blink 182

Showing 21 posts tagged blink 182

I was a girl in 1999. I mean, I was a girl in 1993 (when blink-182 recorded their first demo), and I was a girl when “Dammit” was on heavy late-night cable rotation in 1997. But by the time “What’s My Age Again?” was getting radio air I was a girl, a body, sexually situated and old enough to start thinking of myself as A Girl. And then, by the time “All the Small Things” was ubiquitous, I was A Girl negotiating girlhood in the notoriously hypermediated year 2000. And by the time Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was released in 2001, I was, of all things, a self-styled Punk Rock Girl. Maybe I don’t need to say it, but I will say it anyway: in the late 90’s and early aughts, blink-182 and the particular pop culture climate that created them had everything to do with my adolescence, my identity, and how I understood what it meant to be a girl. And, maybe more importantly—
I hated blink-182.
A lot.
(Oh hey, my name is Rikki but everyone calls me RGR and I have a women’s studies minor and a blog and a lot of feelings.)
We cannot examine how much we like this band or why we like this band without addressing the time we’ve spent hating this band. Most of us hated them, right? If you were a preteen punk, or a kid that got picked on, or even just some high-school sophomore who maybe overidentified with Stephen Malkmus, there’s a pretty solid likelihood that you’ve dropped the “poser” bomb once or twice in conversation. (Or at a least, like, you called Tom Delonge a douchebag.) It wasn’t cool for hip kids to like blink-182, and it wasn’t cool for uncool kids to like blink-182. I hated blink-182 in my adolescence and then, after that, I spent nearly a decade forgetting that they ever existed. 
This hatred, and the halls in which it festered, to me, is as much a text as anything—a reading of blink-182 is a reading of our own situated identities and our relationships to media (and, duh, high school) in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. There is no blink-182 without these things.
That’s the reading of blink-182 I want to attempt this week. So let me talk to you about what I like to call my methodologies.*
*I am a professional
I find this passage by Vanessa Corby, drawing from the psychoanalytical art theorist Bracha Ettinger, to offer a useful way of thinking about “reading” “art”:

the viewer/witness is not contained within the “after” of an artwork; a passive receiver of sensation ‘expressed’ by the artist/work. Rather at an intersection of the production and reception of the work, the artist and the author/viewer are intertwined in a transformative process of making and remaking that renders the artwork forever in the process of becoming.

We have all been blink-182’s witness, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been receptacles for Mark Hoppus’s Feelings. It seems like on the rare occasion we see a reverent and/or critical lens applied to blink-182 (especially earlier blink-182), there’s usually an emphasis on the role of feelings/affect. And there’s often an inclination to “interpret” these pop punk emotions. And, even more, there’s typically a tendency to assume that Mark Hoppus’s Feelings were transferred into our own bodies. Like, as if we all feel exactly what Mark Hoppus was feeling about his imaginary hot ex-girlfriend.
I think that’s kind of bullshit. As an early adolescent teen punk girl, I had a very intimate affective experience with songs like “Dammit” and “Josie” and even “Adam’s Song,” but those feelings were completely mediated by a context (and, you know, the fact that I’m a girl), and I couldn’t have cared less what Mark Hoppus’s intentions were when he wrote them. (Maybe this is all review, but bear with me.) To frame it as Corby might, Mark Hoppus and I were intertwined—pop punk shaped how I understood and realized what it meant to be a teen punk lady and at the same time, perhaps, my Geocities proto-blogging about how much blink-182 sucked was mediating the reality that made and continues to make blink-182. Forever in the process of becoming. Becoming blink-182.
(The passage above was taken from Corby's book about Eva Hesse, if that tells you anything about my background, politics, or feelings about how texts should be treated. This is Serious Pop Punk Theory.)
These are the places I want to visit. How were masculinities and femininities constructed throughout the blink history? How did the culture of consumption, circulation, and media that received this band ultimately serve to create this band? How is our memory of pop and pop punk history located within this? How many words can I possibly churn out about the cultural institution of “the poser”? What the fuck is up with this Billy Madison shit?
Some final notes on form:
Whenever possible, I’ll be using music videos instead of audio files. The music video is so important to this period of pop music, and it offers a much richer reading of the stuff. (Plus I’m obsessed with late nineties pop punk heroine fashion and I’m not even gonna hide it.)
You might have noticed I’ve opted for the lowercase b. This is because Mark Hoppus himself confirmed on his tumblr that the proper articulation is “blink-182.” Tumblr is canon. Henceforth “Mark Hoppus’s Feelings” will be capitalized because I said so.
Finally, I want to try and use as many multimedia sources as possible because let’s be honest, a poster of Tom Delonge with is shirt off is as important to Western Canon as any of their albums. Lots of photos, videos, memorabilia, and as many scans as I can manage to share with you. I’m also really, really into outdated internet artifacts. Screencaps Of Things Written By 14-Year-Old-Boys In 2001 are like my favorite sources ever. My affinity for the archived internet (and the archive of internet) and the year 2001 will make itself known when I talk to y’all about my very, very favorite blink-182 track, (spoiler!), “Online Songs.” Needless to say, The Wayback Machine is my methodology of choice.
Up next: before I get into the meaty bits of music crit, I’m gonna take a minute to tell you how blink-182 went from “loathed posers” to “basically my favorite band in the world.” Thanks for reading 1,000 words about one of the most divisive/maligned/irrelevant/stupid/perfect bands in rock history!

I was a girl in 1999. I mean, I was a girl in 1993 (when blink-182 recorded their first demo), and I was a girl when “Dammit” was on heavy late-night cable rotation in 1997. But by the time “What’s My Age Again?” was getting radio air I was a girl, a body, sexually situated and old enough to start thinking of myself as A Girl. And then, by the time “All the Small Things” was ubiquitous, I was A Girl negotiating girlhood in the notoriously hypermediated year 2000. And by the time Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was released in 2001, I was, of all things, a self-styled Punk Rock Girl. Maybe I don’t need to say it, but I will say it anyway: in the late 90’s and early aughts, blink-182 and the particular pop culture climate that created them had everything to do with my adolescence, my identity, and how I understood what it meant to be a girl. And, maybe more importantly—

I hated blink-182.

