When people argue about genres, it's usually on the basis of authenticity.
Pop-punk deviates from that tendency in a big way. Not only is it rare to find anyone parsing hairs over what does or does not qualify as catchy, melodic punk rock but the term is shared among a wide variety of bands that arguably come from different strains of rock altogether.
Still, bands like Dillinger Four, the Mr. T Experience, and Blink-182, none of which could be mistaken for the other, can all safely be described by the same signifier.
In compiling this list of Florida's ten finest pop-punk ensembles, our priorities were to represent the various strains with the top from each microgenre and to annoy nerds.
10. Sloane Peterson
Our deeply arbitrary (or is it?) ranking of pop-punk (as we have defined it) opens with a band that arguably did not play pop-punk. Sloane Peterson was a Miami-based melodic power-pop five-piece that offset tremendous harmonic chops with vocalist Steve Hersh's sentimental/drunk caterwauling. They released a smattering of EPs and a posthumous full-length record that we hear is big in Japan, just like Cheap Trick.
9. Billy Reese Peters
This Gainesville troupe was, appropriately, pure "The Fest" music. That is, anthemic, driving, raucous 'n' sloppy punk-pop (in that order) and/or a band for people who thought the Grabass Charlestons could stand to get a little drunker.
8. The Tim Version
Tampa's Tim Version fit comfortably between William R. Peters and the aforementioned Charlestons, but my memory from the early 2000s — much sharper than today, because I was straight edge — was that these guys were a bit softer-spoken than their beer-soaked peers. Which is not to suggest they were not also soaked in beer.
(P.S. Was it the Tim Version that made shirts for the second 305 Fest featuring a shark [or something?] surfing while lifting a keg with the caption, "Spring Break 2005: Get your dick wet"? Or was that somebody else?)
7. The Careeners (formerly Grabass Charlestons)
This band personifies the wing of Gainesville punk that doesn't sound like Hot Water Music. It achieved the ideal balance of humor, sentiment, melody, and dissonant oomph. Plus the drummer sang, which was neat, and if I remember correctly, the bassist would do totally sick back bends during sets.
6. Less Than Jake
The band that helped rocket No Idea Records and Gainesville to the forefront of North American punk rock by perfecting a third-wave ska variant that I demand we refer to as "pop punk with horns." Less Than Jake has played an integral role in the economy of the Sunshine State, and we would probably have ranked it higher had it held on to its Bosstones-style official onstage skankaroo dude.
5. Pink Lincolns
And now to represent the leather jackets and boogers contingent... Tampa's Pink Lincolns are probably the best-known band from Florida that plays mongoloid, Chuck Berry-styled, first-wave punk. Whatever it takes to pull off a successful Ramones impression, the Lincolns huffed glue with the confidence of Screeching Weasel and the Queers (both of whom, BTW, share split releases from the Gulf Coast of Florida's most beloved snot punx).
4. The Funyons (AKA Onion Flavored Rings)
Arguably the best pop-punk band from Dade County, these here Onion Rangs play compact, manic ditties about existential freak-outs. A lot of pop-punk revels in angst — teen, political, etc. — but the Funyons (later reincarnated on the west coast as Onion Flavored Rings) were coated in thick, righteously smarmy angst, pronounced like Werner Herzog might say it after too much coffee at an anarchist bookstore.
If No Idea experienced a golden age (gilded wave?) following the one-two punch of its roster's expanding profile with scene-defining acts like Hot Water Music and Against Me!, then Bitchin' would likely earn that era's punk people's choice awards. A fan favorite in its home base of Gainesville, the trio of Miami expatriate bassist Caroline Paquita, Rumbleseat siren Samantha Jones, and drummer Todd Weissfeld earned its keep by hocking big, juicy loogies of poppy, grungy punk with post-riot-grrrl thematics and aesthetics.
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Before she was BFFs with Jack White, Dead Weather, and the Kills vocalist, Alison Mosshart fronted Orlando's much-revered Discount. The band's Half Fiction LP is a cult classic of melodically rockin' almost-emo. Or maybe just emo? The line is fine. There will be more than one person who used to finger-point along to every word or do that chest-slapping thing who will undoubtedly take offense to Discount not being at the top of this list.
1. This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb
But what can I do? If you ask me (you didn't), the undisputed all-time champeens of Florida pop-punk are Panhandle stalwarts This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. Although band members ended up as elder statesmen in the early 2000s folk-punk 'splosion, their brand of East Bay b/w Pensacola jangle-punk was way more sophisticated than your average Muppet baby dumpster diver with an acoustic guitar and a staph infection. Which is not to say the Pipe Bomb punks were not smelly hippies. They were and almost definitely still are. But instead of G-rated YOLO-ing, This Bike channeled actual American folk and outlaw country into a sing-along soundtrack to Food Not Bombs meetings across the globe.