Immersive Pop-Punk Tracks From the 2000s

Playlist: Pop Punk 2000s

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Defend pop-punk with the best pogo-worthy anthems of the Y2K era. Includes Green Day, Descendents, Paramore, NOFX, Motion City Soundtrack and more.

1999 was the year punk broke. For the third time. Again.

Blink-182 were already Warped Tour veterans with a gold record to their name—1997’s Dude Ranch—but by 1999, the punk renaissance that began in 1991 with Nevermind and grew in stature with Green Day’s Dookie was coming to an end.

Rock radio, once friendly to punk bands, turned its attention to the aggro nü-metal riffs of KoRn and Limp Bizkit, while Top 40 stations abandoned rock music altogether for teen idols and boy bands.

If blink-182 was going to make it, their third album would need to be an absolute banger. Released on June 1, 1999, Enema of the State proved to the tune of over 15 million copies worldwide that pop-punk was more than just a fad.

Defend pop-punk with our playlist of the best Y2K era, post-Enema of the State tracks from the old-school skatepark sounds of NOFX, Dillinger Four and the Descendents, Hot Water Music’s catchy, hook-laden post-hardcore, the sinister gothic singalong stylings of AFI, the hard-edged pop perfection of Paramore and a lot more.

Descendents — “Nothing With You

If you ask an elder punk who invented pop-punk, the answer is usually either the Buzzcocks or the Ramones. But when it comes to the origins of the hypercaffeinated west coast skatepunk sound that ruled the airwaves through the ‘90s and influenced the MySpace generation, look no further than the Descendents.

Their 1982 album Milo Goes to College paved the way for platinum-selling punks like blink-182 and Green Day, and the original pop-punks pogo’d their way into the new millennium with “Nothing With You,” from the 2004 album Cool To Be You.

This straight-ahead leisure time thrasher is light on overdubs, but the crisp production spotlights the laser precision of guitarist Steven Egerton’s guitar downstrokes and Milo Auckerman’s upfront vocal harmonies.

Hot Water Music — “Remedy

After many stressful years of non-stop underground touring, Gainesville’s Hot Water Music boiled over into the mainstream with “Remedy,” the lead single from their 2002 LP, Caution.

Their muscular, hook-laden aggressive post-hardcore sound is at odds with more radio-friendly fare, but “Remedy” charges out of the speakers with intense “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” energy and never lets up.

Hot Water Music’s previous album, A Flight and a Crash, cracked the Billboard Top Independent Album chart at number 49, and with the placement of “Remedy” on the soundtrack to the popular video game Tony Hawk’s Underground, the band’s influence continued to grow until they disbanded in 2006. They regrouped for a tour in 2008 and released their latest album, Feel the Void in 2021.

Green Day — “American Idiot

In 2002, Green Day was having a midlife crisis. Despite positive reviews, Warning had failed to meet sales projections and the band was preparing to release back-to-back greatest hits and b-sides compilations— the kind of contractual fulfillment fodder that sends so many once-great acts straight to the bargain bin.

But a co-headlining slot alongside blink-182 on the Pop Disaster Tour introduced Green Day to a newer, younger and pop-punk crazed audience that saw them as dyed-in-the-wool legends.

Green Day planned to follow Warning with a back-to-basics album called Cigarettes and Valentines, but when the master tapes were stolen, members Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool vowed to write an even better album—and thus began the sessions for 2004’s American Idiot.

Armstrong is wound tighter than ever on the title track, a scathing takedown of the dark side of American life circa 2004 and one of the most scorching hot rockers in the Green Day catalog.

Jimmy Eat World — “The Middle

Jim Atkins thought he made it when his band Jimmy Eat World signed with Capitol Records to record their major label debut, 1999’s Clarity. But the up-and-coming emo/pop-punk band turned out to be such a low priority for the label that they had to buy their own unsold records just to get them into stores. In late 1999, Capitol Records dropped Jimmy Eat World.

The band worked day jobs between tours to finance recording sessions for the follow-up, 2001’s Bleed American, a chart-topping set of singalong power-pop anthems featuring “The Middle,” Jimmy Eat World’s signature tune, which peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

AFI — “Miss Murder

AFI began their vampirish metamorphosis from scrappy skate-punks to goth-punk hitmakers in 2003 with Sing the Sorrow, adding synths, strings and piano to their brand of tuneful and theatrical Misfits-inspired punk. In 2006, AFI rose again from the grave to introduce “Miss Murder,” an infectious gothic prog shuffle that won that year’s MTV VMA Award for Best Rock Song.

The lead single from the album Decemberunderground combines elements from influences like Alice Cooper, Descendents, Joy Division and The Cure to produce a potent (and volatile) mixture of theatrical shock rock, goth, new wave and punk.

Onstage, AFI vocalist Davey Havok’s dramatic flair and sharp sense of style is said to have influenced the visual aesthetic and stage show of bands like Panic! At the Disco and My Chemical Romance.

