photo & text by nacrowe
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.
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