This edition of “In Defense of the Genre” takes a look at the 20th anniversary of one of the most important pop punk albums of the early 2000s, “Sticks and Stones”, New Found Glory’s mainstream breakthrough.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s now generally accepted that pop punk is considered a valid genre in its own right, not a bastardization of it. It’s weird that it took so long – the Ramones were arguably the first real punk band, and they were influenced by bubblegum pop – but it happened, and it probably never would have happened without New Found Glory. They’re probably the most influential pop punk band of the early 2000s outside of blink-182, but unlike blink, they made pop punk their whole personality. After a half and very brief non-genre incursion with the years 2006 Go home, New Found Glory proudly returned to pop punk and began naming their tours as The Easycore Tour and The Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour – the former helping to popularize the easycore genre on which NFG is massively influential – and their renewed commitment to the pop punk coincided with a new generation of pop punk advocates, almost all of whom owed a lot to the music of New Found Glory. Like their recent bandmates, they saw pop punk not as a watered down version of punk, but as an avenue to innovate and create something new. They’re probably the most popular band to have lined up for both Britney Spears and Madball, and even if their fandom wasn’t vocal, you’d be able to hear the impact of both on their music. It’s a formula they used time and time again, and the album that perfected it and brought it to the masses was sticks and stoneswhich came out 20 years ago this Saturday (6/11).
To step back for a second, New Found Glory formed in 1997 with members who had played in a few little-known Florida punk bands, along with guitarist/backing vocalist Chad Gilbert, who previously managed Shai Hulud and left the band after recording their now-classic debut album Hearts once filled with hope and compassion, securing New Found Glory’s hardcore credibility that lasted even after signing with a major label, appeared all over national television, and became one of the biggest bands in the world. (They would later release a hardcore-inspired EP for beloved hardcore label Bridge 9 Records, featuring three originals plus covers from Gorilla Biscuits, Lifetime and Shelter, and earlier this year. sticks and stones received a 20th anniversary vinyl reissue by one of today’s top hardcore labels, Triple B Records.) The pop punk of the era was largely derived from SoCal skate punk, but New Found Glory was inspired by the sounds hardest of East Coast hardcore, as well as second-wave emo poppy bands like The Get Up Kids, and it gave them a sound that sat well alongside the blink-182s and Green Days of the world, but also worked with the early 2000s emo scene that was soon to explode. They debuted in 1997 It’s all about the girls EP then arrived almost fully formed on their 1999 debut album Nothing gold can stayan emo-ish pop punk album that is reminiscent of other 1999 class favorites like by being cool and Something to write homebut as these bands began to turn away from mainstream accessibility, New Found Glory leaned into it. Nothing gold can stay spawned the song “Hit or Miss”, which caught the attention of Drive-Thru Records, which soon signed the band and reissued the album later that year. When it came time for New Found Glory to release a second album, Drive-Thru’s upstream deal with MCA landed NFG on a major label, they teamed up with producer Neal Avron (who had previously helped Everclear clean their sound on So much for the afterglow and later produced Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, etc.), and they re-recorded “Hit or Miss”, which became the band’s breakthrough song. This self-titled album was a near-perfect fusion of the sugary pop and heart-pounding hardcore that New Found Glory loved. It was less fiery and rambling than Nothing gold can stay, and more polished and to the point. He won over Mark Hoppus and landed a No. 1 spot for the band on a tour with blink-182, and as far as punk bands go in 2000, it was a huge hit. But New Found Glory had its sights set on something bigger than punk; they were ready to conquer the world, and with sticks and stonesthey would.
New Found Glory” wondered if [they] could ever write another song to live up to [‘Hit Or Miss’]”, said Chad Gilbert sound louder in 2016, and with lead sticks and stones single “My Friends Over You”, they did. “Hit Or Miss” may have been dubbed “Thriller,” but “My Friends Over You” took what NFG learned from the kings and queens of pop and fused it seamlessly with their punk upbringing. Beginning with a peppy main riff that draws inspiration from both hardcore New York beats and the melodic tracks of Tom DeLonge, it transitions into a catchy verse that leads into a catchier pre-chorus that leads into a chorus. even catchier, and a perfectly suspenseful bridge that leads into a final chorus, but let’s sing it twice this time. It became the band’s first song to break the Billboard Hot 100, and that made it a household name. It was followed a few months later by another single, the slower “Head On Collision”, which practically counts as a power ballad when it comes to pop punk, and even 20 years later both singles remain tracks. signing for NFG, and crucial documents from the mainstream pop punk era. But we’re not talking about sticks and stones 20 years later just because he had two big singles. They’re just the tip of the iceberg of an album that holds up extremely well, and maybe it’s just that they’re overplayed, but I’d say they’re far from the best that sticks and stones has to offer.
