thinking about a pre-TRAVIS BARKER line-up of BLINK-182 is always INTERESTING because the chemistry that lifted them above the POP PUNK fray to become veritable icons of the genre itself was due to that very specific MUSICAL ALCHEMY that came to fruition immediately after DUDE RANCH (MCA, 1997), their second album and major label debut. not that this recording effort is without GOOD SONGWRITING, as is the case with tracks like "DICK LIPS," "WAGGY," "PATHETIC," "APPLE SHAMPOO," and of course their breakout singles "JOSIE" and "DAMMIT." but rhythmically and stylistically, this album is pretty REPETITIVE and MYOPIC in terms of its SONGWRITING. in essence it is a band coming into its own both in terms of PRODUCTION and navigating the expectations that come with being on a major label.
when i first heard DUDE RANCH it was in the immediate aftermath of its more commercially and artistically SUCCESSFUL follow-up ENEMA OF THE STATE (MCA, 1999) that had both BARKER and LEGENDARY producer JERRY FINN added to the mix. BARKER being the MULTI-TALENTED drummer that he was, could elevate and transcend basic POP PUNK CHORD PROGRESSIONS with both an eye for SONG DYNAMICS and COMPOSITION as well as sheer TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY. listening to ENEMA OF THE STATE you can hear grooves that are based in both JAZZ and LATIN traditions that bring a sense of SWING and BOUNCE to several tracks. its entirely unfair to compare him to original drummer SCOTT RAYNOR who on DUDE RANCH and its predecessor CHESHIRE CAT (CARGO, 1995) provides a perfectly COMPETENT, if DERIVATIVE, sense of drive to his DRUMMING in the style of MELODIC HARDCORE bands like BAD RELIGION, NOFX and PENNYWISE.
lyrically DUDE RANCH continues along the same lines of its predecessor by splitting the difference between SOPHOMORIC toilet humor and heartfelt odes to past relationships and teenage youth a la MILO AUKERMAN and the legendary 80s SOUTH BAY PUNK ROCK band DESCENDENTS. this lyrical perspective would continue on subsequent releases but seemed strategically aimed at both presenting the band as willing to laugh at their PUBLIC IMAGE and provided a critical distraction for genuine efforts at tracks that stretched their SONGWRITING ABILITIES and made them VULNERABLE. all the basic elements are their on DUDE RANCH, as well as CHESHIRE CAT, but the right mixture of TRADITIONAL and PROGRESSIVE MUSICAL ELEMENTS are not quite their yet.
for me DUDE RANCH is all about my high school experience and hearing it makes me strangely NOSTALGIC for a time i would not in retrospect under any circumstances ever want to revisit again. what makes it an INTRIGUING listen years later is how foretells what was to come as well as provides a key look at an ICONIC band minus a VITAL ELEMENT in BARKER (or maybe two if you also count FINN, which you probably should). as much as i love this record, ENEMA OF THE STATE is the OBVIOUS starting point for anyone getting into BLINK-182 or POP PUNK in general. maybe after consuming GREEN DAY's DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994), DESCENDENTS' MILO GOES TO COLLEGE (NEW ALLIANCE, 1982), MXPX's LIFE IN GENERAL (TOOTH & NAIL, 1996), FALL OUT BOY's TAKE THIS TO YOUR GRAVE (FUELED BY RAMEN, 2003) and NEW FOUND GLORY's STICKS AND STONES (DRIVE-THRU, 2002), you should revisit DUDE RANCH for comparison and context. NOT ESSENTIAL but definitely worth checking out.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
at the dawn of the new millennium MTV devised a new BRANDED LIVE PERFORMANCE series ostensibly to augment their played out LIVE MUSIC properties like UNPLUGGED and LIVE AND LOUD from the previous decade. the new concept was to honor a CULTURAL ICON with a series of prominent artists / bands covering their songs live right there in front of them, before they themselves closed the show promoting their latest release. MTV ICON only lasted four years and included episodes centered around JANET JACKSON, AEROSMITH, METALLICA and THE CURE(?!).
