Published Feb 11, 2020A few months ago, three pop-punk titans joined forces, as Fall Out Boy, Green Day and Weezer announced the "Hella Mega Tour" — an announcement that should inspire excitement from pop punk fans, but instead inspires little more than embarrassment.
All three bands dropped new singles that accompanied the tour announcement, and they were stark reminders that the Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy that fans love and remember probably aren't coming back.
While it's true that these bands still know how to play their instruments and write a catchy song, their new music is lacklustre at best. Green Day and Weezer achieved mainstream success in the mid-'90s and hit their commercial prime in the mid-2000s. Over the past few years, it feels like they've been on autopilot.
Not only does Green Day's new song "Father of All Motherfuckers" sound like a Clash ripoff, but their new music after American Idiot in 2004 hasn't held the same level of cultural significance. Their 2012 album trilogy ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! were the most disappointing three albums in their discography, and even Billie Joe Armstrong himself agrees; in an interview with Q Magazine, he said, "Those records have absolutely no direction to them. It was about being prolific for the sake of it."
While Weezer's 2016 LP The White Album was seen as a return to form, 2017's Pacific Daydream and 2019's Black Album were panned. Instead of reflecting on these poor releases and working on more exciting and cohesive music, the band decided to lean into a Twitter meme and cover "Africa" by Toto, which became their first Billboard Hot 100 hit in nearly a decade. They took the joke to the bank by releasing a full album of straightforward covers, which was panned for their unoriginality.
Fall Out Boy aren't doing so hot either. Their latest full-length album, M A N I A, is so far removed from their emo roots that they might as well be a pop band. Both fans and critics have debated stripping Fall Out Boy of their rock band status, since they sound more EDM than punk these days.
Even though their transition from pop punk to pop rock started with their 2013 release Save Rock and Roll (oh, the irony!), both it and American Beauty/American Psycho were fine. Fans realized that the boys grew up and their music needed to grow up too. Adult fans never got the second coming of Take This to Your Grave, but their new music was likeable.
But M A N I A? It's just bad. The same band that once removed all the vowels from "Thnks fr th Mmrs" to piss off their record label when management complained about their absurdly long song titles also made M A N I A, which feels like a blatant cash grab so they can play stadium shows to teenage fans who didn't grow up listening to early Fall Out Boy.
If they had called it quits before or after American Beauty/American Psycho, they would still only be remembered as one of the quintessential pop punk bands of the 2000s. That doesn't ring as true after a M A N I A-level sellout.
Unfortunately, fans and music critics alike have also noticed this decline. Just check Reddit for countless lists and discussions detailing why certain bands should break up or retire.
None of these bands are washed up, exactly, because they've left an undisputed legacy on the pop punk and alternative genres of music. When bands keep putting out new albums that are sonically worse than their previous material, it feels like they're doing it because they feel an obligation to their bank accounts rather than their fans.
Think about Blink-182's discography. Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker started their careers by writing pop punk music about girls and about being 12-year-old boys stuck in the bodies of men in their mid-20s. They kept this shtick up for three classic albums: Dude Ranch, Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. But since it was the '90s and skate punk was all the rage, their immaturity was welcomed.
We all thought DeLonge, Hoppus and Barker matured when they released the experimental and dark Untitled album that was regarded by many as the pinnacle of their collective careers. The shift made sense — they were in their early 30s. The high didn't last, as they went on a five-year hiatus.
If they had hung up their guitars after Untitled, they would have gone out with a bang, remembered by their fans for their groundbreaking achievements.
Instead, Blink-182 gave fans a dubious 2009 album, Neighborhoods, a lineup change, a Las Vegas residency, and another album about girls and about being dumb (2016's California). The band decided to continue disappointing fans with NINE. Exclaim! gave it a four out of ten and said the album "reeks of adolescence — and not in the goofy, humorous way of Blink-182's past, but in a cringe-y attempt at youthful angst." Hoppus, Barker and recent addition Matt Skiba need to remember that they're in their mid-40s. Fans want age-appropriate lyrics, not a 2019 version of "She's Out of Her Mind" and a music video filled with kids doing Fortnite dance moves.
One band that seemingly got it right is My Chemical Romance. When Gerard Way and the other members realized they could no longer devote all their time and creativity to the band, as they wanted to work on personal projects, they took a prolonged hiatus in 2013. Sure, fans were upset and vented their feelings on Twitter, but they got over it.
But here we go again. Lo and behold, My Chemical Romance got back together a couple months ago and are now staging a full-scale reunion tour. They respected fans too much to release half-assed music for the past decade; let's hope they keep up the good streak and don't follow their pop punk peers down the dusty path to Vegas.
When the bands we liked as teenagers keep recording and releasing lacklustre music, it's high time we ask ourselves: do we still like the band because they release good music, or because we're desperately trying to hold on to our fleeting youth? Maybe it's time to leave pop punk in the '90s and find something new to get nostalgic about.