If you didn’t ever jam to Blink 182’s “Dammit” in the car with your mom, this could mean one of two things: A) You never had a somewhat emo phase in middle school, or B) Your parents are boring.
While my parents can’t recite Blink 182’s entire discography from memory, they at least had the courtesy of exposing me to their popular classics such as “All the Small Things” and “First Date” when I was young. This allowed me to sort of rediscover them while I slowly entered my middle school “punk rock” phase around age eleven. While of course I dabbled in the popular emo/post-hardcore/screamo/whateveryoucalledit scene with bands such as Pierce the Veil and Bring me the Horizon, I was always drawn to their obvious inspirations: bands my parent’s still had on CD.
Blink 182 has maintained their relevance from my dad’s generation to mine, simply by always releasing new music and keeping up with the times. Obviously appearing on popular Youtube Channels such as “Kids React” and playing the Last Warped Tour helped expose them to a younger audience, and their earlier work remains solidified as some of pop punk’s greatest classics. Getting into the exact history behind the roots of “pop punk” and its various forms and spinoffs is something I’m going to have to reserve for another article entirely, but Blink even admits they were on the frontline of the development of this sub genre.
Blink’s newest albums California and NINE were met with some pretty intense criticism. As to be expected, because there will ALWAYS be some 40 year old guy in a Smashing Pumpkins tee shirt complaining that older bands are “sellouts”, “watered down”, and that they’ve “just changed.”
As someone who realizes that a band that formed before Clinton was president that is STILL making music (while nearing their 50’s) cannot be the same as they were at age 20, I can appreciate the different creative styles they’ve taken on all their projects. A simple reminder that experiencing no personal and/or career growth in 30 years is not something to brag about; if you do think that’s normal and staying “true to yourself”, I do highly encourage counseling.
Well luckily for you, I’m breaking down each Blink 182 album and highlighting both positive and negative changes. I’m going by Mark Hoppus’s official breakdown of their much debated discography: they count Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch, Buddah, Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Self Titled, Neighborhoods, California, and now NINE.
Cheshire Cat (1994)
Blink’s first official album, featuring Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and then-drummer Scott Raynor. DeLonge has said this album isn’t technically punk rock; however, if any Blink album was going to be classified as “punk”, this one would probably make the cut. Fast riffs, heavy drums, and the edginess of this release made it insanely popular among California’s skate punk scene. Blink cited the Descendants and the Vandal’s as inspirations while writing this album (which they manage to complete in only three days), which to me is obviously apparent. While the lyrical content doesn’t extend much past trivial youthful dilemmas, it really set the not-so-serious tone for a majority of Blink’s future content. Give it a listen if you’re in the mood for mowing your lawn, or headbanging in the living room when your roommates aren’t home. It sold pretty well for a small release on an independent label (250,000 copies as of 2001), but it’s still one of Blink’s lesser known gems. I definitely recommend mentioning this album to stump the arguments from a Gen X’er telling you, as a 20 year old, that you don’t truly appreciate the music of the late 20th century and only know Blink from their tour with Lil Wayne.
Key Songs: M+M’s, Peggy Sue, and Does My Breath Smell?
Dude Ranch (1997)
Dude Ranch was the first album recorded with MCA, a step up from the indie label Cargo that Blink was working with before. There’s obvious improvements from Cheshire Cat, mostly with production and funding. Although they hadn’t at this point strayed far from their roots, there was a bit of a change from “punk” to what would become “pop punk”. However, lyrical content remained pretty consistent. MCA was a dying label, but won Blink 182 over with their promises of complete artistic freedom. This is what allowed for the endearing little skits and outros placed throughout, including the ending of “I’m Sorry”, where Mark Hoppus alludes to calling his dog over to help him masturbate. Although there is much to be said about Blink’s sense of humor, both Cheshire Cat and Dude Ranch were refreshing listens in the midst of the serious, cloudy world of grunge (even though at this point capitalism had all but dissolved the authenticity of that scene.)
Key Songs: Dammit, Josie, and Degenerate.
Buddah (1994? 1998?)
