasel has also taken the time to address the recent Rolling Stone “Pop Punk” list with his own list and we got our our hands on it! Check it out (along with a playlist of his picks) below!
Rolling Stone recently trotted out a dumb list of the 50 greatest pop-punk records which got a lot of attention from outraged pop punk fans, as I imagine it was designed to (so nice work – trollin’ ain’t easy). But in fairness to the miffed, there’s plenty to get shirty about, mainly the sheer number of bands on the list that aren’t pop-punk by any stretch of the imagination. Even a cursory glance reveals the RS definition of pop-punk to be “anything with melody and loud guitars,” which theoretically could include Wings, Billy Squier, and Judas Priest. Clearly this won’t do.
As we’ve been lectured about so often before, 70s rock, as great as it could be, had become increasingly bloated and self-indulgent by ‘76. Its excesses were brutal, and pop had become so saccharine there was no solace to be found in the Top 40 either. The solution was punk, and the best punk was the kind that took back pop from the Barry Manilows and Captains and Tennilles of the world. But here in the 21 st century, pop superstars have taken to heart the lessons of punk, which leaves the present-day would-be pop-punk band with no fertile ground, inspiration-wise. The war is over; it’s no good pretending we’re still fighting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good pop-punk bands anymore – just that they’re working in an established genre as opposed to battling to save rock and roll from the forces of evil, or whatever we thought we were doing in the olden days. Pop-punk was of a time. That time is over. The genre hasn’t evolved – it has devolved and more or less guaranteed we’re never going back to the days of Supertramp and Leo Sayer, which I hope we can all agree is a very good thing. So whatever pop-punk is today, it’s not what it was yesterday. That’s for the best, I’m sure, but I have neither the time for or interest in cobbling together a list from what are for all intents and purposes several different genres. With that in mind, along with the understanding that it’s a fool’s game to attempt to define music genres, I submit the following:
1. Pop-punk is a mutation of straight pop – either deliberately or by virtue of, uh, non-traditional singers, musicians, producers and recording budgets. It’s largely predictable, invariably simple (often deceptively so), and narrow in scope. It owes more to Spike Jones and the Ohio Express than it does to Dylan and the Beatles. It has little in common with the type of Serious Rock critics are always telling us is Important. There’s no such thing as an Important pop-punk band; the genre is a full-throated guffaw at the idea of Serious and Important music. It’s a funny- dumb sugar high; a spastic, half-serious- at-best celebration of the sorts of simple joys that freaks, born losers, outsiders and other undesirables hang on to for dear life. It’s a joke – sure, it’s a joke that somehow matters in the most crucial way – but what it’s not, ever, is Important.
2. Pop-punk is never relevant. Okay, I’ll grant you that pop-punk mattered for some of 1994 after Green Day’s Dookie was released, but even the rock critics who liked Green Day didn’t take them very seriously; they might’ve been punkishly adorable but nobody thought they had the kind of depth Nirvana allegedly did (Nirvana had no depth at all, by the way, but they implied they did, which is all you really need in rock). The point is, pop-punk is never on the cutting edge and is never considered to be serious art. I’ll leave you to decide whether or not it actually is (Hint: no).
That’s the criteria I used in making my own dumb list below. I know I’m wasting my time saying this, but these things are first and foremost clickbait, so before you fire off some ill-considered, grammatically regrettable comment calling me a stupid, jerky so-and- so, take a few deep b’s, settle down and try not to take it so seriously. God knows I didn’t.
*If you want to listen along while you read, stream the playlist here!
27. Steve Adamyk Band – S/T
Poppy garage-punk from Canada that proves the genre isn’t dead.
Check out: “I Fought For The USA”
26. The Manges – Manges Go Down
The Ramones are kind of a religion in Italy.
Check out: “Another Day”
25. The Epoxies – Stop The Future
New Wave with real drums. Deliberately retro in a way that would normally grate
the nerves, but I like it, so [insert unvoiced lingolabial trill]
Check out: “It’s You”
24. The Lurkers – This Dirty Town
Nothing but attitude and melody. What more do you need?
Check out: “Drag You Out”
23. The Hanson Brothers – Sudden Death
NoMeansNo in spaz drag, butchering the Ramones like Spike Jones did to Carmen.
Check out: “Rink Rat”
22. Sloppy Seconds – Destroyed
Indy-pop- punk with a vaudevillian flair and the good sense to keep the middle finger front and center.
Check out: “So Fucked Up”
21. Powerchords – Think I’m Gonna
The exception to the “new pop-punk” rule by dint of a lot of clever songwriting twists out of the Dickies school of weirdness.
Check out: “Throwing Up”
20. Vindictives – Many Moods of the Vindictives
I was in this band briefly but my contributions were somewhere between little and nothing. This is a fine collection of really badly recorded EPs and compilation tracks that traffics in eye-bulging misanthropy, leaving the discriminating fan contemplating whether to pogo or slit his wrists.