A lot.

(Oh hey, my name is Rikki but everyone calls me RGR and I have a women’s studies minor and a blog and a lot of feelings.)

We cannot examine how much we like this band or why we like this band without addressing the time we’ve spent hating this band. Most of us hated them, right? If you were a preteen punk, or a kid that got picked on, or even just some high-school sophomore who maybe overidentified with Stephen Malkmus, there’s a pretty solid likelihood that you’ve dropped the “poser” bomb once or twice in conversation. (Or at a least, like, you called Tom Delonge a douchebag.) It wasn’t cool for hip kids to like blink-182, and it wasn’t cool for uncool kids to like blink-182. I hated blink-182 in my adolescence and then, after that, I spent nearly a decade forgetting that they ever existed. 

This hatred, and the halls in which it festered, to me, is as much a text as anything—a reading of blink-182 is a reading of our own situated identities and our relationships to media (and, duh, high school) in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. There is no blink-182 without these things.

That’s the reading of blink-182 I want to attempt this week. So let me talk to you about what I like to call my methodologies.*

*I am a professional

I find this passage by Vanessa Corby, drawing from the psychoanalytical art theorist Bracha Ettinger, to offer a useful way of thinking about “reading” “art”:

the viewer/witness is not contained within the “after” of an artwork; a passive receiver of sensation ‘expressed’ by the artist/work. Rather at an intersection of the production and reception of the work, the artist and the author/viewer are intertwined in a transformative process of making and remaking that renders the artwork forever in the process of becoming.

We have all been blink-182’s witness, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been receptacles for Mark Hoppus’s Feelings. It seems like on the rare occasion we see a reverent and/or critical lens applied to blink-182 (especially earlier blink-182), there’s usually an emphasis on the role of feelings/affect. And there’s often an inclination to “interpret” these pop punk emotions. And, even more, there’s typically a tendency to assume that Mark Hoppus’s Feelings were transferred into our own bodies. Like, as if we all feel exactly what Mark Hoppus was feeling about his imaginary hot ex-girlfriend.

I think that’s kind of bullshit. As an early adolescent teen punk girl, I had a very intimate affective experience with songs like “Dammit” and “Josie” and even “Adam’s Song,” but those feelings were completely mediated by a context (and, you know, the fact that I’m a girl), and I couldn’t have cared less what Mark Hoppus’s intentions were when he wrote them. (Maybe this is all review, but bear with me.) To frame it as Corby might, Mark Hoppus and I were intertwined—pop punk shaped how I understood and realized what it meant to be a teen punk lady and at the same time, perhaps, my Geocities proto-blogging about how much blink-182 sucked was mediating the reality that made and continues to make blink-182. Forever in the process of becoming. Becoming blink-182.

(The passage above was taken from Corby's book about Eva Hesse, if that tells you anything about my background, politics, or feelings about how texts should be treated. This is Serious Pop Punk Theory.)

These are the places I want to visit. How were masculinities and femininities constructed throughout the blink history? How did the culture of consumption, circulation, and media that received this band ultimately serve to create this band? How is our memory of pop and pop punk history located within this? How many words can I possibly churn out about the cultural institution of “the poser”? What the fuck is up with this Billy Madison shit?

Some final notes on form:

Whenever possible, I’ll be using music videos instead of audio files. The music video is so important to this period of pop music, and it offers a much richer reading of the stuff. (Plus I’m obsessed with late nineties pop punk heroine fashion and I’m not even gonna hide it.)

You might have noticed I’ve opted for the lowercase b. This is because Mark Hoppus himself confirmed on his tumblr that the proper articulation is “blink-182.” Tumblr is canon. Henceforth “Mark Hoppus’s Feelings” will be capitalized because I said so.

Finally, I want to try and use as many multimedia sources as possible because let’s be honest, a poster of Tom Delonge with is shirt off is as important to Western Canon as any of their albums. Lots of photos, videos, memorabilia, and as many scans as I can manage to share with you. I’m also really, really into outdated internet artifacts. Screencaps Of Things Written By 14-Year-Old-Boys In 2001 are like my favorite sources ever. My affinity for the archived internet (and the archive of internet) and the year 2001 will make itself known when I talk to y’all about my very, very favorite blink-182 track, (spoiler!), “Online Songs.” Needless to say, The Wayback Machine is my methodology of choice.

Up next: before I get into the meaty bits of music crit, I’m gonna take a minute to tell you how blink-182 went from “loathed posers” to “basically my favorite band in the world.” Thanks for reading 1,000 words about one of the most divisive/maligned/irrelevant/stupid/perfect bands in rock history!

Track

Freak Scene

Artist

Blink-182

Album

Flyswatter

Apologies for the radio silence—there was a battle and my sinuses (and some mildly psychotropic cough syrup) won. Hopefully you had enough to chew on for a while, anyway. (And thanks everyone so much for sharing your blink-182 teen feelings with me. Later in the week I’ll share some of the awesome memories and feedback you guys have been writing about.)

To reward you for your patience, and to preface the upcoming overview of blink’s first five years, here’s a track that’s probably relevant to a lot of your interests: a cover of Dino Jr.’s “Freak Scene.” It’s the last song on the band’s very first demo, Flyswatter, recorded in 1993 on then-drummer Scott Raynor’s 4-track. They released this tape while they were still calling themselves “Blink,” before the Irish band of the same name threatened to sue them but after they decided that “Duck Tape” was a terrible name for a band. (And similarly trademarked, I might add.)

