Popcore grows up and out by the San Francisco Bay. By Jamie Kensey
Punk rock wasn’t supposed to be like this. All love and hope, heartstrings and dreams, melody and ache. All shucks and gee whiz. Punk was obnoxious, blaring, political. Fuck you. The Ramones were loud, snotty and rebellious. The Germs were loud, snotty, rebellious and suicidal. Black Flag? Yep, loud and pissed. And San Francisco’s Jawbreaker is … uh, sometimes they’re loud.
Listen up, kids, it’s popcore: churning melodic guitar lines, songs not chronicling our fucked-up world but about our personal demons, friends, family and the inconstancy of daily existence. It has a solid punk core but spreads into all territories of rock, soul and folk without losing its power. Descendants include bands like the Buzzcocks and, well, the Descendents. And the San Francisco Bay Area has almost singlehandedly kept it alive recently, with Jawbreaker and a handful of lesser-known bands continuing the revolution. They still wield a fist, albeit a velvet-gloved one.
“When we started, I had these illusions of being a real art band,” says Jawbreaker songwriter and guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach. “Because of my lack of skill, it ended being punk songs mostly. I really had these ideas of going on noise segments and doing these celestial guitar things.”
The great thing about this revolution is that it’s undefinable. Popcore units aren’t always strictly pop or hardcore. And though they all share a common punk denominator, they scatter in many directions from that starting point, kinda like a pack of huddled roaches when you hit the light switch. Even with the current stigma attached to the “p” word, most of them don’t even mind if you use that as a convenient label for their sound. “They can call us whatever they want, they’re still going to hear us,” says Schwarzenbach.