Check out: “This Is My Face”
19. Lillingtons – Death By Television
This isn’t my favorite Lillingtons record (that would be Backchannel Broadcast) but it’s the poppiest and probably has the best collection of songs. It also successfully captures the retardo/spazmo aspect of stuff like the Ramones and
the Misfits with admirable aplomb, which is harder to do than it looks. If you can sing “I saw the apeman walking on the moon” with a straight face, you’re already a furlong or so ahead of the competition.
Check out: “I Saw The Apeman (On The Moon)”
18. Barracudas – Drop Out With The Barracudas
The meter points closer to power-pop on the Barracudas, but if a British psychedelic surf band fronted by a Canadian singer can’t be classified as pop-punk, I give up. Veering between Byrdsesque jangle-pop and anachronistic beach blanket rave-ups, there’s nothing else on the planet that sounds like this, and there probably never will be.
Check out: “Surfers Are Back”
17. Spazzys – Dumb Is Forever
Identical twin sisters Kat and Lucy and their school chum Ali formed a band in Melbourne, Australia, took on the last name Spazzy, put out a killer album called Aloha! Go Bananas, then pretty much disappeared thanks to a lengthy legal dispute involving crooked management. Kat Spazzy actually took the step of getting a law degree just so she could take the finks to court and get control of her band back, which has to be the most gloriously heroic thing any ripped-off musician has ever done. By then, Dumb Is Forever had been shelved for years, but better late than etc. Less punk than its predecessor, Dumb surpasses it due to better songwriting and production and a world-wearier attitude, no doubt courtesy of the aforementioned trials and t’s. These days the band is less active, Kat Spazzy having taken up criminal defense lawyering full-time and Lucy Spazzy having moved to Calcutta or London or someplace like that, but we’ll always have Dumb Is Forever.
Check out: “What’s Your Story”
16. Teenage Head – S/T
While bands like the Vibrators went from pub rock to punk rock, Hamilton, Ontario’s Teenage Head did the opposite, thus their self-titled LP is the only pop-punk record they ever made. To this day largely unknown to all but the nerdiest fans of the genre, the album is essentially a high-powered rock record with low-powered production and a singer named Frankie Venom whose voice gives the creeps, but in a good way.
Check out: “Bonerack”
15. Forgotten Rebels – This Ain’t Hollywood
Like Teenage Head, the Rebels (pretty much singer Mickey DeSadist and an ever-changing supporting cast) are from Hamilton, Ontario. Unlike Teenage Head, they started off as a poor man’s Sex Pistols then, having learned to play
their instruments, adopted a glam/punk approach that resulted in this unappreciated pop-punk classic.
Check out: “Tell Me You Love Me”
14. Screeching Weasel – Anthem For A New Tomorrow
What! My own record! The nerve! Oh, shut up. Lots of people say My Brain Hurts is our best record, and maybe they’re right, but this one fits the definition of pop-punk better than any of the others, in that it’s a deliberately off-kilter take on traditional pop song structures. Two or three tracks coulda/shoulda been dropped but in spite of that it works well song-wise. I also think it’s pretty successful conceptually, but you don’t care and I’ll sound like a tit if I try to explain it, so – Fin.
Check out: “I’m Gonna Strangle You”
13. Moral Crux – Something More Dangerous
When I started my own label in the late 90’s, my first signing was Moral Crux. The eastern Washington band had been on my radar for about ten years at that point, but apparently off everyone else’s. You’d think a band with first-rate songwriting chops and attitude, not to mention a terrific singer and a Rezillos-esque bassist, would’ve been a no-brainer for the Lookout Records crowd, but they never caught on. In any case, this one’s still hot shit in my book.
Check out: “Beat Of Despair”
12. The Undertones – S/T
Singer Feargal Sharkey had a sort of breathy, wavering, 1920’s crooner approach that would probably be certain death in any other band. It didn’t hurt that the songs were first-rate. It’s one of rock’s great myths that the early punk bands couldn’t play their instruments. In fact, lots of them could play their asses off – they just took a utilitarian approach to their instrumentation. In a just world, sound judgment and good taste of that sort would’ve seen them festooned with garlands, but in reality they took a backseat to shit like Genesis and Pink Floyd.
Check out: “Get Over You”
11. Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
Hearing these songs now that they’re featured in car commercials and Disney films it’s easy to ask why they weren’t top ten megahits at the time. Simple: this best-of album was released in the U.S. on September 25, 1979. The country’s top ten songs that week were as follows:
“My Sharona” – The Knack
“Sad Eyes” – Robert John
“Rise” – Herb Alpert
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” – Michael Jackson
“After The Love Has Gone” – Earth, Wind and Fire
“Lonesome Loser” – The Little River Band
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again” – Dionne Warwick
“Sail On” – The Commodores
“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band
“Don’t Bring Me Down” – The Electric Light Orchestra
“Orgasm Addict” was never gonna crack that list.
Check out: “Orgasm Addict”
10. Fastbacks – Very, Very Powerful Motor
A pop-punk band with a virtuoso guitarist sounds like a contradiction in terms but guitarist/songwriter Kurt Bloch somehow made Van Halenesque leads work with his 60’s-influenced pop tunes. Add the charmingly pitchy, guileless lead vocals of bassist Kim Warnick and you’ve got a greater-than- the-sum- of-its parts lightning strike of a band you couldn’t replicate in a hundred years. There’s no reason at all this thing ought to have gelled, but it did, and never more brilliantly than on this 1990 LP.
