In a lot of ways it feels like we, as a country, have moved on from the whole whiny-vocals-sung-over-super-simple-chord-progressions thing, at least in terms of our chart-toppers. It wasn’t until last year that I got a taste of what pop-punk looks like in 2018. Turns out it’s not on its deathbed. Not even close.
I remember middle school dances pretty well, probably better than I remember my friends’ birthdays (sorry, guys). I remember the sweaty gymnasium, the chaperones around the edge just wishing they were doing anything else with their evening. And I remember spending most of my time on the bleachers, psyching myself up to (finally) ask Catherine Picadillo to dance. The song that finally pushed me over the edge was the incomparable “Mr. Brightside.” I knew that song inside-out. We all did. Pretty much everyone I knew had a CD of Hot Fuss in their parents’ cars at all times.
Back then, that was my s**t, all those guys: Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, My Chemical Romance, and oh so many more.
By the end of high school I’d grown up a bit and listened to painfully hipster bands like Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Beirut. For years and years I never looked back, seeing pop-punk as the kind of thing for immature, hormone-ridden children to make out to in Walmart parking lots.
Then, about six months ago a friend of mine who is seemingly well-versed in every genre imaginable, passed me a ticket to see FIDLAR at a midsize venue just outside the city.
“Sure, why the hell not?”
I realized pretty quickly that I was one of the oldest people in the room, something I’m not really used to at 25. Hot Topic posterchildren as far as the eye could see. I started to have flashbacks to my own days of coming to a show three hours early, wearing my newest skinny jeans, sober and excited. When the band finally came out, I felt even older. These guys were just a couple years younger than me but they looked MUCH younger than that, more energetic, more willing to get absolutely plastered on a weekday.
It was a short show, about an hour, including an encore that almost saw the band pass out on the stage in drunken stupor/youthful exuberance. Around the 30-minute mark I loosened up. It was the kind of show where a line forms at the sides of the stage, kids running on for just a couple seconds before stage diving into the hands of the front row, who never seem to get tired of catching them.
Suddenly I remembered the energy of this kind of music, and how much fun it can be to sing along with absolutely every single goddamn word. In other words, I forgot how fun it is to feel like a kid.
Since then I’ve slipped into listening to some similar acts, like the Orwells, Jeff Rosenstock, Front Bottoms, and Big Ups. And no, none of them get too deep, lyrically, and they don’t usually throw very complex melodies at you, but there’s a core of energy and honesty to all of it, which tends to be lacking from more cerebral genres like art-pop and noise rock.
I’m still a little embarrassed to admit how often I sing along to Jeff Rosenstock’s album POST- in its entirety during my commute. And when friends come to visit I hide my Orwell’s vinyl in the back of the stack. But there’s something to be said for the music that you save for yourself. Every so often, go ahead and let your music be a time machine, taking you back to when your biggest worry was whether Catherine Picadillo was going to talk to you after AP Calc.