Lookout! Here’s Some Leather Jacket Pop-Punk Picks for Your Listening Pleasure

The Mid-Atlantic has already suffered through our first handful of swampy, humid days that cruelly beckon summer’s impending lethargy. As my beloved Baltimore Orioles have committed themselves to a rebuild (why rebuild a burning building?!) and are dwelling comfortably in the AL East cellar, I’ve turned my focus to my other favorite warm weather pastime… listening to pop-punk.

The sunniest and most optimistic of punk’s offspring, it rarely fails to lift me from the muck. Perhaps it’s age or my narrow definition of the oft-maligned genre tag, but I’m not leaning into a conversation about easy-core. I’m talking about the more traditional, Ramones-adjacent core that refuses to ditch the leather jacket, heat index be damned. I’m talking Carbona-huffing, gum-snapping, street toughs brooding outside the malt shop-style pop-punk. I’ve rounded up a gaggle of top shelf releases from the genre deserving of your attention, all worthy of scribbling their logos on your white Converse high tops. “Hey ho, let’s go... let's all listen to Adam Yoe.”

Impossibly still inventive and exceedingly catchy 6 LP’s in, Ottawa’s Steve Adamyk Band have freshly dropped Paradise through the venerable Dirtnap Records. Of the bands in this column, they’re far and away the most prolific and varied. “In Death” reimagines Too Tough to Die-era Ramones, while the pairing of “Waiting to Die” parts 1 and 2 serve as a mid-paced thinker followed by it’s revved-up cousin. I’ve literally never been disappointed by SAB and this is certainly no different. Killer Canadian jams from the country that’s been serving us the genre’s best for years now. 

Another stellar release from our Northern neighbors dropped last year and it’s a flawless slice of 77’ style punk/power pop that plays like the best Killed by Death band you never heard. 2018’s Here Come... by Tommy and the Commies on Slovenly Recordings is the best LP the Buzzcocks never recorded. From the intentionally tinny, thin, and treble heavy production to a melodicism that calls to mind The Jam and The Undertones, John Peel would’ve flipped his wig over this. Though my 20's are increasingly distant in the rearview, “Suckin’ in my 20’s” is shockingly relatable, in addition to being a delightfully instant earworm. Ottawa pop-punk is in good hands with this bunch. 

I’ve been waiting on a full length from Boston’s Conmen for years since their killer 7” some time back. Holy shit was it worth the wait. Their debut full-length, Get Loose, via Rock n Roll Disgrace Records mines the late '90s wave of Brat Beaters like the Riverdales, The Manges, The Apers, Lillingtons, and Groovie Ghoulies. The aptly titled opener, “Good Time (All The Time),” finds them hiding under the bleachers necking or, perhaps, soundtracking a millennial version of Archie and Veronica huffing keyboard cleaner. Even their logo plays on generations of raucous straight ahead pop-punk, reimagining the Weasel logo as a rat sporting the Johnny Ramone haircut. For an album so stridently adhering to genre signposts, Conmen manage to sound brand new. 1,2,3,4. Get rad.

Philly has every subgenre of punk covered and cornered in a way no other city has been able to in decades. Dark Thoughts dropped their At Work LP in 2018 to a hefty amount of deserved buzz. Available via Stupid Bag Records in the US and Drunken Sailors Records in the UK, they’re admittedly a “Ramones band” but reconfigure it in a way that brings a dose of venom rarely heard within genre confines. There’s more than a dash of hardcore in their tightly wound, buzzsaw riffing. Though they skew far closer to pop-punk, the early USHC of “Gimme Soda” is brilliantly boneheaded and a perfect, razor sharp blast of no qualifiers punk rock. It pairs well with the LP’s other beverage boasting tune, “Two Coffees.” The latter showcases their mastery of pace, tempering the vein-injected sugar rush of the former. The album is a blur and such a blast I usually play it twice without blinking. Not finding room for this on my 2018 “best of” was an enormous oversight. 

If there’s one place in the world that’s done the genre more proud than Canada, it’s clearly Denton, TX. From the town that gave us legends The Marked Men, Bad Sports’ Constant Stimulation from 2018 was another gem put out by Dirtnap. It’s the perfect amalgamation of pop-punk, garage, and hard rock. While all of their LPs are worth a look, they’ve found their sweet spot here on their fourth. They manage to deliver barbed and endless hooks but the mid-album track stunner, “Easy Truth,” showcases their seamless blend with an extra dose of sneer and snot thrown in for good measure. 


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