blink-182, by blink-182

31-blink182

Released November 18, 2003

49 min, 23 sec

As 2003 rolled around, tensions were beginning to build in blink-182. Tom DeLonge, fresh off his side-project Box Car Racer, brought a more serious songwriting style back to his main band, without really giving any regard to blink’s other vocalist Mark Hoppus. Rubbing salt in the wound, DeLonge had recruited blink’s drummer, Travis Barker, to play for Box Car Racer in lieu of hiring a session musician, leaving Hoppus out in the cold, even though Hoppus was involved in a song on BCR’s only studio album.

With all of these factors in play, it’s honestly rather surprising that blink-182 was finished at all, especially considering that it was the best album the band has ever made. The album features instant classics “I Miss You” and “Always,” alongside experimental tracks like the space-focused Angels & Airwaves precursor “Asthenia” and the strangely distant-sounding closing track “I’m Lost Without You.” DeLonge brought his best lyrics to the plate for this album, leading the band’s shift from low-grade toilet humor to the level that Green Day had been playing at in the late 1990s, tackling more adult themes like relationship troubles, existentialism, and separation. No longer was blink-182 just for angsty teenagers mad that their moms wouldn’t let them get edgy tattoos; finally, the band was growing up.

This is reflected in Hoppus’s and DeLonge’s vocal performances, as well. Both members’ voices began to drop in pitch as they grew older, with Hoppus dipping down into bass territory, while DeLonge finally managed to shed the more whiny qualities of his voice, shifting from a helium-fueled squeak to something generally more listenable. This, combined with the band’s ever-expanding musical palette (pianos, electronics, and even orchestral string instruments made their way into the band’s music, allowing them to move beyond their comfort zone of guitar, bass, and drums), resulted in an album widely praised as the pinnacle of the still-shifting pop punk genre, even as other bands began to jostle for the #1 spot that had been vacated by Green Day in 1999 and blink-182 by 2005.

The tensions between DeLonge and Hoppus would not dissipate following the album’s release – the tour was implied to be a miserable experience for the entire band, and things finally blew up in February 2005, when blink-182 pulled out of Linkin Park’s 2005 Music for Relief benefit concert, with the band’s “indefinite hiatus” being announced days later. DeLonge had reportedly requested a year off from touring and writing in order to spend time with his family, which Hoppus and Barker did not take lightly to, instead seeing it as selfishness and laziness on DeLonge’s part. DeLonge then responded by essentially taking his ball and going home, using his manager to announce his departure from the band just days prior to their scheduled Music for Relief concert. They would not reunite until 2009.

The split resulted in two projects – DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves, still active today, and Hoppus’s +44, which had the additional benefit of featuring Barker on drums. However, Hoppus, always demonstrating an unwavering commitment to blink-182, dropped plans for a second +44 album after blink’s reunion in 2009. That band is unlikely to ever return, despite Hoppus’s repeated assurances that he’ll return to it someday, even as DeLonge takes significant time from blink-182 to work on endless AVA projects.

I didn’t listen to blink-182 until 2011, when Neighborhoods was released. I had a rather poor opinion of them, mostly due to their reputation for immaturity and toilet humor in the vast majority of their songs. Even now, I pick and choose what I listen to prior to blink-182, as we’ll see tomorrow. Their output since this album has been incredible – that’s what happens when both of a band’s writers grow up in separate projects and then reunite. Funny how that works.

blink-182 isn’t one of my favorite albums, but it’s a solid record, and I do enjoy listening to it every once in a while. I prefer Neighborhoods on a personal level, but I also believe that blink-182 is the better, more consistently great album of the two. I’m excited to see what the band puts out in 2015, if their upcoming album can outclass both this and Neighborhoods.

That is, if Tom takes any time off from AVA in the next fifteen years. Fingers crossed.

Notes:

– iTunes, as you can see, was incredibly heavy-handed in dishing out those “Explicit” tags.  Only one or two of the songs on this album, at most, deserve an “Explicit” tag, and even then, slapping a Parental Advisory label on the album is just stupid.  Then again, the entire Parental Advisory concept is pretty stupid, honestly.  I feel like that’s gone away recently, but I know it hasn’t.  I guess it’s just my own perception, and the music that I listen to, that makes me think that.

– I feel like the aggressive “Explicit” tags are a product of the times, though, because Neighborhoods, for example, only has “Explicit” tags on the songs that actually feature profanity on them.  I remember practically drowning in a sea of overly-cautious Parental Advisory notices in the mid-2000s, whenever I would try to buy a CD.  I still remember the shitty look on that Walmart cashier’s face when she told me I couldn’t buy Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s Collision Course.  I know it’s not your fault directly, Anonymous Walmart Employee, but you still suck and I hate you a little bit to this day.

– There’s some sort of weird, unnecessary confusion over the album’s title, because it was reported by some sources in 2003 to be an “untitled” album, despite the fact that not titling an album means it’s just going to be a self-titled album.  The band’s website also listed it as a self-titled album, which should end the “controversy” right then and there.  MTV went even further and referenced their own stupidity in a 2009 article, making a joke based entirely on their own shitty reporting.  Thanks, MTV.

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