By Shazwan Zulkiffli
Malaysia has been blessed with good pop punk bands back in the day, with outfits like An Honest Mistake, Bunkface, Heart Meets Hurricane, One Buck Short decorating the Malaysian pop punk Christmas tree together with then-youngins Heart A Tack, on a weekly basis at Klang Valley gig halls.
An Honest Mistake, once upon a time.
Slightly different than their punk counterparts, Malaysian pop punk can’t be mistaken with politically rebellious bands like Carburetor Dung who wrote ‘Hantu Putrajaya’ and Dum Dum Tak’s energetic call-to-action anthem ‘Turun Najib Turun’. Although pop punk legends One Buck Short once wrote ‘Kelibat Korupsi’, which is still a relevant battle cry till today, Malaysian pop punk leans more to personal issues, similar to the emo-pop punk movement circa 2006-2010. Bands like Mayday Parade, The Story So Far and All Time Low played huge roles in influencing then Malaysian teens and young adults who turned to be great pop punk musicians of that era.
But like all trends, the global pop punk scene drowned itself in its own current that inevitably led to the desertion of the genre’s hype. In a more brutal sense, the pop punk scene died. Paramore turned pop, Panic! is now only Urie! In the Disco, while Fall Out Boy, isn’t exactly appealing to the same crowd anymore (or to any crowd for that matter). The lifeline plug was officially pulled when My Chemical Romance, who isn’t even remotely pop punk but worshipped by pop punk listeners, announced their break up in 2013, putting a large tombstone on top of the grave of a genre that turned too predictable and formulaic to even excite new and young fans at that point.
Malaysia was a bit late, as usual. The hype continued until the point that there weren’t anything to be hyped about anymore. To be frank, Malaysia can stand on its own in terms of hype, and this is apparent with the surge of skinheads in the late 90s when grunge and britpop ruled the airwaves. But Malaysian pop punk managed to find a way to kill itself. Organisers picked the same batch of bands to play week in week out, new bands come out and end up copying the Otais, while pioneers decided to go pop, go quiet or have moved on to better things.
Fast forward to 2018, there aren’t many pop punk bands still standing, but a new crop of mainstays are defending pop punk like they’re defending Helm’s Deep. The global pop punk revival, although not as strong, didn’t really help fuel these Malaysian bands to go on. There aren’t any big fours to idolise anymore, no MCR, no Paramore, no FOB, but somehow and in some ways, these high-spirited head-thudders found their way through the frail and headless Malaysian pop punk scene. Female fronted Night Skies & Visions is the new Malaysian Paramore, I Lost The Plot mixes a bit of Fall Out Boy and a bit of Panic! At The Disco in their utagha flavor of pop punk. Scarlet Heroes produced a massive, clear-sounding pop punk album for the English listening crowd while Classmates still has a large fanbase down south after their single ‘Giliranku’. Then there are newer pop punk bands like Pasca Sini, who’s strong in its Neck Deep game and Des Panik, a young Blink inspired outfit fusing raunchy parts of the genre with hints of Malay rock, destined to grace bigger stages in the near future.
Despite that, there is that lack of love for the genre itself from the audience’s perspective. These bands are almost on par with their predecessors at their prime, or maybe even better, but the turnout at pop punk gigs aren’t as convincing compared to other genres. Many people have been asking this question recently: are music fans bored of pop punk? Because quality isn’t really the question here.
Thankfully, more Malaysians have stopped obsessing over one genre (like we used to), and have started embracing all, as long as their good to the ears. Thanks to the existence of Spotify and Gig Campur organisers, you can see pop punk bands perform side by side with psychedelic outfits, and somehow, it’s working. People like the shuffling of genres, they like that bands aren’t playing the same thing with the same guitar tones and most of all, they like their weekly dose of surprises. The recent Hunger Aid gig in the outskirts of Kampung Melayu Subang beared a good example, where fans of Nusantara rock band Margasatwa went balls crazy when Night Skies & Visions played a cover of We The Kings’ ‘Check Yes Juliet’. Maybe it’s not the genre, but the way one promotes it?
I dare say the rumor that Malaysian pop punk is dead can be considered as false. Anyone can say that, and I’m sure that’s what everyone thought that about pop yeh yeh before Masdo took over the peninsula. Scenesters just need to find a different way to promote it. This isn’t the glory emo days anymore – this isn’t 2008, and we need to move on from 2008’s lanky methods in promoting the pop punk brand as a whole. Malaysian pop punk needs no defending – it needs a rebranding.