Forget Your Roots: Understandably Unheralded Pioneers of Tr00 Pop Punk and Easycore

Close But Not Quite Pop Punk

All too often, history is viewed as a contextual lens for the present. As noted novelist George Santayana has approximately said, “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. The implication, of course, is that modernity should be informed by history. Yet as we all know, history is itself a product of the present – historical currency is the result of present designation, not inherent “historicalness”. Would the skeleton of Lucy, commonly seen as a significant evolutionary link between human and ape, be of importance to us now had we not had a modern investment in evolutionary theory, or would she just be a wonky-looking monkey skeleton?

Lucy: Not sad anymore.

Such are the thoughts of thousands of kids across the United States and Europe, as they ponder the true origins of tumblr-friendly pop punk in 2013. “I mean, sure, New Found Glory is old and they are awesome,” they think, “but there has got to be more to pop punk’s beginnings than that and Blink-182. Also, should I get this tattoo of a burrito hi-fiving a slice of pizza while riding a surfboard on my ankle or as a chest piece?”

The bands I will discuss in this article are not necessarily “important” bands, in the sense that for the most part, they weren’t very influential (even if some of them were fairly well known at one time), and they have almost entirely been musically surpassed by newer bands who fully realized the ideas that these bands were merely suggesting back when they were new and/or relevant. Nonetheless, as pop punk has undoubtedly become the most important cultural force of the 21st century, these bands have gained a certain historical significance due to the fact that they were poppy hardcore bands who (at times awkwardly) pointed the way towards the hardcore-y pop punk of the 2010s. While I can’t guarantee that any of these bands will sound better to you than the modern pop punk/new jack hardcore we all know and love today, they are helpful to know about if you are trying to prove to your friends that you know more about “the roots of pop punk” than they do. As such, you may want to try tossing out a couple of these bands’ names every once in a while (you don’t even really have to listen to their music to do so, just remember a couple of their names). Just don’t post anything about them on Tumblr, unless you want to end up with one of those embarrassing music video posts that only gets like, two notes max.

While Saves The Day were likely the first tr00 pop punk band (even though I vigorously defended the stance that they were emo, not pop punk ten years ago when I first started listening to them), H2O were the first band to use modern hardcore as an aesthetic basis for having melodramatic pop punk songs about girls and hanging out with your friends. That said, H2O were definitely coming from a very different time and place, and when they were talking about “hanging out with their friends” it often actually meant “sticking by your buds even though the cops are investigating some of them for hospitalizing some people” rather than “eating pizza and doing zany things at the mall”. Nonetheless, all of the elements of tr00 pop punk in place here as early as 1995, and H2O does deserve some credit for that.

I haven’t been able to come across very much information on Overthrow, other than that they are from Long Island and haven’t released very much music. That said, their 1999 album React is a very unique combination of 90s hardcore, pop punk hooks, and kinda monotone (but sweet) singing parts (ala Vision Of Disorder). Of course, it goes without saying that virtually nobody outside of a couple hundred people in New York/New Jersey know or care about this band, so to ponder this band’s influence would be an exercise in pointlessness  – still, their recordings go to show that pop punk and hardcore were friends as early as 1999, if only to a very small, select audience.

Stretch Armstrong are best known as South Carolina’s premier uber posi alterna-Christian hardcore band, but by 2005 they had gotten progressively melodic to the point where their music sounded like a fairly even mix of slightly emo-y pop punk and hardcore. Unfortunately, they split up at pop punk’s commercial low point, just prior to easycore breathing life back into the genre (and setting the stage for tr00 pop punk to reign supreme in the early 2010s).  It’s too bad, because songs such as “Hearts On Fire” really don’t at all sound out of place with any modern pop punk today. With better timing and greater exposure, they could conceivably have been considered godfathers of the genre along with NFG, Lifetime, etc.

