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[Photos via No Doubt/Spotify, Green Day/Spotify, Descendents/Spotify, Bad Religion/Spotify]

10 pop-punk albums from the '90s that set the path for the genre

It’s easy to mistake the foundations of pop punk as being laid in the 2000s. After all, that’s when the mainstream radio takeover of the genre occurred. As it turns out, though, we really have the ’90s to thank for our favorite artists and albums. 

With the meteoric rise of bands such as Nirvana and widespread experimentalism, prolific alternative influences were no longer out of reach. As a result, the scene began to diversify rapidly. Among the outputs was pop punk as we’ve come to know it. Here are 10 ’90s albums that contributed significantly to modern pop punk. 

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Bad Religion – Recipe For Hate

Bad Religion were a critical link in the evolution of punk rock into its pop-leaning derivative. While most early punk bands leaned toward fast ferocity in both sound and lyrics, Recipe For Hate proved to be more dynamic. The band’s experimentalism came at a critical point, too. The record was released just before they joined Atlantic Records, which marked their turn toward radio success. It’s no surprise that many other bands soon followed suit.

Green Day – Dookie

Green Day are such a staple in the pop-punk scene today, and there’s a reason that “Basket Case” remains their most popular song, even after nearly 27 years. Dookie was their first release under Reprise Records and marked the band’s progression into a more polished sound. While not necessarily profoundly experimental compared to their previous two albums, the record gained widespread radio success and significantly guided the next iteration of punk.

The Offspring – Smash

Smash was yet another mainstream kickoff for a long-grinding punk band. Under this album, the Offspring managed to trade in their DIY, aggressive sound for one more grounded in catchy hooks. Though notably heavier than what we’ve come to expect from pop punk, the record has the energy down pat. 

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NOFX – Punk In Drublic

Punk In Drublic persists as a skate-punk anthem to this day. The record found a happy medium between NOFX’s traditional punk sounds of early albums and the experimentalism of White Trash… The result was an upbeat, catchy take on punk aggression that ultimately influenced icons such as blink-182 and Sum 41.

No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom

The incorporation of ska elements into punk music was first seen in the ’80s. However, No Doubt brought the fusion into the spotlight. Though their debut self-titled album flopped in 1992, Tragic Kingdom skyrocketed the group (and ska punk) into mainstream success. The record earned them two Grammy nominations in 1996 and 1997 and was certified diamond in 1999.

Descendents – Everything Sucks

It shouldn’t be surprising that Descendents steered the progression of punk when they returned from hiatus in the ’90s. The band had only been informing the genre for over a decade at that point… Not only did Everything Sucks mark the group’s return, though. It was their first release in an era where punk was becoming mainstream. The record incorporated pop dynamics in a more in-your-face fashion relative to earlier releases, which proved influential to the larger scene.

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The Get Up Kids – Four Minute Mile

It’s honestly shocking that Four Minute Mile became so influential so quickly. You know, considering that the Get Up Kids had never released an album before. The record boasted sounds very similar to what characterized the 2000s wave: polished and deeply melodic. With emotional, relatable lyrics to boot, it ultimately became the foundation on which emo-leaning pop punk grew.

A New Found Glory – Nothing Gold Can Stay

You can tell that the general reception of pop punk really took a turn around this time. New Found Glory (at that point operating under A New Found Glory) are another band who found incredible success with their debut album. Nothing Gold Can Stay may just be the earliest mainstream example of pop punk’s future. Anyone who’s listened to it won’t be surprised to learn that it was a direct influence on early Fall Out Boy.

blink-182 – Enema Of The State 

blink-182 had slowly been accumulating heat throughout the ’90s. As we know, though, Enema Of The State was the spark that set it all ablaze. The album marks the genre’s transcendence into predominantly pop-informed sounds and went on to influence a number of scene favorites. It’s strange thinking that bands such as Mayday Parade and Yellowcard ultimately have an “Enema” to thank for their direction… But that seems oddly symbolic of pop punk, right?

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Saves The Day – Through Being Cool 

Saves The Day barely put out their iconic pop-punk album, Through Being Cool, before the turn of the century. The band first laid out their signature style on their debut record, Can’t Slow Down. However, it was their sophomore release that brought all the scene cred. You can thank this one for the partial regression toward raw punk, furthered by bands such as Taking Back Sunday.

What are your favorite influential ’90s punk albums? Let us know in the comments below!