The bud that grows, once juvenile in its infancy, blooms into petals of nature’s flowery discontent. And once again, discontent’s ire has fueled the desire for growth and torturous change. The one-time jewels of latrine culled pop punk, Blink 182 have finally gotten to their heads that yes, 30-year-old men singing about being stuck in trees with pants dropped ankle high while purporting questions of age, is just as silly as the color-by-numbers music in which such verse was served upon.
Indeed, 1997’s Dude Ranch was truly a fine moment. The apex point in which pop punk’s most capable manifestation met the lucid charm of potty humor and the stricken heart of teenage romance. With the anthemic push of radio hits “Dammit” and “Josie” and the pinpoint emotional accuracy of gems like “Waggy” and “Apple Shampoo”, Dude Ranch was undoubtedly the soundtrack to a many growing soul, and will remain a modern pop punk triumph. However, as they say, lightning rarely strikes twice and as this San Diego trio fought to contain the energy, they could do no better than the pitter patter slump of meager after-showers and dreary weather.
The multi-platinum selling Enema of the State, while the height of the band’s commercial success, suffered greatly from mediocrity trying in all its earnest to show signs of energetic life while pushing itself up the charts. It thrust Blink’s Teen Beat allure into stratospheres seen in punk’s new acceptance only once back in 1994. And like those previous bands who struggled to shed their image of cover friendly models, Blink’s supposed return to “darker, heavier roots” was an embarrassing presentation that juggled more adult topics while trying to tell the kids, “We’re still cool.” Rightfully so, the painfully titled Take Off Your Pants and Jacket exhibits a band who schizophrenically flailed from painting a picture of America’s troubled parenting situation one moment and then the next, on to the conundrums of the first date. It was the distinct low point for a band who once sang so expressively, “Watching your house fade away in my rear view mirror as I drive away / wishing that I could take back all those words that meant nothing that I didn’t say,” the woe of not understanding love’s embryonic stab.
So with their new eponymous (or untitled, whatever) album, Blink 182 have taken their misdirection to a whole new level. With Tom Delonge manning most of the song writing duties (seemingly still afflicted with a bad case of “sideprojectism”), the majority of the tracks, like Boxcar Racer’s album, confusingly juxtapose artistic rock tints with shades of the up-tempo mannerisms found on Cheshire Cat and the aforementioned Dude Ranch. “Obvious” moonlights as heavy rock mangling before launching into very familiar territory while “Violence” boasts what could very well be (discounting that Macho Man CD) this year’s most inept 01:17 period of a song – stagnant synthesizer beats layered with clicking and fidgeting followed by its gung-ho dive into percussion heavy punk riffs before stalling into static … and sure enough, that ridiculously gauche finger-snapping-like clicking again.
Perhaps if there has been one consistent aspect of the group since Enema of the State, it would have to be the animatedly charged drum work of Travis Barker. The much textured, sonically charged dynamic that settles into the backbone comes into full fruition – Barker is given his cleanest palette yet; and his work is one that shines conspicuously. Unfortunately, it does lead to the album’s biggest downfall. Barker’s ability to experiment and successfully traverse into more rhythm and blues oriented styles is a concept completely lost on both Delonge and Mark Hoppus. So Barker has to lead the charge so to speak, driving countless songs (“Always”, “Stockholm Syndrome”, “I Miss You”) into more acceptable fields. When Delonge and Hoppus are given center stage, the results are disastrous. Witness the drudgery that is “I’m Lost Without You”, over six minutes long and rife with mid tempo sludge of pining and cumbersome words of being alone.
The album’s most welcome moment comes in the form of guest vocalist Robert Smith of The Cure. “All Of This”, while musically simplistic, boasts that plaintive echo evoked by Smith’s voice – and the track works on many levels, easily becoming the best work Blink 182 have done since “Pathetic.”
In regards to budding growth, Blink has shed many a wilting petals. Moments on the album are crystalline in their attempt to don new, more credible skin. However, it would seem, for the most part, their efforts at reconfiguration are far too little, far too late, leaving Blink 182 to writhe in spectacular unimportance. (Geffen Records)