Circa 2007, easycore was already in effect, but Daggermouth was one of its earliest adopters. Unlike much of the subsequent easycore to come (not to mention tr00 pop punk as well), Daggermouth came from more from the angle of combining really aggressive Epifat-style skate punk with hardcore gang shouts and breakdowns rather than building pop punk around a hardcore base. I wish this band was more appreciated by The Kids today as they are great and the songs still hold up, but then again they may still be too new to appreciated retroactively. Also, one can’t neglect to mention that while they didn’t invent zany song titles in hardcore, they definitely upped the ante on this important, utterly taken-for-granted element of pop punk.

Learn From Pop Punk History
So it is said: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  However, all too often, history is viewed as a series of major events rather than a sloppy, evolutionary shuffle up to a present status. Pop punk, in its modern and neo-regressionary incarnations, demonstrates this mindset: With regards to modern pop punk, deservedly huge bands in the genre such as New Found Glory are celebrated and imitated relentlessly, but nobody thinks about the corny melodrama of H2O, the stylistic uncertainty of Overthrow, or ill timing of Stretch Armstrong that didn’t exactly pave the way for tr00 pop punk, but did at the very least throw a couple of disparate shovels into the gravel. Same goes for unfortunately growing number of bands such as Title Fight who are going nu-grunge: They feel that they are supposed to imitate “historical” bands such as Nirvana and uh…judging by the music, apparently Hum and Filter (???), yet they completely forsake the sound of the bands whose shoulders the aforementioned bands stood upon.

Which, to be sure, is absolutely for the better and the way things should be, because if there’s anything that makes me want curl up into a ball and sob myself to sleep while clutching a copy Homesick tight to my chest, it’s the thought of some band of twenty year olds sounding like fucking Mother Love Bone in 2013.

DISCUSSION: What is your favorite totally irrelevant band that sort of but not really bridged the gap between hardcore and pop punk? Will anyone here own up to actually liking H2O? Is there a such thing as historical essence, or are the keys of history perpetually in the hands of the present? Are you old enough to know who Mother Love Bone and Green River are? Does all of the 90s worship make you nostalgic for when bands like Title Fight and TWY were just fumbling their way out of easycore?

 

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84 Responses to Forget Your Roots: Understandably Unheralded Pioneers of Tr00 Pop Punk and Easycore

  1. TLDR says:

    DAGGER FUCKING MOUTH <3<3<3

    I srsly wanted to do an entire post about them, but I guess you basically said what needed to be said.

    My old band played with them twice, its srsly one of my proudest achievements in music. Another interesting thing about Daggermouth is that they have some pretty legit regretcore cred, IIRC their singer had rly srs issues he had to quit the band over and sometimes the lyrics got a little too real for the music and it was kind of awkward.

    They were definitely ahead of their time imo, sad no one remembers them :(

    HIGHLY recommended download for all SYWH users, they were a catchy and fun band

    Great post Bronson

    • uppercut613 says:

      dude. i was planning on doing a “bands u may have slept on – daggermouth” post for a while. haha. turf wars is one of my favorite albums of all time. theyre fairly well known but i still feel like theyre so underrated. they were around at a time when pop punk was at it’s weakest point (easycore and pop punk revival in general didn’t go into full effect until like 2008, when daggermouth broke up). i almost think they would’ve done better in the modern 2010′s pop punk scene where the hardcore influence is more based on being raw and aggressive and not just having breakdowns. still one of my favorite songs of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EBK0qgDxr8

      and agreed with TLDR, great article. very informative!

      • uppercut613 says:

        actually, even though daggermouth is from BC, their singer is from my city (ottawa) and used to sing in a pop punk band here called “playboy assassin”. they were before my time but some older girl i used to hang out with always wore their hoodie, it had a playboy bunny with a sniper scope over it haha. about the issues that the singer had – i think i remember reading that he quit the band to go into therapy for anxiety and depression. they actually have a full third unreleased album that they never finished but it’s all instrumentals. LINK: http://daggermouth.bandcamp.com/

        • Anonymous says:

          lol i think the bassist or drummer or something lives in my hometown. pretty sure he sells weed out of the back of a pizza place or something.