Like on the self-titled LP, New Found Glory worked with producer Neal Avron, and their chemistry was even greater this time around than on the self-titled. The album sounds warmer, cleaner, bigger and more spacious and, crucially, Neal encouraged drummer Cyrus Bolooki to let loose, after insisting he take a ‘less is more’ approach on the album. self-titled album. Travis Barker may be the reigning king of pop punk drummers, but Cyrus is up there, and his busy-but-pocket playing is no small part of what elevated sticks and stones above the fast growing crop of ten hundred pop punk bands. The band members were also growing as songwriters; there was a lot more variety in the music, and the lyrics were still mostly about girls, but the feelings expressed in them were deeper and more introspective than they had been on previous albums. All this is clear in the first 30 seconds of the album; “Understatement” kicks off with one of the most badass intros in New Found Glory history, then vocalist Jordan Pundik enters with an introspective admission: “I’m sick of smiling, and my jaw too.” And later: “I’m tired of being someone I’m not, please get me out of this mess.” These once awkward kids were starting to look like world-weary adults, and “Understatement” wasn’t the only sign of that. Jordan grappled with his grandfather’s death on “Sonny,” a downright pretty song that could be New Found Glory’s answer to “Adam’s Song” or “Stay Together for the Kids.” It offered just the right amount of maturity and depth without straying too far from the radio-ready sound of the band’s greatest hits.
sticks and stones pushed the group in several directions; there were softer songs, but also harder songs, like “Something I Call Personality,” a two-minute, 40-second circle with backing vocals from members of Bane (and Mark Hoppus on bass) that might have agree on the list of Revelation Records. (Other guests on the album included backing vocals from H2O members on “Understatement” and Alkaline Trio members on “Forget My Name.”) Some songs embraced several different extremes at once, such as “Singled Out” , which opens with lo-fi beats to relax/study before turning into fast-paced pop punk verses, a booming pop chorus, and a heavy bridge with blown guitars and Shai Hulud-esque Chad Gilbert screams. Other songs stayed true to a tried-and-true pop punk formula, but worked in little cues of growth, like “Forget My Name,” with its dark intro and Jordan insisting an on-and-off lover “tell everyone my friends that I’m dead” or “Never Give Up,” where Cyrus’ up-to-the-minute punk beats are accompanied by warm melodies and lush harmonies that wrap you around like an old sweater. And just like sticks and stones opens with a bang, it ends with the album’s most expansive song, “The Story So Far”. It’s a climactic slow burner full of unpredictable dynamic shifts, edgy drum fills, angelic harmonies and sugar rush hooks. That’s what happens when you approach pop punk as if it were an art form.
sticks and stones represented a lot of growth for New Found Glory, but it also had a youthful, yearning nostalgia that was a key element of early 2000s pop punk and emo. From the reference to a popular children’s nursery rhyme with the title, to the album cover, which shows two children wrestling in the grass, this album evokes feelings of childhood from the minute you hold it in your hand. It doesn’t always have the deepest lyricism or the most groundbreaking arrangements, but the emotion it delivers is fresh and heartfelt, and it’s wrapped in catchy melodies and a welcoming production that endures to this day. Whether you prefer the scrappier Nothing gold can staythe unadorned, heaviest eponymous Catalystor the sweetest Go homehard to deny sticks and stones hits a sweet spot that falls perfectly between all the albums in this early era of the band’s career. It kinda touches on everything the band is capable of, it helped define the new wave of pop punk that took over in the early 2000s and it cemented New Found Glory as one of the genre’s defining bands. . There’s a reason two of the biggest pop punk bands around were named after song titles and lyrics from this album (The Story So Far and All Time Low, respectively); pop punk was a crowded place in 2002, and with sticks and stonesNew Found Glory took the genre to places it might never have been.
Read past and future editions of “In Defense of the Genre” here.