Check out: “In The Summer”
9. The Mr. T Experience – Our Bodies Ourselves
Recorded at a point when the band was seemingly sputtering towards a premature death, this album cemented Dr. Frank Portman’s status as the best songwriter in pop-punk – at least among his peers. The band didn’t really catch
on until 1995’s Love Is Dead, but even that only lasted until 1996 or so. There’s no accounting for taste, I think is the phrase. Frank’s songs are the perfect combination of the familiar and the offbeat, delivered with a sui generis charm
that should’ve propelled them to the top of the pop-punk heap. Que sera. Whatever.
Check out: “Swallow Everything”
8. Green Day – Dookie
Green Day took a lot of their cues from their punk peers but they were well-versed in rock and roll, particularly stuff like the Who and The Kinks. That influence counts toward their success a lot more than Gilman St., I’d say, but as
it can’t be scientifically proven, believe what you want. Prior to signing with Reprise, Green Day were genuinely loathed by large factions of the punk rock scene for being too poppy. I mean real passion-of-a-thousand-suns stuff. And they were really poppy, and then they signed to a major label and made the ballsiest punk record of their career. Unlike most other early 90’s records released in the aftermath of Nevermind, every song is great, and it still holds up 20-odd years later. The influence of Dookie can’t really be overstated, although it’s disappointing that so many of the bands that followed seemed to have no appreciation for the music that inspired Green Day. In any case, Dookie was a much-needed antidote to Nirvana and their ilk, for which we should all be eternally grateful.
Check out: “She”
7. Adverts – Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts
The Adverts were probably the first of the English punk bands to combine punk aggression with both pop songwriting and arty minimalism. Wire were better at art but as albums subsequent to Chairs Missing proved, their hearts were never really into the whole song thing. The Adverts were the whole pop-punk package.
Check out: “Great British Mistake”
6. Toy Dolls – Dig That Groove Baby
I’ve yet to meet a Brit who holds the Toy Dolls in anything less than monocle-popping contempt. Maybe I need to hang out with a better class of foreigner. Hating the Toy Dolls is like hating chocolate – it just isn’t done. This is joyously irreverent stuff that speeds along too fast to get old. Singer/guitarist Olga Algar sounds like a cartoon mouse and plays like a baroque Chuck Berry. The result is the sort of thing you’d expect Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright to put on the Victrola down at the Drones as a prelude to Boat Race Night.
Check out: “Dig That Groove Baby”
5. The Muffs – S/T
Released nine months before Green Day’s Dookie and produced by Dookie’s Rob Cavallo, this album had “hit” written all over it, but unfortunately America’s rock fans were still illiterate. Song after brilliant pop song comes at you like a [insert dumb-ass rock journalist simile]. It’s a mystery why a bunch of Tommy James-ish hooks combined with Kim Shattuck’s pissed-off vocals didn’t click, but the nation was worse off for it.
Check out: “Saying Goodbye”
4. The Queers – Grow Up
Recorded with different lineups at different times for a tiny label on virtually no budget, this then-unknown band ended up making what is one of the best pop- punk albums ever recorded. It might’ve been tracked inside a Dumpster for how it sounds but it’s the songs that do it. Like all the best pop-punk bands they borrow heavily from 60s pop and filter it through the Ramones, but unlike most bands the songwriting here is otherworldly. “Love, Love, Love” is hands-down the greatest non-Ramones pop-punk song ever written.
Check out: “Love Love Love”
3. The Dickies – Great Dictations
Forming the holy trinity of pop-punk bands along with the Ramones and Rezillos, California’s Dickies had so little success in the U.S. and so much in the U.K. that people thought they were British, an illusion furthered by singer Leonard Phillips’ unidentifiable accent. They wrote deliriously catchy songs saturated in pop culture references and kept things interesting with oddball chord progressions and nigh-shredding leads from guitarist Stan Lee. Great Dictations is an anthology of one stellar track after another.
Check out: “Manny, Moe and Jack”
2. Rezillos – Can’t Stand The Rezillos
It’s rare for a band to put out a debut album that plays like a best-of collection, but the Rezillos did it. Naturally, nobody noticed. Even now, this record doesn’t get its due. Everything here is bouncy, jubilant, and probably grass-fed and gluten-free. It’s impossible to pick a favorite song from this album, but since I have to, I’ll choose “It Gets Me.” Wait – you know what? This album is so good you should hear another track, so enjoy “Destination Venus,” too.
Check out: “It Gets Me” & “Destination Venus”
1. Ramones – Leave Home
The Ramones both started it and perfected it. Name another band in any genre that’s ever done that. Never mind – you can’t. Of their first three albums, Leave Home is the clear winner. Many decent, intelligent people will argue in good faith that it’s really Rocket To Russia but those people are wrong. On Leave Home, the band’s at their peak: the production and performances are perfect, and every single song is outstanding. Not just good, or really good, but I’d-give- my-left- nut- to-have- written-it great.
Check out: “You Should Never Have Opened That Door”
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