        • TLDR says:

          <3 u uppercut. I'm supposed to go into therapy for anxiety and depression soon :(

          I rly don't want to but need to stop being so stubborn

          the hardcore influence is more based on being raw and aggressive and not just having breakdowns.

          Excellent analysis. IMO the bubble was bound to burst on EZ core 1.0 – poppy major chord breakdowns can only last so long

    • this guy has the comments says:

      Not really feeling this whole underrated thing tbh, I mean they’re one of my favorite bands but literally everyone I know who is remotely into some form of punk, even scene metal bros who think it’s still 2008, know Daggermouth.

      • this guy has the comments says:

        Oh and I bought Turf Wars at HMV a long time ago(basically the Canadian equivalent of whatever the most mainstream music store you guys have in America is) and I still consistently see it there even in locations with a tiny punk section. Which is most of them.

        • this guy has the comments says:

          Actually just realized they’re a Canadian band so that’s probably why fucking errbady in Canada knows them. I’m so fucking sorry for commenting three gat damn times.

      • Sergeant D says:

        Daggermouth is definitely all but unknown these days. Nobody gives a shit about them (although as Bronson said they were def ahead of the curve and would probably do well if they came out in 2014)

        • uppercut613 says:

          there is SOME daggermouth jockage in the defend pop punk group on fb im in, but yeah its not like theyre really well known or anything. i remember some kid posted a song by them and was like “here’s some REAL hardcore-influenced pop punk. what’s a chunk?” lmaooo

        • this guy has the comments says:

          Oh I don’t doubt that, as my addendum stated I’m pretty sure it’s just in Canada where people still jock them hard. It’s kind of interesting really, it’s very rare you see Canada and the US jocking completely different bands. I usually just see you guys as us with more guns.

          • TLDR says:

            I usually just see you guys as us with more guns.

            So basically you see us as you but better?

            #USA#1 #frommycolddeadhands #loveitorleaveit

          • nu⚡⚡tej says:

            Canada actually has even moar brutal, barbaric forms of weaponry (i.e. Drake, the 2 Coreys, Michael J. Fox, Celine Dion, the Biebs etc.), we shood fear them.

            • TLDR says:

              Celine Dion

              Still suffering from PTSD from when I worked at Starbucks and the girls would insist she be played at all times “to sell her new CD in the store”

              I threw it out in the dumpster once and they just took one from the retail display and played that one.

              #curses #foiledagain

    • wiggles says:

      you best believe i got their “Pop Fucking Punk” hoodie (follow my name).

  2. TLDR says:

    Stretch Arm Strong was a great band too imo, I saw them with Terror and Between the Buried and Me once, great show and they killed it.

    I was thinking about them the other day, hadn’t heard anything about them for a while.

    Never heard of Overthrow and I always liked H20, but I can see why SYWHers are usually not into them. Def overboard on the tr00 sometimes, but w/e they are olds so what can you expect?

  3. Walker says:

    oh God, Mother Love Bone. PLZ PLZ PLZ PLZ don’t let people get into this band brb combining Phish with the shittiest Pearl Jam songs.

  4. MasterSlave says:

    Kid Dynamite

  5. Void Eater says:

    Holy shit Daggermouth is fucking good. I remember some time when Serg said something along the lines of “bands who are really innovative tend not to get as big as the bands after them”, and cited some metalcore band whose name I forgot as an example. Maybe Daggermouth is sort of an equivalent for modern pop punk.

  6. I Don't Get It says:

    Bronson: PHD in Pop Punk Sciences.

    Seriously, this might be the most eloquent and academic piece ever written about pop punk music. Also completely hilarious

    A+++

    • Sergeant D says:

      incredibly well-written piece. very jelly!

      highlight:

      Just don’t post anything about them on Tumblr, unless you want to end up with one of those embarrassing music video posts that only gets like, two notes max.

