Often in music the word “legend” is thrown around too easily but in the pop-punk world Blink-182 are just that – legendary!
Since forming in 1992 through mutual friends, bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge have gone on to become icons of the genre, and along with second drummer, Travis Barker, are one of the most influential bands in pop-punk.
Having released a couple of releases within the underground scene during their early years, Blink-182 started making momentum with their 1997 LP, ‘Dude Ranch’, with its lead single, ‘Dammit (Growing Up)’ receiving national airplay but its with their 1999 follow-up, ‘Enema of the State’ which is when things really picked up for the trio.
Led by the worldwide hits that was ‘All the Small Things’ and ‘What’s My Age Again?’, the record truly broke Blink-182 into the mainstream. Two years later, the band repeated the success with ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’. The 2001 record peaked the US Billboard 200 at number 1, and saw the band continue to tour in more arenas globally.
2003 saw the band take a somewhat change in musical direction. ‘Untitled’ took a more personal and darker approach which saw the band more away from their standard pop-punk sound. Nevertheless the change was welcomed by both fans and critics.
However in February 2005, the band confirmed an “indefinite hiatus”, with DeLonge become frustrated with creative freedom and the band’s heavy touring schedule resulting in time away from his young family.
The resulting breakdown in communications led to Delonge starting a new atmospheric arena-rock band called Angels and Airwaves, whilst Hoppus and Barker continued to work together in a new alt-rock band known as +44. Whilst both bands had an enthusiastic following from fans, critics were mixed about both AVA’s ‘We Don’t Need to Whisper’ and +44’s ‘When Your Heart Stops Beating’.
In February, 5 years on from confirming their hiatus, DeLonge, Hoppus and Barker appeared together at the Grammy Awards and announced they would be reuniting. After a North American reunion tour that year, followed by European festival appearances a year later, the bands released ‘Neighborhoods’ in September 2011. Much like the album’s recording sessions, the band’s returning effort was disjointed and lacked consistency of previous efforts.
In 2012 the band celebrated their 20th anniversary with a UK and European tour and ended the year with the release of ‘Dogs Eating Dogs’, a self-released and self-produced EP which saw the band work together in the studio. The EP benefitted from this by being a more focused set of songs that had elements of progression yet were distinctive Blink-182 at the core.
Now, as the band are set to play and headline the Reading and Leeds Festival this weekend, we’ve decided to bring back our “Versus” for a brief cameo appearance as Senior Editor Sean Reid and contributing writer Dane Wright battle out as they discuss their favourite Blink-182 albums.
Sean explains why 2001’s ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ is not only the band’s best album but one of the best pop-punk albums ever! Whereas Dane tells us why their ‘Untitled’ effort is their magnum opus.
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (by Sean Reid)
I’ll start off my defence of my chosen album by saying I consider Blink-182 being the first band I was an all-round fan of. They were the first band I saw live and the first band where I would go out and buy every album. Sure they’re not the most perfect band in the world but as a teenager they were “my band”.
When it came to writing this piece, I considered 3 albums; ‘Enema of the State’, ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ and ‘Untitled’. All 3 records are from Blink’s popularity peak, and all superb in their own way but for me ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ comes out on top.
Yes ‘Enema of the State’ is a classic but is spoiled by the insanely overplayed singles; even as a Blink fan I hate hearing ‘All The Small Things’ in shitty rock clubs. And whilst I’ve got a lot of time and admiration for ‘Untitled,’ it still has the occasional “filler” song (see ‘Asthenia’ and ‘Go’).
Therefore ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ is my favourite Blink-182 album and it should be yours too!
For starters, it sums up what Blink are all about; insanely catchy pop-punk with the odd mix of lyrical sincerity (‘Stay Together For The Kids’) and school boy humour (‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’). It captured Blink at the peak of heir popularity. It came off the back of 2 worldwide hits that saw them breakthrough to the mainstream, and with ‘TOYPAJ’ they continue to ride that wave of momentum with a set of radio-friendly singles (‘First Date’ and ‘The Rock Show’) in between some strong album tracks that held the whole album together.
Whilst some label it as ‘Enema of the State’ Part 2, ‘TOYPAJ’ is a more concentrated effort. Tom Delonge’s guitar is sharper, Travis Barker makes his mark with suitable time signatures and drum fills and Mark Hoppus’ vocal delivery shows vast improvement.
For a pop-punk record, ‘TOYPAJ’ hits all the right characteristics and knocks them for six out the park. It’s full of lyrical hooks that do their job and are instantly memorable. There are a handful of songs about teenage heartache (‘Story of a Lonely Guy’) and angst (‘Give Me One Good Reason’) which have both become common themes in pop-punk (see Man Overboard’s ‘Real Talk.’)
Whilst the production work of the late Jerry Finn has to be given a mention. His input gives ‘TOYPAJ’ a “mainstream” shine yet enabled from going full on pop by keeping their power chord-heavy, punk rock sound in tact.
Like the band themselves, ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ has become a classic and its influence still remains 13 years on. It captures Blink at their peak of popularity and is one of the most consistent pop-punk albums ever. It certainly is one of the best.
‘Untitled’ (by Dane Wright)
Given the smash-hit singles spawned by Blink’s previous two records and the enormous commercial success they achieved, picking 2003’s untitled release as their best work may seem like an unusual choice. But bear with me.
The ‘Untitled’ record was the point at which almost everything changed for Blink-182. Sure they were already a long way from being the fresh faced kids making knob gags and bratty pop-punk in a San-Diego suburb, but with the untitled album the band had finally grown up, musically, artistically and even emotionally. The new heights of success and gruelling touring schedule following the record’s release may have eventually caused the trio to temporarily implode, but what a record to leave as a pre-hiatus calling card.
Just from looking at the slick pop-art inspired cover-art it was immediately clear things had changed in the blink camp, but this was just the beginning. Within seconds of effects laden opener and first single ‘Feeling This’, it was clear DeLonge, Hoppus and Barker had thrown the overused pop-punk playbook firmly out of the window. Opting instead to let their own creativity run riot and experiment with almost every aspect of their sound. Gone was the crisp punchy powerchords and light distorition, in its place a plethora of much darker grimier guitar tones on tracks like ‘Violence’ and ‘Down’, while ‘Asthenia’ and ‘Stockholme Syndrome’ showcased a new found depth and expansiveness in Blink’s writing and soundscapes. Credit also has to go to Barker who turned in one of the greatest drumming performances any album had seen in a long time, including many fills, rhythms and playing styles never previously featured on a pop-punk or even popular rock record.
Two of the record’s most successful singles also saw the band give a not so subtle nod to their formative years in the eighties with the distinctly Cure-esque gothic love ballad ‘I Miss You’ and the synth laden power-pop of ‘Always’ earning significant airplay around the world. Closer ‘I’m Lost Without You’ finally gave DeLonge the chance to include the more tender plaintive side of his song writing on a Blink album after giving a taste of it on the Box Car Racer release.
The lasting impression of the untitled record is that by tackling darker, deeper lyrical themes in a sensitive, expansive and well-presented manner. It showed the kids who had fallen in love with the knob gags and lyrics about boobs, but had, like the trio grown up, that they could now relate to their favourite band all over again as adults on an entirely new level. It also stands as a fitting testament to Blink’s intuitive relationship with producer Jerry Finn who, as it sadly turned out, would be taking the reins in the studio with the band for the final time on the ‘Untitled’ release.
View more of Already Heard’s Reading and Leeds Festival coverage here.