Somewhere between 1997 and 2006, we saw the marketplace dominance of pop punk. It was everywhere; at several spots on the radio dial and ever-present in the hallways of colleges and high schools. Punk’s old guard railed and bellowed, but the youth had spoken – pop punk would be the music of the day. Its cascade of popularity even gave itself into willing parody, culminating in the birth of the Aquabats and a handful of others.
Then, as suddenly as it had arisen, it was done. The entire movement disappeared, swept under the rug of time, remembered now not as a dominant movement, but as a distant, vague memory.
So it is that pop-punk has retreated back to the underground and is now crafted and hones by DIY bands that have embraced the genre and are steadily trying to rebuild and improve it.
Enter No Inside, a self-distributed indie pop-punk four piece from Tampa who are trying like hell to bring pop-punk back to relevance. The band has concocted a seven song EP called “Live. Regret. Learn” that dances through all the tropes of its chosen genre. But it must do more than that, or it would be just another cookie-cutter record and we wouldn’t be here talking about it. So, you can rest assured that No Inside has bent some other influences into the sound of this new EP.
For the single “102,” the throaty bass line sounds like a long-descended cousin of something that Lisa Umbarger would have laid down during the heyday of the Toadies. So off the bat, we see a twist on the thin sugary lines that so embodied pop-punk during its brightest days and turned off so many serious music academics.
Along the lines of innovation, No Inside also brings some rap into the game, dropping lyrical bombs in a genre that’s never really experienced this influx before. I know that the age of rap-rock/metal/punk fusion is long behind us, but No Inside brings some game for “Distance” among others, and gives it an honest effort that at least showcases the possibilities of the idea.
It is worth noting that “Live. Regret. Learn” falls prey to the same pitfalls as all pop punk, so if you weren’t a fan before, you won’t be now. The vocal presence still feels juvenile and saccharine in parts, and the music wants for a strong, dramatic hook. The ballad-y feel of pop punk anthems has always felt compulsory and overdone. Again, these are genre problems more than No Inside problems, but that doesn’t take them off the hook for it, either. With the band’s ear for experimentation and promising incorporation of outside elements, I would challenge No Inside to try and redefine these facets going forward.
No Inside’s “Live. Regret. Learn” marks a certain progression of the pop punk genre, and shows a versatility that is formerly lacked. This is still pop-punk at its core, and all the good and bad that entails, but shows a glimmer of what could be.