Dillinger Four — “I Was Born on a Pirate Ship (Holdyourtongue)

What do Minneapolis punks Dillinger Four have in common with Prince? Musically, not much. But the blazing hardcore pop-punk quartet is immortalized alongside The Purple One with their own star on the wall of the legendary Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue, where Prince famously filmed scenes for his 1983 film Purple Rain.

This rager from Dillinger Four’s 2002 album Situationist Comedy is stuffed full of chunky palm-muted guitars, shouted singalong vocals and not one, not two, but three breakdowns.

The Bouncing Souls — “True Believers

“It’s not a phase, mom.”

Punk rock has been at times the worried stuff of tacky daytime talk shows and after-school specials, written and directed to whip concerned parents into a frenzy about the so-called “punk syndrome.” For lifers like The Bouncing Souls, the punk scene is a celebration of individualism and a place where anyone can let their freak flag fly.

In “True Believers,” (from 2001’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation) The Bouncing Souls take “three chords and the truth” to its limit with a rousing tribute to the rabblerousers who will always defend pop-punk, even when it’s out of style.

Motion City Soundtrack — “Everything Is Alright

Besides being immortalized next to Prince and Dillinger Four (see above) with their own star on the wall of Minneapolis’s First Avenue, Motion City Soundtrack lives on as one of the earliest bands to feature Moog synthesizers in pop-punk.

The credits to “Everything Is Alright,” from the 2005 LP Commit This to Memory, read like an all-star roster of pop-punk royalty. Fall Out Boy vocalist Patrick Stump sings a guest spot on this Mark Hoppus-produced gem.

Hoppus, frustrated with label mandated last-minute changes to blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, encouraged Motion City Soundtrack to remain true to their musical vision of using the studio as an instrument to fully realize their synth-forward sound.

Despite being Hoppus’s first production credit, his ear for arrangement is second-to-none. The song’s unconventional intro uses the classic “LCR” (Left, Center, Right) panning technique (as heard on records by the Beatles) before kicking into full-width stereo with enough studio trickery to satisfy any listener with a sweet tooth for ear candy.

Rancid — “Fall Back Down

Rancid enjoyed surprising mainstream success for a band wearing spiked leather jackets and mohawks with 1995’s platinum-selling ...And Out Come the Wolves. They continued to flip the finger at music industry trends with “Fall Back Down,” an organ-driven rocksteady jam written in the fallout of guitarist and vocalist Tim Armstrong’s divorce from Brody Dalle of The Distillers.

When punk purists turned up their noses at the poppier songwriting and subject matter on Indestructible (2003), Rancid doubled down and kept pushing their buttons by casting Kelly Osbourne and Benji Madden of so-called “posers” Good Charlotte in the “Fall Back Down” music video—because it’s the punk thing to do.

Anti-Flag — “Angry, Young and Poor

Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag carries the torch for activist punk rock in the anarchist spirit of Crass and the Clash, only catchier.

“Angry, Young and Poor,” from their 2001 album Underground Network, brought a newfound political consciousness to the Warped Tour stage. With blistering fast power chords, a manic walking bassline and a cathartic shout-along chorus, Anti-Flag captured the nervous energy of an anxious generation at a tense moment in American history.

While often criticized for their choice of band name, Anti-Flag found an unlikely ally in Congressman Jim McDermott, who in a speech given on the floor of the US House of Representatives, praised the group for their role in promoting voter registration leading up to the 2004 election.

NOFX — “We Got Two Jealous Agains

On “We Got Two Jealous Agains,” from their 2003 LP The War on Errorism, NOFX bassist, vocalist and songwriter Fat Mike sings a love song for any vinyl record collector who obsessively updates their Discogs wishlist.

With NOFX’s signature pop-thrash skatepunk sound and plenty of trademark wit, this tale of two lovers in the midst of a record collection merger (maybe?) gone awry namedrops enough essential punk records to be its own vinyl “starter kit” for newbies.

Bad Religion — “Supersonic

SoCal punk veterans Bad Religion debuted a new six-piece lineup on 2002’s The Process of Belief, welcoming founding guitarist (and Epitaph Records honcho) Brett Gurewitz back to the fold.

“Supersonic” finds the now three-guitar lineup firing on all cylinders for a breakneck blast of pop-hardcore fury with more hooks than a tacklebox—all in under two minutes. Vocalist Greg Graffin stacks harmonies like they’re going out of style in this warp-speed number that kicked off Bad Religion’s best-received album in years.

Upon release, The Process of Belief took the top spot on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart and cracked the Billboard Top 100, peaking at number 49.

Paramore — “crushcrushcrush

Paramore turn in a crunchy, cinematic electro pop-punk blockbuster with an extra helping of pop on “crushcrushcrush,” the second single from their 2007 album, Riot!

The song’s slick production morphs between electronic textures and hard rocking guitars with songwriter and vocalist Hayley Williams coming at you from every direction with her melodic lyricism and sophisticated multitrack vocal arrangements. The “2-3-4” count-in before the chorus is pop sweetness perfected.

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