(feat. track – “Fantasy Girl”)

In a lot of ways, this is sort of a symbolic pick.  Man Overboard are one of a number of bands that broke through this year as part of a new movement in pop punk.  Call it “easycore,” call it the new wave of pop punk, whatever – no matter the label you want to hang on it, it’s here and it’s starting to explode.  A loosely knit tribe of like-minded folks, with bands like The Wonder Years and Transit and record labels like No Sleep and Run For Cover at the forefront, all held together by an affinity for New Found Glory hooks, the ramshackle rev of early Saves The Day, and the sort of gang choruses that sound best echoing off the walls of VFW halls.

I’ll admit I’m also a little bit loathe of the politics that have been stamped onto this new scene.  I love hearing bands return to this sound and do it well, but I don’t think that it’s in some way “better” or “more pure” or more meaningful than the more pop-focused sounds that have predominated in the last few years.  I look at them as two different animals.  I’m attracted to anything alive and vital, and this is where it’s at now, it’s exciting, but frankly so was emo in the middle of the last decade, so was neon pop three years ago, so was hyperearnest bedroom emotronica last year, and so will something else be a couple years from now.  But I admire their brashness. Kill Yr Idols!

So why, out of all of them, Man Overboard?  In part, because of their “Defend Pop Punk” motto and iconography, which have become the de facto hallmarks of the scene.  But mostly because I sense just a little something more in their music.  Sure there’s plenty of Lifetime and Get Up Kids influence to be heard, but they also mine veins of everything from early Weezer and 90s alt-rock to nerd rock to Taking Back Sunday, and display the strongest songcraft of the lot.  They’re a band that seems built to last.  They feel like they’re already starting to break out of the pop punk mold they’ve purposefully inserted themselves into.  They probably have their best work ahead of them, but they’re awful great now too, especially live.