It’s a pretty interesting glimpse at what they were listening to and influenced by in the early 1990s. That’s something I’d love to more deeply explore for the rest of the day. (In a similar vein, you might also want to check out Mark Hoppus’s pre-blink band’s 1988 demo of Cure covers.)

In the spirit of parsing subcultures, contemplating posers, and looking at how teens police the boundaries of subcultural authenticities, I’ve generously provided a small catalog of Dinosaur Jr. Fans Who Hate Blink-182:

I hate this band fuck there corpoarote fake punk pantomime rock. This band is totally shit!!! FAKERS!!!

—BPCpresents, youtube

is this what people refer to as punk nowadays?? jesus christ..dinosaur jr. deserves a better cover of this song

—retardbratwurst, youtube

what a pile of shit. DINOSAUR JR. FOREVERRRRRRR <3

—BelindasaurJr, youtube

They totally butchered a great song! They should just stick to playing their safe brand of bubblegum, shopping mall brand of “punk rock”.

—xalstarx, youtube

blink 182 is garbage pop that did nothing to music. you clearly have no musical knowledge, (the reason you or anyone would listen to blink 182.) It would just be plain ridiculous for you to say that blink 182 is better than dino jr, one of the most influencial bands ever. blink 182 may be more succesful in the mainstream, but when it comes to talented, important and respected musicians, blink 182 is nowhere near dino jr.

—jcs1234jcs, youtube

This isn’t shitty because of its low sound quality, this is shitty because the singer is completely imitating J Mascic’s vocals (and just coming off as a lame imitator), and because of how shitty the guitar solo sounds (especially compared to the solo on the real song, but even compared to a 14 year old trying to play a guitar).

If “blink” was so great they wouldn’t need to copy and imitate great bands.

—whirlwindbliss, youtube

I’ve seen Dino Jr. do this song live, and Blink 182 are just LAME on the cover. LAME - they should have never recorded it. Sounds like a buch of 14 year olds who learned how to play a month ago.

—ishabaka, youtube

good luck finding ‘blink fans’

have you checked your local hot topic?

—671rAsTaGuAmBoI4LyPh, youtube

listen to minor threat, black flag, circle jerks, scream, beefeater, embrace, egg hunt, fire party, jawbox … etc i could go on but im not gonna waste my time on you i have better things to do like make everyone i no leave a bad comment on here….

buggeritallbugger, youtube

"M+M’s" was blink-182’s first video. It was directed by Darren Doane. Doane was a suburban so-cal native who would later direct both "Dammit" and "Josie" and spent the second half of the nineties making high school videos for West-Coast pop punk and emo dudes in their twenties. (See MXPX’s "Chick Magnet,” Guttermouth’s “Whiskey,” Pennywise’s “Same Old Story,” DHC’s “Go,” Unwritten Law’s “Holiday,” the Promise Ring’s “Why Did We Ever Meet" and Jimmy Eat World’s "Lucky Denver Mint.”) “M+M’s” was a single off of blink’s first official full-length album, Cheshire Cat, in 1994, on San Diego’s Cargo Music. It’s one of the most underwhelming choices for a single off of Cheshire, if you ask me, but I understand that that final solo offered an appropriate opportunity for a video shootout.

If you watched the production footage of the video you might have asked the same question that I have: why the hell did Cargo dump so much money into this shitty pop punk band? That fancy camera shit must have cost, like, at least three digits of money. Why? The answer is a story of nineties alt economies, a story of San Diego.

blink-182 is a band from Poway, CA. It’s a suburb of San Diego without the working-class military industrial history, a sprawl town incorporated out of once-rural so-cal land and 1970s white flight.* It’s significantly whiter than SD and quite a bit more middle class.

*I’ve really appreciated hearing input from readers about being a so-cal kid in the age of pop punk. Seriously, if you have any more of those stories, send them to me! I’m from Michigan, so, you know, it’s complicated. Do you guys even use the term “white flight” to talk about your suburbs?

There’s this book by Ryan Moore called Sells Like Teen Spirit, a sociological sampling of [primarily white] American youth subcultures. If you’ve taken sociology classes you might know the drill—Dick Hebdige’s The Meaning of Style applied to Riot Grrrl, an obligatory (and boring) rundown of punk resistance, and a pretty great application of Bourdieu to metal kids. The reason that I’m bringing this up is because Moore, as a sociologist, is most interested in the 1990s San Diego scene. There’s an excellent chapter in Sells where he traces the origins of the retro-punk aesthetic that the San Diego scene harbored, mostly bands like Rocket from the Crypt. He argues that 90s punk pin-up vibes and semi-ironic vintage haircuts had everything to do with the perceived loss in masculinity that accompanied the town’s de-industrialization. This is relevant because it’s just an illustration of how class had everything to do with California punk subcultures in the 1990s. I’ll ruminate on this a little more when I talk about the rest of the band’s early career. But how did this scrappy pop punk band make it big in San Diego’s blue collar scene?

The other really pertinent story Moore tells in that book is one of the economy of alt rock in the 1990s. See, when Stone Temple Pilots made it huge they started claiming a SD origin (one that was hotly contested by the San Diego scene itself), and suddenly the city was in a major-label spotlight. You have to remember what it was like back then: records labels were making money, bands got “discovered” and picked up by said labels, said labels were throwing money at bands to make really bad videos. Weird punk and indie bands got radio play for (what seems like, retrospectively) no good reason. “She Don’t Use Jelly” was on MTV! “Cut Your Hair” got a Beavis and Butthead spot! People liked Camper Van Beethoven! It was fucking weird. San Diego was feeling this. Suddenly the entire country (or anyway, an entire country of music journalists) was speculating that the city was “the next Seattle.” There were articles asking questions like “Is San Diego the next capitol of alternative rock?" There were, allegedly, countless rockabilly punks in bars across the city whining about all the suits going to shows with them. There was, suddenly, an acute sense of money and opportunity in the air.

