Admitting to liking pop punk would get you beat up in the 1990s: Many a fan of Green Day’s classic breakout record, Dookie
, found themselves under the boot of a “real punk fan” in the school hallways across America. The younger crowd has it easier, maybe too easy. The genre blew up in the late ’90s and early aughts. The Offspring drifted from its more hardcore roots into “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” territory, and Blink-182 told you about “All the Small Things.”
The genre, which is usually more concerned with romance, heartbreak and boredom than the coming of the fascist police state and why Ronald Reagan sucks, never exactly faded into obscurity; most music fans will go through a pop-punk phase around age twelve. But the genre seems to be witnessing a revival, and Denver has plenty of bands that fill the pop-punk bill and are worth checking out and supporting. If anyone starts waving that Black Flag in your face and yelling “Poseur!” remind them they are 22, Black Flag broke up in 1986, and most people who say they liked Loose Nut or In My Head is probably lying.
Anyway, here are six great Denver pop-punk bands:
Stray the Course
This four-piece outfit was founded in Denver in 2017. The band takes inspiration from Blink-182, New Found Glory, Rise Against, Neck Deep and Knuckle Puck, with dark, inward-facing lyrics. There are also notes of early Green Day. The 2019 single “Jetlag” is nicely Denver-centric, and the band has also delivered a heavy cover of Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF,” for those demanding modernity in their punk covers. The music wouldn’t seem out of place on an early 2000s teen-comedy movie trailer, but it’s also punchy and elicits a desire to head-bang. Band names that employ puns are always welcome here.
Courtesy Bury Mia
Another band name, another pun. Its members claim to make pop-punk tunes with a sick sense of humor and melodies that stick in the mind like peanut butter on the roof of one’s mouth. They might be right. Their latest single, the mid-tempo “TRNWRCK," boasts vocal harmonies and imparts a slow, swaying sensation to the listener. Perfect listening for when you’re feeling a bit annoyed at a significant other, but not exactly despondent. It’s not touchy-feely by any means, and the guitars offer plenty of crunch.
This band takes its music beyond the confines of pop punk, but Hellocentral still evokes a 2000s Blink-182. The members cop to the Blink-182 influence and say that they blend pop punk with indie rock. Okay, we’ll buy that. That mix of styles is readily apparent on songs like the moderately dreamy “Feels Like Home” and the Cure-like, dynamic-shifting “LSOF” off of the Heatwave
EP. The band's self-titled debut album sticks closer to what you might think of as “pop punk.”
Courtesy Suitable Miss
When we think about pop punk, we think about all those pretty boy bands and their whiny songs about girls, breaking up with girls, pining for girls. Sometimes we forget about woman-fronted bands. Case in point: Suitable Miss. Frontwoman Sarah Perez heads up this five-piece, and her vocals on “All We Could Have Been” recall the soundtrack to the Josie and the Pussycats
movie from 2001. Don’t look at me like that: It was a good movie, even if I’m the only one who saw it. Perez also has a kick-ass quartet of musicians backing her up.
One of These Nights
One of These Nights
Courtesy One of These Nights
The vocals and music tick the box on bands influenced by early 2000s pop-punk bands, but this act is a bit of an oddity here. It has folded a good deal of off-kilter sounds into its music, which is imbued with a unique style. First impression: R.E.M. doing “It’s The End of the World,” but after Michael Stipe sustained a bad head injury in the parking lot of the studio and forgot to jangle quite as much. It’s fun stuff, and the tempo shifts and breakdowns keep things interesting.
Lawsuit Models — which is a great name — comes off as sincere in its execution of the genre. The band makes catchy pop-punk songs with a touch of indie rock. The guitar melodies are catchy, the vocals are catchy — it makes you want to dance. The single “Victory Nap” raised money for the homeless. What’s not to like? The band itself asks about the future of punk pop, and immediately answers, “We don’t know...but it’s fun to be along for the ride."
Writer's note: This is not a comprehensive list, but a follow to previous lists. Check out my best of Denver punk list before you tell me to top myself online.