out of the four, THE CURE is the obvious OUTLIER but had INSPIRED PERFORMANCES by the likes of the DEFTONES, AFI and BLINK-182 that made the conceptually AWKWARD event quite MEMORABLE. i cant imagine what it must be like playing someone else's song right in front of them. feels like a high-stakes, lose-lose situation for both the band and THE CURE. in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that this was the swan song of the property itself, as the concept is pretty SELF-AGGRANDIZING and, lets face it, really LAME. but i cant complain about having these LIVE COVERS of CURE songs out in the ether two decades later. guess i have MTV to thank for that.
its safe to say that SAN DIEGO POP PUNK icons BLINK-182 were the soundtrack to my high school years. even before their commercial breakthrough ENEMA OF THE STATE (MCA, 1999), burned copies of DUDE RANCH (MCA, 1999) had exchanged hands throughout the radio station at the NEW ENGLAND boarding school i was then attending. there was something about their sound, which seemed to take the arpeggiated melodies and concise single-line leads of BAD RELIGION and married them with the juvenile HUMOR sans politics of NOFX. on DUDE RANCH the band was kind of a lighter, less overtly controversial, more POLISHED and POP-FRIENDLY version of those two LEGENDARY LA PUNK bands. i feel strongly that what set them over the top was the addition of a new drummer they poached from THE AQUABATS, TRAVIS BARKER.
BARKER is a generationally TALENTED drummer both in terms of his TECHNICAL MUSICIANSHIP, as well as his COMPOSITIONAL PROWESS as a songwriter. on ENEMA OF THE STATE he elevates TRADITIONAL PUNK ROCK songs with his DEFT inclusion of LATIN, JAZZ and AFRO-CUBAN polyrhythms and a HIP HOP sense of dynamics. i remember reading guitar magazines in the early 1990s and there was always discussions of THE SMITHS' JOHNNY MARR and how even if you couldnt stand MORRISSEY, everyone respected and was in awe of the TECHNICAL ABILITY and supernatural COMPOSITIONAL CHOPS of MARR. same with BARKER. he is very much a drummer's drummer with seemingly UNLIMITED RANGE and PERSONAL STYLE to spare. it is not hyperbole to state that his inclusion in the trio was REVOLUTIONARY for their sound as well as their career trajectory. it turned them from a promising but derivative also-ran POP PUNK group to a POWERHOUSE cultural phenomenon that transcended that of their early influences (i.e. BAD RELIGION, NOFX, DESCENDENTS, THE VANDALS, PENNYWISE).
standout tracks include the tracks like "DUMPWEED," "GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE," "ALIENS EXIST" "DYSENTARY GARY" and the singles "WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN?" and "ADAM'S SONG." overall thematically the songs relate to GENERIC POP PUNK fair such as the COMBUSTIBILITY and CONFUSION related to relationships, being MISUNDERSTOOD by parents/adults/society and life after high school. in my opinion its not until their self-titled BLINK-182 (review linked HERE) album that songwriting duo guitarist TOM DELONGE and bassist MARK HOPPUS really branch out beyond such seemingly OBVIOUS standard themes. the lone exception on ENEMA OF THE STATE being "ADAM'S SONG," which despite being a reference to a MR. SHOW sketch promoting such, deftly touches on the topic of suicide and what motivates such an extreme action from an EMPATHETIC and THOUGHTFUL first-person narratorial perspective. the misguided but achingly desperate idea that people "will be sorry when i'm gone" despite the fact that the narrator is reluctantly counter-arguing that in "another six months i'll be unknown." the song gets into the psychology and VULNERABLE emotional state that pushes teens over the edge. unquestionably the song has probably helped millions of kids feel heard and understood, albeit from afar.