  7. Neal G says:

    Ramones > Screeching Weasel > Blink 182 > Today

  8. White Knight of Pedestalia says:

    Confessional: I once put Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns on a mix CD for a girl because I wanted to appear all dark and artistic and shit.

    I love a lot of obscure grunge stuff – Green River, Skin Yard, Tad (who I actually think SYWHers may enjoy on account of them basically being a giant troll band led by a dude the size of a house) and some others that will mark me out as a sad beta so I’ll shut up here.

    • Sergeant D says:

      I wanted to appear all dark and artistic and shit

      I remember a couple years ago I was talking to this azn milf who is a straight up 10/10 but also a genuinely cool, awesome person. We were talking about me being single and she was like “oh don’t worry I can see how a lot of girls would love that ‘brooding artist’ thing you have going on” and i was like FMLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

      *FRIENDZONED AGIAIN*

      • Bronson says:

        :(

        I semi-dated this gross hipster girl once (I was lonely and bored, what can I say?) who literally told me that she believed that my fashion preferences for dickies and snapbacks and my musical tastes (pop punk and stuff with breakdowns in it) was all a part of a post-modern performance I was projecting to the world in which I was attempting to define masculinity for myself while deconstructing it at the same time. She also used to read poetry to me and shit.

        Needless to say, I faded out WITH THE QUICKNESS.

    • Chillin' says:

      Ouch, that was absolutely brutal to read. And here I was thinking trying to namedrop sludge metal bands at a High School dance was the most embarrassing thing ever.

  9. Save Parker says:

    Great article Bronson, you wise wise pop punk scholar.

    I love Daggermouth tho, I probably still know all the words to Sing It Again Rookie Biatch. How many years before they can be chosen as the not very popular band that gets jocked by kids who assume they were important? Anyway we can jumpstart that process?

    • TLDR says:

      How many years before they can be chosen as the not very popular band that gets jocked by kids who assume they were important? Anyway we can jumpstart that process?

      Their window for this is probably right about now, and that’s what I wanted to do by writing a post about them! Maybe someone else should just do it tho, this post might be out of my league

      • Bronson says:

        Nah, waay too soon. It’s gonna be at least 2017 – 2018 before kids start coming back around – but if you get in on it now, you can still be way ahead of the curve (I’m writing a post about this (srs) ).

  10. cmoney says:

    H20 would be it for me. I saw them countless time right around the time FTTW came out. And sometimes they had actual hardcore bands opening up for them, and sometimes they had punk bands. Zany, I tell you.

    Goldfinger (sigh) has a breakdown in one song. The buildup starts ~1:35: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1cDyo4W8sI. I remember telling my friend when we first heard it, “dude it sounds like Korn here.” That may have been my actual first introduction to hardcore, and it was via pop ska punk.

    Kill Your Idols? Semi big. I don’t keep up with the tumblrs but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were either heavily jocked or heavily shunned by the tr00 crowd. They’re known as a hardcore band but their best albums have some poppier elements and tr00 lyrical content.

  11. xspitsometeethx says:

    Yo, if anyone has a link to that Overthrow album, that’d be real neat.

  12. Anonymous says:

    omg I loved Stretch Arm Strong a lot during my xxxSTRAIGHTxxxEDGExxx phase – great band. I was bummed when they broke up and then promptly faded into obscurity. :(

    I saw someone mention Kid Dynamite and they definitely had a hand in adding pop punk-ish melodies to hardcore music. That band still gets plenty of love, though. They’re seen as classic with punk rock kids, hardcore kids and pop punk kids alike.

    • White Knight of Pedestalia says:

      Agreed. I’ve seen Kid Dynamite shirts (the only way I know what Kids These Days are into coz I don’t tumblr) at an ADTR gig, at a local hardcore show and at a crust punk gig.