I have no good reason to believe that the San Diego scene—fans of RftC, Drive Like Jehu—had any respect for blink-182. But I do know that Cargo was looking to “diversify” and knew they would have the money and the audience to do it. (According to legend, Cargo’s president, Eric Goodis, heard blink-182 because his son was into them.) So they signed a contract, backed Cheshire Cat, and eventually gave them $10,000 to make this video. Ten thousand dollars! That’s five digits of money. For a music video! Scott Raynor is sixteen in it! The above video got banned at MTV immediately. This may surprise you, but the video wasn’t actually banned because it’s super sexist. (?!) It was banned because there’s fake blood in it! And girls holding guns! It was quickly replaced by this edited version (more boardwalk, less fatale).

They got enough buzz to start touring and recording Dude Ranch but before I get to the meat, I want to say a few more things about the first five years of blink-182.

Also: my computer, like, exploded yesterday. I’ve been working as fast as I can to catch up!

Track

Romeo & Rebecca

Artist

Blink-182

Album

Buddha

"Romeo & Rebecca" (Buddha version), 1994

Everything You Need To Know About the Pre-Dude Ranch Years

The band recorded their first demo, Flyswatter, in Scott Raynor’s bedroom on a four-track recorder in 1993. (Well, in more recent years, that band has started saying that it was recorded in Tom’s mom’s living room or garage, mostly because they want to erase Scott from their history.) It’s an awfully poorly recorded demo, even by my own standards. (Witness, if you like, young people arguing on the internet about whether or not its crappiness can be excused by lo-fi equipment or by the fact that they were all teenagers even though, in fact, Mark was 21 at the time.) It was followed up in the same year with Demo #2. The tape Buddha was finished in 1994, right before Cheshire Cat was released. On these four records there are, all in all, roughly thirty individual tracks, accounting for overlap. A handful of those are covers, and only one (“Degenerate”) popped up on Dude Ranch or anything later.

Derivation

Growing up on a diet of Lookout! Recs, I remember listening to Enema and thinking okay, but how does this relate to pop punk at all? (You know, other than the snotty man-child thing.) I’ve been trying to find a way to create a lineage, to locate blink-182 within so-cal and pop punk, to trace both influence and context to articulate just how they fit in.

Influence is easy to map. Lots of people are quick to cite the Green Day connection, but I’ve never really seen blink mention them until the Pop Disaster tour in 2002. [Berkeley.] Green Day and blink-182 were practically contemporaries. (And, as an expert here, I would argue that they couldn’t be more different.) But there are plenty of other California punk and pop punk connections. Both blink and Unwritten Law are from Poway, and they’re as close to a sibling band as any. Mark name-dropped Dance Hall Crashers every chance he got—in songs, in interviews, on his shirt in the “M+M’s” video. [Berkeley]. Before Enema even came out they were playing shows with the Vandals, Pennywise, Bad Religion. [Huntington Beach, Hermosa Beach, L.A.] Mark copped to being a Descendents fan (as if that wasn’t obvious) in a Rolling Stone article in ‘98. [Manhattan Beach.] NOFX is, in terms of sound, all over the first few records, including in a cover of “The Longest Line.” [L.A.] Mark wore a Squirtgun shirt in a 1996 interview with Victory Records, and covered fellow Lookout! band (and, as far as I’m biased concerned, the inventors of pop punk) Screeching Weasel on Buddha. [Lafayette IN, Chicago, Chicago.] Mark’s been citing Jimmy Eat World as his favorite band pretty much across his career. [Mesa AZ.] That’s not a hard influence to read, either. (In fact, my boyfriend—not knowing much about Mark Hoppus but wearing a Cap’n Jazz shirt—said to me during a Buddha listening, “This is basically just twelve-year-olds who really like early Jimmy Eat World,” and he was basically right.) In fact, San Diego native Mark Trombino (DlJ’s drummer), produced Dude Ranch as well as Jimmy Eat World’s Static Prevails, Clarity, and the later albums. So there some footprints, but the question remains. How much can you hear this in the music?

After everything, I have to say I’ve realized one thing that most of us are probably unwilling to admit: by Enema of the State, at least, this band was actually, um, one of the least derivative pop punk bands ever. I said it! Like, if you would have told me in 1999 that these dudes had never heard a Ramones album, much less a Queers record, I might have believed you.

But on these first four records, it’s just not the case.

In “reviewing” Flyswatter through Cheshire Cat, I was inclined to say I heard nothing but token pop-punk tropes. I do think that these four releases show more of an adolescent exposure to (and emulation of) a pop punk canon than they ever showed again, but after listening (over and over again) I can also spot the buds of the blink-182 schtick. (You know, the three tenants: invisibility to hot girls, the existentialism of aging, and humping dogs.)

Here’s what it looks like.

Anatomy of early blink-182

On being invisible to girls (or) It’s So Hard Being A Boy (or) high school is rough (and it will continue to be rough for the next decade of our career):

  1. "Romeo and Rebecca" (Demo #2, Buddha, Cheshire Cat)
    Your words are kind
    the kind that repeatedly say no
    but that’s alright
    I’m older than you, so I’ve got time
    what have you said? reach out your hand
    there’s a black shadow on my wall
    but as I look into my mind I can see that girls are a waste of time
    …I thought of all the lines
    all the right right ones used at all the wrong times

  2. Carousel" (Buddha, Cheshire Cat)
    Here I am, standing on my own
    not a motion from the telephone
    I know not a reason why
    solitude’s a reason to die
    just you wait and see
    as school life is a woken dream
    aren’t you feeling alone?
    I guess it’s just another night alone

  3. Does My Breath Smell?" (Cheshire Cat)
    Who makes up all the rules about all those girls I want?
    Who tells them all to laugh?
    Who tells them all to talk about me?
    Why do they always kick me in the groin when I come near?


