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More Punk Subgenres

Punk Rock Comes in an Array of Sounds, Continued


More Punk Subgenres

Cramps - Bad Music For Bad People

Pop Punk

More melodic than hardcore, pop punk is a style that owes more to the Beatles and '60s pop than other subgenres of punk. While the sound began with the Buzzcocks, it was several years before it grew into what is arguably the most popular subgenre of punk today.

Pop punk's revival can be traced to 1988, with the establishment of Lookout! Records. Based in California, the label was releasing music that went against the California hardcore punk that was predominant on the scene at the time.

With bands like Screeching Weasel and some young kids by the name of Green Day, the label was systematically producing and releasing pop punk records. Like pop music, the sound was infectious.

In 1994, Green Day's album Dookie became a huge commercial success, and other pop punk bands like the Offspring and NOFX quickly followed suit. Pop punk bands continue to consistently climb the charts, and pop punk continues to be the most commercially successful type of punk rock.

Essential Bands: Buzzcocks, Green Day, Screeching Weasel, Offspring, NOFX, The Descendents, blink-182, New Found Glory, Sum 41


Psychobilly is a blend of '50s rockabilly music and punk rock. It steals its name from a lyric in Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time", where he sings about a "psychobilly Cadillac".

Psychobilly owes a lot to '50s culture as well. Predominant themes are the themes that were considered underground in the '50s. This includes science fiction and horror films. Bands often play upright bass and vintage organs rather than modern instruments. People in the psychobilly scene often dress in '50s fashions as well.

Essential Bands: The Cramps, Hillbilly Hellcats, The Reverend Horton Heat

Riot Grrrl

Riot grrrl was a relatively short-lived but very important punk rock movement. As a scene it encompassed not only bands and music, but printed zines and punk culture as well.

A politically-motivated movement, riot grrrl had an agenda that covered feminism as whole, focusing on gender equality in the punk scene. The lyrics of the bands also addressed other charged issues, including domestic violence and rape.

The stronghold of riot grrrl culture was in Washington, where all-female bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile were demanding to be noticed. Huggy Bear brought the scene to the UK.

While it has essentially died out, riot grrrl's messages live on. Today, the punk scene is less male-dominated and more aware of women's issues.

Essential Bands: Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Huggy Bear

Ska Punk

Many of the London neighborhoods where punk became popular with were heavily integrated with a large Jamaican population. This lead to the creation of ska punk. Ska punk blends the rhythms of Jamaican ska with the heavier beats of punk. It's similar to traditional ska, but faster and heavier. Horn sections are common in ska bands as well.

Many early punk bands, most notably the Clash, experimented with ska and reggae beats at some point in their careers. They didn't make it the foundation of their sound like many American ska punk bands would in the late '80s and early '90s, when the scene really began to grow.

Essential Bands: Operation Ivy, Citizen Fish, Less Than Jake, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Street Punk

Also known as Oi, the street punk movement started in the late '70s. Directed toward the working class and inner-city residents, it was intended as a direct reaction to the first wave of punk bands. The first street punks felt that those bands and their fans were pampered members of the upper middle class and that their music didn't speak to the blue-collar punk.

Street punk is like the Gangsta Rap of punk music. Its sound is often harsh; early street punk lyrics dealt with poverty and police brutality. Another predominant theme in street punk music is promoting unity among the working class. Today, partying and social issues are just as likely to enter into the picture.

A large portion of the working class punk scene was and is composed of skinheads. At the same time the street punk scene was starting, racist organizations such as the National Front were also recruiting skinheads. This gave rise to misconception that street punk was overly racist. In fact, most street punk bands have reacted by crying out against racism.

Essential Bands: Cock Sparrer, Exploited, Swingin' Utters, The Cockney Rejects

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