Today over coffee, a friend of my younger brother was helping me plan my impending birthday in July. When she found out what age I was turning, she beamed and gave me a huge hug. ‘You’re 25!’ she exclaimed ‘That’s so old! You’re totally old enough to date now.’ In case that didn’t make my day weird enough, some very astute friends of mine pointed out that today was the precise fifteen-year anniversary of Dude Ranch, the album that my parents wouldn’t let me buy when I was ten or eleven because they’d seen videos of Messrs Hoppus, DeLonge and Barker (who wasn’t even in the band at this point) fucking shit up and running around naked. CD burners were still a while off, so I use to sneak over to my friend Adam’s house up the road (the irony of ‘Adam’s Song’ would eventually be lost on him’) and revel in snotty pop-punk from Green Day, Sum 41 and Blink-182, thinking I was probably the coolest, most dangerous kid in my suburban neighbourhood. When I was ten, making dick jokes and running around without clothing was the ultimate way to win my respect. And now some decade and a half later, with the trainwrecks that were Angels and Airwaves, +44 and Barker nearly dying in a plane crash, I wonder if anything has really changed. But hey, I guess this is growing up, right?
The jury is still out on whether Blink-182 actually achieved anything other than crystallising the highschool coming-of-age gross-out flick/Austin Powers/Pogs era into two to three minutes of utter ridiculousness for dumb boys like me. With the yawning chasm of time that has since opened up between our current existence and the glorious ignorance of the mid-90s, bands like Blink are being afforded hero status simply for staying alive and still being able to play their instruments. This is obviously in spite of the fact that they played said instruments in a way that every teenager could master after a few lessons, with the exception of Barker, who remains an absolute indestructible tattooed tornado on the skins and has such a strong reputation that he was even allowed to make a disastorous hip-hop album a few years ago. But you know what they say, a band is nothing but the sum of its parts. Blink-182 may have played repetitive, four-chord riffs over the same beat for two decades, yet they’re one of the few who kept it up. Green Day went operatic, Sum 41 turned death metal, NOFX lumbered on like dinosaurs and let’s not get started on Smash Mouth. While the accompaniment was child’s play, Blink’s melodies were always top notch. That they propelled the entire thing forward with toilet humour and power chords was a bonus, but it’s the pent up frustration of Hoppus, married with the eventual soaring SoCal chorus from DeLonge in a live setting, that really kept Blink-182 a cut above the rest.
Now that I’m apparently old enough to be taken seriously by a nineteen year old, I do wonder whether I want to be. Blink’s angst might seem stupid as a moment in time, but compared to what passes for guitar rock om today’s FM stations, they’re positively Einsteins. Nobody predicted that the band who wrote ‘Dammit’ would go on to pen ‘I Miss You’ or ‘Feeling This’ or even ‘Adam’s Song’, but somehow we knew the potential was always there. In the summer of 1998, you could turn on the radio and fun, dumb music like this was pretty much all you would hear aside from boy bands. People would go to rock shows and go fucking nuts, rather than standing quietly and looking forlornly into their beers. ‘Dammit’, which came before the breakthrough Enema Of The State, is still the underground, nobody-really-gets-us Blink-182. The vocals are raw, they’re not entirely in tune, and there are cymbals splashing about all over the place rather than the eventual snare trickery that would arrive with Barker. And then there’s that chorus, adolescence exemplified. Half-time, full-time, chest-beating, fist-pumping glory that celebrates being a misunderstood bro and having all your other bros there to help you out when you get dumped. ‘And it happens once again/I’ll turn to a friend/Someone who understands/Sees through the master plan.’ How many times did I get dumped when I was in highschool? I can’t even remember. But my friends and I were all bound by a preposterous love of decidedly silly music that those girls who now consider us eligible mating partners never really had. If I was to get them all into a karaoke bar, I have little to no doubt that they’d all still know every word. No, it isn’t rocket science, but it’s true that often the best pop music is the most simple. Anyone could do it, but these three dickweeds did.
I’ve never felt so old and so young in my life.
Blink-182 – ‘Dammit (Growing Up)’