  13. uppercut613 says:

    i’d like to add bangarang to the discussion if we’re talking about unheralded pioneers of easycore. they were one of the first bands to really push the “pop punk with breakdowns” idea. they have a demo from 2005 and on the first track they START and END with a breakdown. it’s honestly not very good but i’d be surprised if you could find me another band from that time period who was doing that kind of stuff. their later stuff is alot better, they have a 2006 split with the wonder years which is really good and a full length from 2007 which is awesome. i was thinking of doing an “bands that never got anywhere and disappeared: easycore edition” post and including them in it, but that would probably have to wait a while since this site has already had extensive pop punk/easycore coverage lately.

  14. Ninjaturtle says:

    Revolution Transmission by Stretch Arm Strong was HUGE for me and my late 90′s early 2000′s poppunk friends turning into Hardcore Kids. That along with This Time Next Year (which is still my favorite record of all time.)

    I’d also like to throw Strike Anywhere into this conversation. I loved Change is a Sound but Exit English was the perfect mix of the epifat poppunk with the east coast hardcore sound. Ahhhh yes remember when Jade Tree signed radical bands?

    Also GLASSEATER man…everyone always jocks SYG as the pioneers of breakdowns mixed with classic NFG parts but Glasseater was doing that shit way before…maybe even before or right at the same time NFG was printing the “Coral Springs Easy Core” shirts. ADTR and those bands are just doing later ere glasseater stuff mixing the metal in with the pop-punk and the hardcore. And all the Movielife johnny come lately worshippers would probably really love the first 2 Glasseater records. The third got too metal for my HXC posi tastes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytyRpV7OMi8

    Also if Boys Night Out would have put out that first EP today it would have been huge. Realizing this came out almost 12 years ago is pretty crazy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev4ugQfRINU

    Also bands like Junction 18, the Stryder, Outline (the triple crown band), Grade, Reach the Sky and NO MOTIV while not really being hardcore bands somehow helped shape my tastes for the east coast leaning hardcore groups.

    but seriously more kids shoulda been into Glasseater…

    • White Knight of Pedestalia says:

      Even though I feel you on the sound, I don’t think Strike Anywhere really took off with pop punk kids. Their fans tend to be more punks and Ikeacore types.

      • Ninjaturtle says:

        yeah they never really fell in with the whole “drive-thru records crowd”. They always played to a more Hardcore kid crowd (at least in texas) than the “punk crowd”. Massive pile ons and sing alongs and stage dives every time I’d see them.

        • White Knight of Pedestalia says:

          Huh. Maybe something got lost in translation on the way to Opposite Land. All my punk mates jock them hard where as most of the hardcore and pop punk types (except for one weird girl who’s a diehard NFCer) either don’t really know em or don’t like them.

          Me personally, I find them to be a bit preachy at times but not offensively so like some bands their fans also like (cough…RiseAgainst…cough) and they have sick jams.

  15. Viking says:

    I genuinely like H20. It’s the most common beverage in my glass.

    Also, the band was (is?) pretty good. They put on a fun, high-energy show which was a pleasant contrast to how angsty & brooding some 90s hardcore (including my not-very-good-band no one’s ever heard of) could be.

  16. Halby says:

    Not essential in the least but this seemed to be all there was circa 97-98. Glasseater, Fast Break, Bigwig( still putting ska parts in your song was nbd back then), Dgenerics, Interstate. Basically, any band with Airwalks on at the time. One member was usually a white guy with dreadlocks.

    Never liked H2O. Super nice guys but, holy shit, their music! Even at 15 I knew it was garbage.

  17. Halby says:

    Junction 18 are straight up pop punk but goddamned if This Vicious Cycle isn’t usually playing on my iTunes.

  18. Ninjaturtle says:

    Same here. And I agree they are straight up PopPunk but I still feel like they had a bit of that east coast hardcore sound similar to all those jade tree pop punk bands which in turn lead me and my friends to transition into hardcore kids.

    Also oddly enough my first real show ever was in 1999 and it was H20, No Motiv, and Saves the Day at the galaxy club in Dallas Texas. So h20 is cool with me. I still rep the shirt i bought at that show.