  4. 21 Days" (Buddha)
    I can’t help myself anymore
    rehearsing my thoughts as I’m too scared to come to your door
    I pushed it all aside just to stand next to you
    rut now you won’t talk to me for something I didn’t do, it’s not gonna work
    and I’m trying not to think of you
    I’m all confused as I think of the things that I would do
    I’
    m all shook up as I get nervous inside
    my emotions are something that I will always hide

  5. Wasting Time" (Cheshire Cat)
    Maybe I’d impress her by being in a band
    and maybe if I act real tough she’ll let me hold her hand

(There are at least six or so tracks from this era that deal with being too afraid to speak to a girl and thinking about all the things you would say if you could.)

On dicks and balls and farts or whatever:

  1. Touchdown Boy”* (Cheshire Cat)
    Like a dog, he’s loyal to his bone

  2. Ben Wah Balls" (Cheshire Cat)
    Causing some indigestion, he finished with a great big fart

  3. Depends" (Cheshire Cat)
    I don’t want to urinate on myself
    I don’t want to urinate on anyone else


  4. My Pet Sally" (Demo #2, Buddha)
    So I took the chance and got help from a few
    and got a long and skinny friend to talk to
    'cause I have the time and the liberty
    to play with my pet sally

*If I had to choose the best track from this era—in form, in content, in context, in schtick, in harmonies that shouldn’t give me feelings but totally do—I would choose “Touchdown Boy.” Give it a listen.

But I won’t stray from this era without sharing with you my favorite early blink-182 song: a Screeching Weasel cover?

The reason I would say that blink-182 is so, I dunno, different as a pop punk band is because they so rarely traded in pop punk tropes traditional ways, at least on Dude Ranch and Enema. And pop punk—even more than any other genre that could call itself a genre—is a practice (praxis, maybe) of trope exchange, of cliche exchange. But Cheshire Cat and everything that came before it is full of ‘em. Full of pop punk cliches!

So I wanted to share with you their cover of Screeching Weasel’s “Girl Next Door.” It’s an introduction to the pop punk topical song, a primer in pop punk vernacular, a reminder of what pop punk was. And because this song is perfect and gives me feelings; because blink-182 covering Screeching Weasel on Buddha was the unspoken sonic aspiration of every shitty punk band I saw play in 2000; because there was a time after Enema came out but before Take Off Your Pants and Jacket when dudes would say “I mean Cheshire Cat is pretty cool, Dude Ranch is alright” but you totally knew that was the only thing they listened to on their own time; a time when it still made sense to call them “sellouts” because there was a public memory of how good “Apple Shampoo” was; but when Take Off Your Pants dropped it become That Inspiration Which Shall Not Be Named; when Take Off Your Pants dropped it was okay for younger kids to call them “posers” but older kids in bands wouldn’t say anything about it one way or another ‘cause they were afraid they might be implicated in whatever “The First Date” was. And that’s why I love Buddha so much. And those feelings meet and react with the feelings of RGR Screeching Weasel Fan 2000-2004/2010-Present and, you know, produce more feelings. This song is the best, I don’t even care.

But it is, most of all, a great entry in a book of essential [pop-]punk tropes: songs about the suburbs [and the mindless girls who are sad in the suburbs].

In the style of:

Screeching Weasel - “Hey Suburbia" [Chicago], Pink Lincolns - "Suburbicide" [Tampa, FL], Impatient Youth - "Suburban Boy" [Vallejo], Dead Kennedys - "Terminal Preppie" [San Francisco], Flipper - "Ha Ha Ha" [San Francisco], Strung Out - "Nation of Thieves" [Simi Valley], this song by a Michigan band I was really into in 2001, Rugburns - “Suburbia" [San Diego], The Suicide Machines - "Bonkers" [Detroit], The Uninvited - "Suburbia" [L.A.], The Vindictives - "Future Homemakers of America" [Chicago], Descendents - "Suburban Home" [Manhattan Beach], this other song by that Michigan band I was really into in 2001.

It’s not just about how important the discourse of the suburbs is, though. It’s more important to think about why blink-182 never really trafficked in this discourse until their late albums. I don’t think that Green Day trafficked in the suburban discourse in the same way either until American Idiot—“Welcome to Paradise” is more about blight than it is about the dullness of complacency. How much does it have to do with what I talked about earlier, with blink-182’s suburban upbringing? How much does class factor into these sorts of classed representations? I mean, if we’re ranking punk and pop punk bands based on How Poor They Actually Were—and I’m totally willing to do that if you want me to—blink-182 is about as middle-class as they get, and their music was startling class-blind for a punk band. (By “class blind” I mean they were uncomfortable abusing middle-class kids in their songs because they were, you know, those middle-class kids.) To be honest, that class factor is one of the reasons they made me so uncomfortable in the early 2000s. I was a poor kid! At least Good Charlotte knew a thing or two about blight.

It’s hardly powerful to use a cover to support my argument, though! Let me point out a few other key tropes employed by blink on the first few albums, uses of staid tropes that show how baby blink wasn’t quite ready to do anything but imitate so-cal masters.

T.V.,” in the tradition of the ironic [pop-]punk song about how television is what’s wrong with society, because it prevents punks from truly engaging with life and/or challenging capitalism (or, uh, something). blink’s “[I need my] T.V.” is so precious, so heavy-handedly derivative and disingenuous coming from a band who would later make their millions and stake their identities via a song about (sincerely) choosing T.V. over girls. Pay attention to this line especially: “What’s happening in this world? I don’t care at all, but it better not preempt Monday Night Football.” Compare that to “Touchdown Boy,” a mostly earnest (if joking) admiration of a football player who gets a lot of ass.

