Published Jan 03, 2011Before we present our Top 5 Underrated Pop Punk Bands list, we have to clarify some things. Most importantly, we're talking Jawbreaker pop punk, not that Blink-182 crap that gas station jockeys dig, or the Jonas Brothers bullshit your baby sister listens to when she's Facebook-creeping. Okay, now that that's out of the way, pop punk was an energy-infused musical movement that arguably reached its peak in the late '90s after many grunge-heads and metal skids just got damn sick of being so depressed all of the time. Remedy? Wag your tongue, bug your eyes, make some goofy faces and do lots of couch-plants. NOFX was a big help, but so were some slightly more serious and melodic bands. Here are five that will go into the history books.
Head to the next page to begin Exclaim!'s Top 5 Underrated Pop Bands list: 5. Garden Variety
On the edge of pop punk, Garden Variety were more in line with the "jaw" bands of the era (you know the ones), or a more streamlined Drive Like Jehu, with a sound that alternated between discordant angular post-hardcore and more simple pop punk, the latter influence shining through more on the band's earlier material. By the time Garden Variety released their swan song, 1994's Knocking the Skill Level, dudes were on fire. Too bad no one really cared enough to at least help put out the flames before the band went out with an unjust whimper.
Hometown: Valley Stream, NY
Must-have album: Knocking the Skill Level
Members went on to: Bluetip, Retisonic, Vic Thrill, Radio 4 4. Horace Pinker
You know what was weird? When Horace Pinker put out a really great seven-inch on Fat Wreck Chords in 1995, Song About Selling Out, and then didn't do anything else with the label. It was pop punk's heyday, Horace Pinker were one of the great unknowns and then... they stayed that way. Big time. Their two songs off the 1994 split seven-inch with Face to Face stand as two of the best emo-tinged pop punk songs of all time. Amazingly, this band is still together, under the radar as always. Guess there's just no room in the scene for such a good, honest band.
Hometown: Tempe, AZ
Must-have album: Texas One Ten (but you must check out the two songs from the split seven-inch with Face to Face as well)
Members went on to: Horace Pinker! And they had ex-Jawbreaker bassist Chris Bauermeister on board for a while, too, so that's worth something 3. Gameface
This California band matured and grew up right in front of our eyes, record after record being more serious and less goofy-faced than the last. It made sense for anyone listening to them at the time, growing up right alongside them. These guys proved that catchy, killer pop punk can go hand in hand with earnest songwriting, and they proved it time and again, through different labels and scenes, in the end breaking up to the sound of one hand clapping after releasing a surprisingly deep and varied body of work. It all came under the general blanket of pop punk but, really, reaching far outside of the genre confines.
Hometown: Orange County, CA
Must-have album: Always On (Grab the Cupcakes EP while you're at it.)
Members went on to: New Liars Club, Your Favorite Trainwreck, Jeff Caudill 2. Knapsack
"Decorate the Spine," from Knapsack's sophomore album, Day Three of My New Life, is perhaps the most obvious bridge between pop punk and emo. So much so, in fact, that singer/guitarist Blair Shehan's next band, the Jealous Sound, never quite looked back upon the pop punk genre, instead embracing the bitter break-ups and broken hearts of emo. But it was Knapsack where Shehan cut his teeth, using bouncy riffs and speedier passages to foray his way into not only a more serious genre for his next band, but also a trip or two to the loony bin (seriously, an unstable Shehan disappeared in 2005 before resurfacing in 2009 for a Jealous Sound reunion tour with Sunny Day Real Estate).
Hometown: Redding, CA
Must-have album: This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now
Members went on to: The Jealous Sound, Samiam 1. Samiam
Formed after the break-up of Gilman Street quasi-legends Isocracy, Samiam were one of the first bands, along with Jawbreaker and Monsula, to bring a more serious, artful edge to the Berkeley pop punk scene. Combining the rough, scratchy vocals of Jason Beebout with the progressive chords of Sergie Loobkoff (the closest thing pop punk ever had to a guitar god), Samiam were equal parts melody and power. That they are still (somewhat) around today is both amazing and inspiring.
Lifespan: 1988-present (albeit very sporadic since 2000)
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Must-have album: Soar
Members went on to: Sweet Baby Jesus, Knapsack, Solea