Joyce Manor and the Reemergence of Pop Punk

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I grew up in a musical family. My brother was in a pop punk band during the 90s/early-00s, and although I was of a substantially younger age, and because he was my brother, I listened to the same music as he did. One of my earliest memories was of getting in trouble for going to Sam Goody without my parents’ knowledge as to what I was getting and buying a severely overpriced MxPx CD with my birthday money precisely because my brother put “Chick Magnet” on one of his annual mixtapes for me. I also used to pretend to play blowup guitars and sing along to Blink-182 songs with him, once shouting swear words out loud, too young to know what the words meant, in clear range of my mother’s hearing. I got in trouble for that, too.

I bring to mind these stories not only because they’re extremely fond memories of mine, but because I was pleasantly shocked to find out pop punk has been making a comeback, or merely popular attention has readjusted its focus towards pop punk’s direction once again. A friend turned me on to Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again, and it was like listening to my brother’s copy of the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack all over again. The album played exactly like any of the great teen comedy soundtracks from the same era, and I was in love.

Victoria” was like the song that always played behind the protagonist in the beginning as he gets out of his dad’s Nissan Sentra and walks to class from the high school parking lot, looking on at the cooler kids making out and being pushed to the pavement by a drop-out riding by on his skateboard. “End of the Summer” is just made for after the big house party, when he gets rejected by the love of his life, left alone on the curb with nothing but dyed-blonde spiked hair and a ball chain necklace. And finally, “Heart Tattoo” plays over the final graduation scene as the camera pans up and the credits roll..

When I “grew up,” I made a point of separating myself from the pictures of Scott Raynor I had on my wall (he will always be the ONLY drummer in Blink-182) and instead listened to what I considered “real” music instead, like the majority of us do. While I admit my tastes have, for the most part, remained irrevocably changed, I felt relieved that it was OK to return to early Green Day without derision, if only partially.

It also meant I could rediscover my love of other bands, not necessarily related to pop punk, like the Spice Girls, and I could watch films like Can’t Hardly Wait again for the first time since I was a kid enamored by Seth Green; going everywhere with orange ski goggles upon my head. You can easily call me out for needing to wait for someone else to tell me what I’m supposed to listen to, and you’re right. I can’t excuse myself for my fickleness, and I’m sure many never stopped listening to Blink-182, but rather the popular attention paid towards them peaked and valleyed, but regardless of the situation, it was reassuring to find the music still held up just as well.

A cynic may be in the position to blame this sudden reemergence of pop punk on the fact that we are now arguably living in a post-ironic society; a time that also finds new and genuine interest in other assorted hallmarks of the 1990s such as Friends and the Spice Girls without so much as a knowing wink. What was once to be in on a joke by watching these shows or listening to this music with too much overzealous vigor to be taken seriously, has now become a perfectly respectable enthusiasm that was previously limited only to the alternative and countercultural examples within the same parameters.

But I’m for arguing for certain aspects of this era, even if it comes with the provisional sacrifice of having to accept every facet. There’s little value in pretending to like something purely because you think it’s uncool or corny, but there’s every reason for liking something because it is genuinely good, regardless of whether or not it is in a state of temporal popularity. The Spice Girls were great, Friends was and still is a fantastic show to watch, and although you won’t find me anytime soon sporting a chain or a bucket hat, I’m all for saying pop punk is a legitimate of a genre as it ever was, even if it was never regarded as such, and Joyce Manor are the first step in finally recognizing this truth.

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