In the style of:

Black Flag - “T.V. Party" [Hermosa Beach], Choking Victim - "500 Channels" [NYC], Pink Lincolns - "Bad T.V." [Tampa, FL], Lemonade - "Watching Television" [Seattle, maybe?], The Cramps - "T.V. Set" [NYC], Bad Religion - "Television" [L.A.], Big Boys - T.V." [Austin, TX], Guttermouth - "Thought Provoking Sonic Device" [Huntington Beach], The Riverdales - "I Think About You During the Commercials" [Chicago], Misftis - "T.V. Casualty" [NJ], The Avengers - "Open Your Eyes" [San Francisco], Rancid - "Rigged on a Fix" [Berkeley], The Mr. T. Experience - "The Empty Experience" [Berkeley], Dead Kennedys - "MTV Get Off the Air" [San Francisco].

Reebok Commercial,” in the tradition of [pop-]punk songs about materialism, ironic or otherwise. Remember, again, that Mark would acquire a very visible Hurley sponsorship by the late-nineties,* would start his own clothing store, and eventually own a t-shirt line. I cannot be bought, my personality is what I choose, I was brought up without a silver cup! I won’t covet all the things owned by you! For all the world, material things are now more and more jealousy for you and me indeed, Hoppus!

*The obvious joke to make would be “how much money do you think Mark Hoppus was paid to wear Hurley shirts in 1999?” but then you realize that it’s not a joke, it’s actually a really good question.

In the style of:

Operation Ivy - “Artificial Life" [Berkeley], NOFX - "Linoleum,” Choking Victim - “Corporate Trash" [NYC], Unwritten Law - "Superficial Society" [Poway], Choking Victim - "Five Finger Discount" [NYC], The Ramones - "I Wanted Everything" [NYC].

One thing to think about as we move forward is how “Reebok Commercial,” in all its parroting, predicts the way that themes play out in future blink tracks. Sure, it is an anti-consumerist song in a punk tradition, a reductionist anti-consumerist song in a pop-punk tradition. But mostly it’s about Mark Hoppus feeling jealous and weird about other dudes, and that’s the Main Idea of blink-182 studies, 1996-1999. Chew on that!

[I should say a few things about conventions—I haven’t been terribly consistent about pop-punk vs. pop punk. I’m not really sure which is more correct or which is more meaningful. I should also address my use of “punk” vs. “pop punk” here, too: sometimes I conflate them when I’m talking about California punk from the eighties, but it’s not like they’re discrete. (But you might not want to tell Greg Gaffin I said that.)]

Track

Apple Shampoo

Artist

Blink-182

Album

Dude Ranch

I’ve never heard anyone claim that anything other than Dude Ranch was blink’s best album. And everyone’s probably right. This album is perfect, gorgeous, disgusting, well-honed in spite of itself, satisfying, not anthemic but almost therapeutic, evocative but somehow almost wholly unique. The nineties gave us plenty of glorified dude feelings, plenty of tight lo-fi albums, plenty of melodic punk, plenty of high school jams. But, somehow, I can’t think of any other albums like this one.

Here is why Dude Ranch is so good.

Contemporary reviews called its songwriting “uneven" because of the way it sprinkled a handful of dick jokes into its emotive mix, but I think this is what makes it such an evolution of the genre. The first-wave so-cal pop punk formula was one in which snotty was always snotty, and feelings were mediated by an ironic (or joking) distance. This is is the stuff of Milo Goes to College, and I think Dude Ranch draws from this language of dickishness while bringing it to a new level of nuance. I said it: “Dick Lips" is more or less more nuanced than a Descendents album. This record bisects the pop punk standard and pushes both the gross and the feeling to new levels. I said it! New levels! In sum: Dude Ranch is great because it manages to use dick-humor in a way which doesn’t neutralize feelings. I can’t say that about NOFX, Screeching Weasel, The Mr. T Experience, or The Queers.

The tension between those things—farts and emotions, if you will—is the most important theme of this period. The band said they felt like Cargo Music didn’t take them seriously, treated them like a joke, while at the same time they were gradually becoming too big for Cargo to manage them. Compare this to what was going on upstate with Green Day and Lookout!: Beej and co were struggling with being, by default, the most serious band on the label, and they faced backlash when that streamlined quality of their music met with their booming popularity.

For blink-182, it was after “Dammit” became a huge national hit—and, you know, the most important track of the past thirty years (fuck you I said it!)—that blink-182 got signed to MCA and went through that same transition. But they recorded the album with Cargo. As I mentioned earlier, it was produced by Drive Like Jehu’s Mark Trombino, and the band was thrilled to work with the guy who gave them Jimmy Eat World vibes. But Trombino didn’t take the band seriously, either, and constantly pushed them to stop making dick jokes. I think it was really stressful for them, but I also think this conflict was what ultimately made the album so good.

It’s also great because of Scott Raynor. Again: I said it! Raynor was eighteen when they finished recording this record, and he was booted from the band during Dude Ranch’s promotional tour. Scott never wanted to be a drummer, and no one has ever called him a good one. But his sound is so crucial to what makes Dude Ranch powerful.* It’s not just the tight (and ultrafast) 4/4, it’s every song’s commitment to a pattern of tension and release. It’s the way the band (and Trombino) capitalized on everyone’s (not-so-) skills: feelings singing + superfast metronome drumming + a patented Tom Delonge three-chord hook played tight for a few measures until it’s suddenly (alarmingly) loosened. Everything drops except for Hoppus bass, maybe. Freakout -> release. It’s basically the formula on “Dammit,” on “Josie,” on “Apple Shampoo,” on “Emo.” It’s cheap, maybe, but it’s brilliant. It’s always brilliant. How can you listen to this album all the way to the end and not get overwhelmed by the release on “I’m Sorry?” It’s kind of a trick, but it’s always satisfying.