Buddha: the most controversial Blink-182 album due to an interesting string of technicalities. Technically, Buddha predates Cheshire Cat and was the first demo, recorded under the name “Blink.” There was a complication with the distribution of the original demo, so Blink struggled to claim the rights to it. Its position in the official Blink-182 discography is debated, because most of the songs were re-recorded, polished, and put onto Cheshire Cat. They eventually secured the rights to the original demo and released it in 1998, but at that point those songs already peaked. Mark Hoppus said that he counts Buddah in the official discography, which is why I thought it was worth mentioning here.
Enema of the State (1999)
To quote Lady Gaga, “Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before.”
Enema of the State is arguably one of the most iconic rock albums ever released. Most alternative artists from the 21st century have cited this record as one of their most serious influences. The name is a word play on the phrase “enemy of the state”, and of course famous pornstar Janine Lindemulder dons a nurses uniform for the cover. This was the first album with new drummer Travis Barker, who replaced Scott Rayner due to differences with the band and issues with drinking. Barker is credited with the positive change of Blink, as Hoppus and Delong pushed themselves harder as musicians to keep up with him.
After gaining more popularity on Warped Tour with Dude Ranch, it was time for a slightly more mature album. Two weeks in the studio is all it took to create this twelve track masterpiece, and Blink had created an album that threw them into mainstream success. Songs such as “All the Small Things” and “What’s my Age Again?” became MTV hits and received radio play. The lyrical content of Enema of the State is still very much youthful, however the maturity is obvious. No skits were included, and the lyrics focused on themes such as fears of growing up, failing relationships, uncertainty of the future, and overall angst associated being a young adult. Don’t worry, Blink didn’t lose their comedic touch; many of the lyrics involve other experiences such as partying, needing to pee really bad, and the existence of UFO’s.
“Adam’s Song”, the saddest track on the record, is also a nod to Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” The whole second verse is a response to the lines discussed in “Come as You Are,” and is meant to pay tribute to both Kurt Cobain and the suicide note of a teenage boy Hoppus used as inspiration for this track.
Some criticize this album due to the fact they incorporated much more pop influences than punk. Although they were accused of “selling out” (aka becoming moderately successful and gaining fans that don’t exclusively wear Vans all the time), Enema of the State has gone platinum five times.
It’s nearly impossible to pick just a few songs off this record, but if I was held at gunpoint and just HAD to pick four, Adam’s Song, Going Away to College, The Party Song, and What’s My Age Again have to be my favorites.
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
Obviously following up an album like Enema of the State would be a challenge, but Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was a solid project. Here we really start to see a sense of maturity in both lyrical and composition content. Building off the combination of silly and seriousness that was Enema of the State, Blink tackles more difficult topics of loneliness, divorce, and politics. While most of their lyrical content to this point has been about teenage experiences, this album addresses more painful aspects of being young then previous projects. “Stay Together for the Kids,” one of Blink’s most difficult releases to get through because of how real it gets, acts as a break between the rest of the high energy pop punk we’ve come to expect from them.
But no need to fear. Blink’s 42 second masterpiece skit-song that is “Happy Holiday, You Bastards” provides the comic relief we needed (“It’s Labor day and my grandpa just ate seven fucking hot dogs/ And he shit shit shit his pants? Pure genius). “The Rock Show” shouts out their humble beginnings on Warped Tour, and First Date literally just talks about being nervous for a date. Blink’s ability to discuss pretty depressing topics in a not-completely-depressing manner solidified Take Off Your Pants and Jacket as one of their best albums.
Key Songs: Stay Together for the Kids, The Rock Show, Reckless Abandon, and Anthem Part Two.
Untitled was a huge turning point in Blink’s career. This album is somewhat of an audio representation of when you’re in your senior year of college, and suddenly you don’t want to drink straight Everclear and black out four times a week. It’s time for something more.
The album was actually left specifically untitled, even though some claim it’s self-titled. DeLong explained, “That’s why we try to say it is not self-titled, it is untitled. We didn’t want to label it with anything. We didn’t want to label it with a joke title that people might expect. We didn’t want to label it with some serious phrase that the whole record would have to somehow relate to. We left it untitled so it would speak for itself.”
Untitled truly does speak for itself in the sense that you can obviously tell Blink was experiencing some growing pains. The increased focus on the instrumentals is apparent, and we see the slight new wave goth influenced that made its way into alternative music in the early 2000’s. Their experimentation really paid off with some pretty solid tracks off of this record, including Feeling This, Violence, I Miss You, and Down.