is ENEMA OF THE STATE a perfect record that deserved pushing BLINK-182 to the upper echelon of POP PUNK royalty alongside GREEN DAY. probably not, but it isnt a bad record in the least. i think it served its purpose in generating interest in PUNK ROCK writ large and undoubtedly had a trickle down effect on the touring prospects for many older and newer bands BLINK-182 lionized and toured with such as PENNYWISE, NEW FOUND GLORY, FALL OUT BOY, THE VANDALS, PARAMORE, BAD RELIGION, GOOD CHARLOTTE, SCREECHING WEASEL, DESCENDENTS, A DAY TO REMEMBER and ALKALINE TRIO among countless others. and i cant fault them for that.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
during the pandemic many a musician, much like the res of us, were stuck at home with their RECORDING and TOURING cycles effectively semi-permanently on hold. during that period a number of them initiated PODCASTS and YOUTUBE channels in order to staving off cabin fever, as well as (one would assume) supplement their income during a dry period of seemingly indefinite length as the world came to terms with COVID.
of all these endeavors, JIMMY EAT WORLD's frontman and main SONGWRITER JIM ADKINS created the PODCAST and associated VIDEO SERIES PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES (available on his band's YOUTUBE channel) over twenty episodes in 2020 as a means of discussing with other musicians the CREATIVE PROCESS and more specifically his love of SONGWRITING. and it really is very much a deep dive into the MECHANICS, RITUALS, THEORY, COLLABORATIONS, PRODUCTION, SELF-DOUBT, TECHNIQUE, HABITS, INSPIRATION, FRUSTRATION, TECHNOLOGY, HARD-WORK and SPONTANEITY that goes into writing a SONG. notable past guests include KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE), MARK HOPPUS (BLINK-182), MATT PRYOR (THE GET UP KIDS), BETHANY CONSENTINO (BEST COAST), WILLIAM RYAN KEY (YELLOWCARD), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE), TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA), GERARD WAY (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) and FRANK TURNER.
i think what really comes across in these discussions is the level of INTENTION and CRAFTSMANSHIP involved in SONGWRITING. given its EPHEMERAL nature, the experience of listening to music make it seem an almost INVISIBLE ART and PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES very much establishes how such is definitely not the case. makes me wonder about what other aspects of modern entertainment is passively consumed with little to no notice for its creation. FOOD, WEB DESIGN, CINEMA, JOURNALISM, GRAPHIC DESIGN and PHOTOGRAPHY (along with aforementioned MUSIC) come immediately to mind. its all a bit of a reminder to be a more MINDFUL consumer of the CREATIVE EFFOTS of others. my biggest takeaway is the role of battling CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT as a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS. it feels reassuring that most of these accomplished SONGWRITERS who have all created MEMORABLE art over the past few decades first had to overcome their own SELF-CRITICISM and sense of SELF-WORTH to make something worthwhile. makes them feel more HUMAN.
parodies by nacrowe
its funny, i literally just did a DEER GOD RADIO episode on SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POP PUNK icons BLINK-182 and the group reforms with its original lineup shortly thereafter.
im pretty ambivalent about it. it feels like TOM DELONGE only feels compelled to rejoin the band that made him able to pursue his LAME side projects when one of the other two core members survives a life-threatening situation. those being a PLANE CRASH with TRAVIS BARKER and CANCER with MARK HOPPUS. it seems like there is a reason this lineup split up twice and i really wonder what chemistry they still have at this point. it just smells like a cash-grab to be totally honest.
and that neednt be the case since BLINK-182 had put out two stellar post-DELONGE albums with his more than competent replacement MATT SKIBA of the iconic CHICAGO PUNK ROCK band ALKALINE TRIO. id even argue that the band was on a creative hot streak with singles that matched if not surpassed the classic lineup at their peak. they managed to sound ENERGETIC, SNARKY and dare-i-say-it, MATURE. with DELONGE back in the fold its difficult to surmise a reason other than the fact that outside of GREEN DAY, BLINK-182 is arguably the most influential POP PUNK band of all-time. this line-up will no doubt allow for a cash-in unlike anything seen in recent memory.