*I don’t know anything about drums except I know when something’s punk drumming and when something’s not punk drumming. I know that this is punk drumming, and that it’s also maybe thrash drumming. But what else is there to say about it? You know, that thing where punks go CHK CHK CHK CHK CHK CHK on every beat really hard with the snare engaged so it sounds really tight? That thing.

But even if you don’t think that Dude Ranch is blink-182’s best album (and, um, spoiler: I don’t, and I’m going to make a really risky argumentative leap as to why), there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable. The band’s three best songs are on this album. They are, unquestionably, unarguably, permanently, canonically, as follows:

  1. "Dammit"
  2. "Josie"
  3. "Apple Shampoo"

I am the boss of blink-182 criticism, and I am telling you that these are (and will always be) their best songs.

So let me talk about “Apple Shampoo.” The Warmest Room wrote at piece last year about why “Apple Shampoo” is great (and why, by extension, blink-182 is great). There’s a lot I don’t agree with in that piece—most notably the evisceration of Take Off Your Pants—but it’s necessary reading. As much as I don’t really care about Mark Hoppus’s (literal) Feelings, that piece said some really thought-provoking things about what it means to write about dude feelings songs:

Now, to the question of maturity. At first listen, “Apple Shampoo” sounds like so many other break-up songs written from the heterosexual male perspective – what Billy Bragg (patron saint of The Warmest Room) calls “I’m Hurt, Me” songs: bitter, resentful, infantile. That is precisely what seems to be going on when Hoppus asserts, towards the end of the lyric, that he’ll “take what you’re willing to give” as a “boy trapped in the body of a man.”

The question of “maturity” will guide me through my last few days at OWOB. What is this unspoken (but understood) link between resentment, bitterness, inward-focused discomfort, and the “infantile”? Why is feeling bad about yourself a juvenile act? In what way, then, do dick-jokes and getting rejected by girls reflect some sort of existential terror, a fear of death, a fear of growing old? Are eternal high school sequences the “silent seas” of “The Love Song of M. Allan Hoppus?” You know, something like

We have lingered in the chambers of the high school
By teen-girls wreathed with tank tops red and brown
Till grown-up voices wake us, and we drown.

Well I guess this is growing up, you know?

Okay, okay. After reading so many of your responses to my last post, I concede one thing: the people who always say blink-182&#8217;s best album is Dude Ranch are often people that aren&#8217;t blink fans (or pop punk fans) to begin with. Dude Ranch is pretty palatable to people with a diet of post-punk (read: serious music writers). Yesterdaysmeme (who also kindly alerted me to the fact that &#8220;Emo&#8221; was intended as a Jimmy Eat World homage, which makes so much sense) said:

And I feel like I’m not a good blink fan because I don’t think Dude Ranch is that great — I’m sorry, it just feels like a weird period between Cheshire and Enema and they sound like Bad Religion rip off— and I don’t think Apple Shampoo, the song that eeeeeeverybody loves and thinks is better than everything. It’s pretty retty average blink if you ask me. But Dammit and “Pathetic” are masterpieces.

In some ways I agree. If you forgive me for saying so, &#8220;Apple Shampoo&#8221; is kind of the Pinkerton of blink-182, right? Beloved by a lot of sensitive dudes* who think they&#8217;re too good for the Blue Album. (Dude Ranch is so much less creepy, though. &#8220;Voyeur" and all.)
*please don&#8217;t feel oppressed by my liberal abuse of the word &#8220;dude.&#8221; Just keeping it real, you know. Some dudes just love Pinkerton and some dudes just love &#8220;Apple Shampoo.&#8221;
Maybe we can&#8217;t all agree about Dude Ranch, and maybe I was lying when I said we could. But I do think you guys&#8217; input supports the more important argument: Enema is, like, a pretty original album.
(Scan of this Dude Ranch-era poster courtesy of Ryans182 Collection.) High-res

Okay, okay. After reading so many of your responses to my last post, I concede one thing: the people who always say blink-182’s best album is Dude Ranch are often people that aren’t blink fans (or pop punk fans) to begin with. Dude Ranch is pretty palatable to people with a diet of post-punk (read: serious music writers). Yesterdaysmeme (who also kindly alerted me to the fact that “Emo” was intended as a Jimmy Eat World homage, which makes so much sense) said:

And I feel like I’m not a good blink fan because I don’t think Dude Ranch is that great — I’m sorry, it just feels like a weird period between Cheshire and Enema and they sound like Bad Religion rip off— and I don’t think Apple Shampoo, the song that eeeeeeverybody loves and thinks is better than everything. It’s pretty retty average blink if you ask me. But Dammit and “Pathetic” are masterpieces.

In some ways I agree. If you forgive me for saying so, “Apple Shampoo” is kind of the Pinkerton of blink-182, right? Beloved by a lot of sensitive dudes* who think they’re too good for the Blue Album. (Dude Ranch is so much less creepy, though. “Voyeur" and all.)

*please don’t feel oppressed by my liberal abuse of the word “dude.” Just keeping it real, you know. Some dudes just love Pinkerton and some dudes just love “Apple Shampoo.”

Maybe we can’t all agree about Dude Ranch, and maybe I was lying when I said we could. But I do think you guys’ input supports the more important argument: Enema is, like, a pretty original album.

(Scan of this Dude Ranch-era poster courtesy of Ryans182 Collection.)

"Josie (Everything’s Gonna Be Fine)," (the third video from Dude Ranch)

It started a summer ago, I guess. My best friend was like, “I just want to start writing about queer readings of Green Day, and how they were such a big deal to me growing up, you know?” And I was like, “hey, if you want my help, I have like decades of feelings about feminist readings of Lookout! bands.” So we bought guitars to play covers of pop punk songs about girls, but then I realized that I didn’t know how to play guitar. The only solution was to learn “Dammit” (because anyone can learn “Dammit”) and then start listening to Enema non-stop for the first time in practically a decade and, eventually, try (and fail) to learn “Dumpweed" as a (failed) exercise in elementary feminist reclaimation. Over twelve hundred plays later, and here I am.