Eight years after the release of Untitled (the longest gap between any of Blink’s records) Neighborhood was released. Although it is one of Blink’s lowest rated albums, the record was important for the group on personal levels. This record came after Blink’s “indefinite hiatus”, which came to an end after Travis Barker’s near death plane crash,and the death of their producer Jerry Finn.
While the release date was pushed back months due to tensions, different priorities, legal issues, and the overbearing presence of publicists and managers, Neighborhoods was finally released after two years of working.
I’m not going to lie, Neighborhoods is not my favorite Blink album ever released. With that being said, I think it definitely was a more unique release compared to the rest of their work. It’s a no-nonsense record for sure; you can tell while listening that Blink is no longer a group of guys jamming in someones garage. They all came together on a far more professional level to create this. While it’s pretty dark for a “comeback” album, they left almost as soon as they came; this is the last we’ll hear of Blink for another four years. If you’re looking for a pop-punk rooted album with significantly moodier overtones, sprinkled with the wisdom of rockers in their thirties, this is the album for you.
Key Tracks: Natives, Kaleidoscope, Up All Night.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. DeLonge left Blink-182 not long after touring in support of Neighborhoods due to “different priorities” and his many side projects. Barker and Hoppus recruited Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba in his place. Hoppus takes over all the vocals, which is a definite change since him and DeLonge split vocals on all their other albums.
This album, in my opinion, is nothing like any other Blink album to come out before this. The first time I listened to it I was also a pessimist: “How can they go on without DeLonge?”, “This just isn’t Blink?”, “Maybe punk IS dead.”
Then I got over myself.
This is such a great album if you’re willing to allow yourself to move with the band instead of against. While obviously Blink pretty much invented pop-punk, California embraces the newer versions of it that I was closely familiar with since I was finally at the age where I was going to shows. California does a wonderful job of offering an array of different moods on one record, while adding a heavier tone to their pop punk roots.
And the best part? They brought back SKITS! Included are two thirty second masterpieces “Built This Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” (“I wanna see some naked dudes/Thats why I built this pool” is tattoo worthy.) It was actually the tour in support of this album that I was able to see them live. Even in their older age it was a great show, and their stage presence was incredible.
Although I miss DeLonge, this was probably the best record I could hope for from them with a new member. Skiba does a great job of adding his experience, but not trying too hard to fit in. I also appreciate a lot of nods to their beginnings, such as in “San Diego” (where Blink was originally formed.)
Key Songs: Cynical, Bored to Death, San Diego, She’s Out of her Mind 6/8, and Los Angeles
The most recent Blink album to date. While this really isn’t my cup of tea, I can appreciate what was done with it. Hoppus, while writing for this record, was dealing with a lot emotionally. This is shown in most of the lyrical content that deals with isolation, depression, sobriety, and most importantly – healing. While commenting on emotional struggles, Blink also took the opportunity to address the current political climate by writing lyrics related to the Thousand Oaks mass shooting. Hoppus reveals that NINE is very much about, “being a human being in 2019: the joy, fear, and anxiety of it.” He notes that with the constant news stream on social media, the world never seems to be able to take a breath.
The production was one of the most criticized aspects of the record, where we can see infusions of beats seen in a lot of rock/rap crossovers. This doesn’t surprise me, especially since Travis Barker has been working as a producer with many “emo rappers” such as Lil Peep YungBlood, and $uicideBoy$. California, while not my favorite album, is another fresh take displaying Blink’s ability to adapt and keep up with the times.
Key Songs: I Really Wish I Hated You, Generational Divide, and On Some Emo Shit.
Blink-182’s ability to constantly produce great songs, even on records that aren’t their best, is what makes them one of the greatest alternative groups of all time. Without Blink, pop punk wouldn’t have evolved to what we see today and we would’ve been without great groups such as All Time Low, 5 Seconds of Summer, the Maine, and a million others. Blink has gotten me through some of the best times and the worst times, with tracks that are hilarious and some that make me cry every time I hear them (“Stay Together for the Kids”, I’m looking at YOU.) In general, the world could learn a lot of lessons from Blink: experience pain, acknowledge it, evolve, and most importantly, don’t take yourself so seriously while doing so.