  19. Chillin' says:

    What about Squirrel Bait? I’ve always seen them labeled as Post-Hardcore and whatnot but they seemed to be at some weird juncture between melodic hardcore, hard rock, and punk that’s not quite grunge, def. not a direct precursor to pop-punk and strangely enough sounds an awful lot like the blueprint to a lot of soft grunge pop-punk bands. I always wondered how come Squirrel Bait sounded so close to being grunge without ever even getting close and listening to Title Fight sounds like they inadvertently bridged the gap “pioneered” by SQ–though I am positive a bunch of kids from Kentucky didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

    That aside, it’s pretty amazing how confused Overthrow sounds today and imo, is the central piece of evidence to the point of this thread. They def. had no idea what they were creating and that’s why it sounds so unfulfilled. Like if they had just tweaked some things here and there and refined their approach, I could see them taking off but as it stands, it just seems like they took some influences and bunched them together because hey, that’s all they knew and that’s what came out.

    Hadn’t listened to Stretch Armstrong in a while but damn are they still fresh AF and Daggermouth is sweet, great discovery. I’ll always be of the opinion that H2O sounds hella fucking derpy today. Wasn’t born in that time and they just sound like a horrible attempt at Blink-182 to me.

    • blaaargh says:

      a bunch of kids from Kentucky didn’t have a clue what they were doing
      I think this is the only way to explain Squirrel Bait. I mean, it’s the dudes from Slint when they were like 16 and angry, no way they had any preconceived ideas what they wanted to sound like. I’ve always wondered if Kid Dynamite named themselves after that Squirrel Bait song tho

  20. Spyke says:

    I would consider Dag Nasty to be a pioneer of easycore. They are ultra poppy and pretty much invented melodic hardcore. Also 88 Fingers Louie was also pretty groovy for a melodic hardcore/skate punk band. Both bands are extremely underrated IMO.

  21. Ian says:

    If you are going to mention Long Island bands you gotta mention the band that started the pop-hardcore thing there – Silent Majority!

  22. Heemeyer says:

    Silent majority, bro

  23. Heemeyer says:

    Also reach the sky

  24. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been waiting forever for someone to mention Daggermouth. They were fucking pioneers, Chunk even aped the whole “In Friends We Trust” line from them

  25. the open window maniac says:

    it’s great to see SAS getting some love on here, they were the first hardcore band i ever saw and are super nice, modest, posi dudes. iirc, they broke up so they could focus on their jobs as teachers.

    But I’ve established that easycore died whenever the new easycore sweethearts, called the Wonder Years stopped playing breakdowns and started bitching about people moshing. Maybe two weeks later, it seemed like all of the easycore bands either broke up or changed their sound and moshing was no longer accepted at pop-punk shows. it’s better to have moshed and lost than to have never moshed at all.

  26. SolarFlareSuperior says:

    Lol on the topic of tr00 grunge there was this kid in my class who was obsessed with Alice in chains for a few months but then decided they weren’t tr00 enough and seriously got into mother love bone and all those weird obscure bands you mentioned. It was pretty lolzy considering this kid was born in 92/93 and was born into a rich white Jewish family lol. I hadn’t seem him since like 07 or so until recently at a party and he became a total frat rap bro who kept bugging people to play Sam Adams and Mac Miller lol

    • White Knight of Pedestalia says:

      Actually this sounds kind of like my life trajectory, only replace “rich Jewish family” with “lower middle class OTW breeding”.

      Although I still love Alice in Chains. They have some sick riffage.

  27. Anonymous says:

    That Overthrow band is sick as fuck srs

  28. Matt says:

    Strike Anywhere- Exit English, more punk then pop but still ahead of their time

    also check our my band, Antarktika

    antarktika.bandcamp.com

    thanks

  29. halford88 says:

    I would add kid dynamite, shook ones, death is not glamorous, and early crime in stereo. Crime is back together, and shook ones put out a 7″ on run for cover maybe a year ago, but they both started around 2005 and i don’t feel that anyone really cares about those bands anymore. Maybe it’s just my side of america?

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