"Josie" is a pop punk song about a (imaginary, completely made-up) perfect girl. The pop punk perfect girl song is canon. My favorite ever is Screeching Weasel’s "Pauline,” an anthem of the mediocre-looking girl with moderate punk credit. blink’s more notorious entry in the genre is “The Rock Show,” which in some way draws from the “Josie” playbook—imperfect punk girl who’ll “always be there.”

"Josie" is problematic because it’s the male-gaziest. “Josie” is problematic because Josie is unquestioningly loyal and reliable. “Josie” is problematic because Mark Hoppus invented an “independent” girl who waits around for him all the time even though she’s too good for him. “Josie” is weird because Mark admits that he is dependent on her. “Josie” is problematic because it’s flat-out sexist. “Josie” is problematic because Josie laughs at Mark’s jokes. (A total “No One Else" move, Hoppus. I thought you were better than that.*)

*this is now a Weezer rag-fest, in true spirit of nineties dude pop dick-offs, I guess

I have to mention how much I love those dropped punk names. Like, okay Mark, your imaginary perfect girlfriend has the same favorite bands as you. Cool, whatever! But I’ve always secretly admired Mark’s public adoration of Dance Hall Crashers. It’s not like they weren’t a powerful punk force themselves. They’re a crucial band. But they were a girl-fronted California punk band—and god, there weren’t many of them—with a huge female fanbase. I can’t help but think that’s an important piece of this puzzle. 

This video was directed (again) by Darren Doane. It was released just a few months before the band wrapped on the set of a film they guested in, a film they knew as East Great Falls High, which we remember as, duh, American Pie. American Pie was made before Enema dropped, so the choice to include the band had more to do with their position as the nineties’ ultimate high school spokesband than it was about their fame and power. “Mutt” and “Going Away to College” are both in American Pie, and the band cameos in the webcam cum scene. blink-182 also appeared on the soundtracks to Can’t Hardly Wait (“Dammit”) in 1998, Loser (“What’s My Age Again?”) in 2000, Daria (“Adam’s Song” and “What’s My Age Again?”) in ‘99 and 2000, and Buffy (“All the Small Things”) in ‘99. They were becoming a huge band, but they had already become the nation’s most important adolescent band. (This seems like a good time for a “what’s their age” update. When this video came out, Mark was 25, Tom was 22, and Scott was 19. Travis Barker was 22.)

"Josie," as a video, is complicated and skillful because it highlights the ultra-weirdness of Mark’s mental space.* On one hand, choosing to make a clip about an unattainable popular high school girl was what the market demanded, especially in the wake of "Dammit“‘s success. On the other hand, I think the tension between "hot cheerleader Alyssa Milano" and "likes UL and DHC" kind of unsettles both hetero tropes. (Or at least, I like to pretend it does.)

*Yeah, I said “skillful.”

But if I had to choose one most important theme in the “Josie” video, it would have to be, um, urinals. It’s a clip way more about relationships with dudes than it is about girls. (This homosocial business is a defining characteristic of Enema, too.) There are three key dude-on-dude relationships going on in this video—Mark and his bandmates, Mark and the Fat Nerdy Kid,* and Mark and his crush’s football-playing boyfriend. Hot Alyssa Milano is ultimately objectified, a tool for transferring and manifesting weird masculine tensions between Mark and other dudes. Mark’s jealousy of Football Bro drives his motivation to perform athletically and compete for Hot Alyssa Milano’s attention. Fat Nerdy Kid intercepts Mark’s boner-note in the classroom and interactions between the two are forever (as queer theorists like to say) “fraught” with hetero fears. (Fears which, I should note, are especially tense in the boys’ locker room.) Tom and Scott serve both to challenge and nurture Mark’s hetero-masculine exploits. This is where the boys’ bathroom becomes so important: it’s where this latter relationship blossoms, a “safe” space away from girls where dudes challenge each others’ heterosexuality.

*by saying “fat kid” I am referring to the trope of “the fat kid in high school” and not policing that kid’s body

There’s lots of theory about homosociality and bathrooms!

The design of the men’s room, says Lee Edelman, “has palpable designs on men; it aspires, that is, to design them.” As a gendered “social technology,” men’s toilets make it clear that masculinity is something to be struggled over, and that men have unequal access to its more socially favored forms. As perhaps the “most culturally visible form” of sexual spatial segregation, public toilets are a prime, yet often ignored, site for a gendered cultural analysis.
…Male toilets are, to continue the performance metaphor, “a theater of heterosexual anxiety.” They are criss-crossed with tacit anxieties.

…Yet for all that, toilets may also be places of retreat, communality or jocularity. The revelation of private parts, coupled with the public management of bodily functions we learn to control in childhood, might be one reason for the occasional emergence of childish glee in the toilets.

—Ruth Barcan, “Dirty Spaces: Communication and Contamination in Men’s Public Toilets.”

Literary theorist Lee Edelman notes that the men’s room is unique in that it can strongly affi rm heterosexual identity. However, a straight man can be sheltered only “so long as he performatively shelters the structural flaw that opens his body, by way of its multiple openings
(ocular, oral, anal, genital), to the various psychic vicissitudes able to generate illicit desires.”

—Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner, “The Private Life of Public Conveniences

I’m 100% positive that this was what Darren Doane was thinking when he shot this video. 100%.

Final comments on “Josie”:

  1. I know that everything, know that everything, know that everything, everything’s gonna be fine gets to me every time. It has to get to you too.
  2. The band shot a different version of the video first. No one liked it so it was scrapped, but you can watch a leaked clip from it here.
  3. I am obliged to say something about how Mark is “lacking in the bulge,” and how it’s totally relevant to feminist theory. Very relevant.