i just have my concerns of how long this will last. inevitably DELONGE will return to his yes-men in ANGELS & AIRWAVES and put out more unlistenable, D-grade U2 retread music from the profits of this coming go around.
get the feeling sometimes that you're being used? i do.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POP PUNK icons BLINK-182!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
the creation of the self-titled BLINK-182 (GEFFEN, 2003) album found the band at a bit of crossroads. and really the decisions made during this dysfunctional period have impacted the band ever since. during this period BLINK-182 was effectively synonymous with POP PUNK to the extent that nearly every band that came in their wake appropriated some aspect of their SOUND, STYLE and overall DEMEANOUR to some extent. im talking about the advent of side hustles with clothing lines and associated lifestyle brands (MACBETH, FAMOUS STARS & STRAPS, ATTICUS, etc.) and the bro culture and through FENDER through MESA BOOGIE TRIPLE RECTIFIER equipment setups and so on.
i think BLINK-182 at this point in their careers were effectively over themselves.
they became recent fathers and BLINK-182 is nothing short of a total re-imagination not only of their sound but of their overall outlook. musically they were always a power trio with the most virtuosic being unquestionably their absolute stud of a drummer TRAVIS BARKER. whereas on ENEMA OF THE STATE (MCA, 1999) and TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS AND JACKET (MCA, 2001) they allowed him to guide the structure and composition of TOM DELONGE and MARK HOPPUS-penned songs, with BLINK-182 the gloves were completely off. the drums throughout are heavily processed, gated and phased utilizing various close and distant miking techniques that effectuated a sound that was more multi-dimensional, immediate and engaging.
this newfound experimental streak in terms of production, spurred in part by long-time producer JERRY FINN (on his final collaboration with the band), i believed helped spur the more SOMBER, INQUISITIVE and MATURE lyrical content. if you are familiar with BLINK-182 then you have to be aware of their celebration of all things juvenile and immature, so this new direction with its serious tone was effectively a sea change. this can further be seen in their collaboration with none other than ROBERT SMITH of THE CURE as well as KEN ANDREWS of FAILURE on the record. SMITH and his MELANCHOLIC OPTIMISM as well as ANDREWS EXPANSIVE PRODUCTION STYLE both were key inspirations that help contextualize the record. key tracks include "VIOLENCE," "STOCKHOLM," "ALWAYS," "FEELING THIS," "ASTHENIA" and "DOWN."
sadly the record that shows the band musical at their most cohesive found the band self-destructing in slow motion. blame by fans has long been dumped on the shoulders of DELONGE, who didnt communicate his aims with his BOX CAR RACER side project and alienated HOPPUS in the process, who took such in stride. unfortunately a seed was planted in DELONGE's mind that he had a wider sense of vision then BLINK-182 allowed which resulted later in the subsequent formation of the very MEDIOCRE vanity project ANGELS & AIRWAVES (i say MEDIOCRE but when i mean to say is AWFUL), which included former forgettable members of BOX CAR RACER. sans HOPPUS relate-ability and BARKER's musicality and composition chops, DELONGE's post BLINK-182 career has been listless and completely disappointing. for their part, HOPPUS and BARKER's short-lived +44 project and MATT SKIBA-fronted BLINK-182 continued the fun, freewheeling spirit of the band. group chemistry is a funny thing and each original member brought something to the table with this band, whose summation was greater than its parts. unfortunately the reunion album NEIGHBORHOODS (DGC, 2011) proved to be a showcase the distance DELONGE had estranged himself from his bandmates both personally and creatively. which, again, is sad.
when i hear this record i hear a band at the top of their game experimenting and playing with a form/genre on a level that their peers could begin to touch. they havent been back since, which is a shame. if you are fan of POP PUNK or ALTERNATIVE ROCK in general, then BLINK-182 is required listening. it is definitely worth checking out.