Blink-182 broke into the mainstream via a music video that features its three members — all grown men, mind you — running naked through a city street. The trio offers up song titles like “Apple Shampoo” and “Dysentery Gary.” Hell, dudes are in their forties now, and even lyrics from their latest release, California, go something like this: “I wanna see some naked dudes/ That’s why I built this pool.”
Clearly, this is not a band with maturity in mind. Well, not quite. Blink-182, which plays Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Sunday night, has certainly cranked out its share of tunes pulled from the dick-and-fart joke book. However, sprinkled throughout that juvenile output is a band that was more than capable of going serious.
Coming off “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things,” Blink-182 had established itself as a mainstream force, one that relied on juvenile humor in catering to its audience of high-school students. “Adam’s Song” turned that notion on its head. There’s no subtlety in this tale of teenage suicide, as evidenced by lyrics like “I’m too depressed to go on/ You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” This was Blink-182 announcing to the world that it was a band to (occasionally) be taken seriously. Not only is “Adam’s Song” among its most poignant tracks; it’s among the band’s best.
Former co-front man Tom DeLonge (he’s since been replaced by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba) has a high-pitched, nasally voice, which can make it hard to take his lyrics seriously. “Always” is an exception to that rule. It’s a pretty straightforward breakup song, but perhaps that’s what’s so good about it. Blink-182 always thrived on simplicity; this track is a textbook case.
Don’t let the title fool you; this is among Blink’s more mature tracks. Hell, the song itself is about love and loss, of growing up. “I know that you’re leaving/you must have your reasons” — who can’t relate to that? Extra props for being the first real taste mainstream audiences got of the band; “Dammit” peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Alternative Rock chart.
Take what was just said about “Dammit” and song titles; same rules apply here. Sure, “Dick Lips” is a silly title for a song; the topic covered in said song is quite serious — abuse. Just the way DeLonge’s vocals play off the backing music, coupled with the subject matter, this is arguably Blink’s saddest song.
Blink finally matured in 2003 with the release of its self-titled album – easily the band’s best release to date. In addition to serious singles such as “Always” and “I Miss You,” the album also featured “Down” — one of many Blink breakup songs. This one, however, feels a bit different from most others, in that Blink had finally learned to properly channel its softer side. Plus, the video features the great Terry Crews, so bonus points for that.
Nothing subtle about this one, yet another serious track from 2003’s self-titled album. “Go” is incredibly straightforward in its representation of an abusive household. “I heard the angry voice of the man inside/and saw the look of fear in my mother’s eyes” pretty much sums it all up, as co-front man Mark Hoppus wonders aloud, “Why do evil men get away with it?” That’s a damn good question.
"Going Away to College"
The topic itself isn’t particularly serious; after all, many high school relationships end once one or both parties head off to college. But Hoppus has always been adept at contorting his voice a bit to convey a serious tone, and he does just that on this track, particularly as he belts out “This world’s an ugly place/ But you’re so beautiful to me.” One of the more underrated tracks in the Blink-182 canon.
"I Miss You"
This single’s release in 2004 marked the moment when the mainstream really bought Blink as a band capable of a sustained serious tone. Hoppus and DeLonge always had a good rapport in the studio (outside of it, apparently, not so much), but they’re in peak form on this smash single. Do not listen to this song if you're regretting a lost love; it will not end well.
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Perhaps the most personal song Blink ever recorded, “Man Overboard” is allegedly about former drummer Scott Raynor, who was fired in 1998 amid allegations of alcoholism (Travis Barker stepped in and has been the drummer to this day). Lines like “You’re out of line, and rarely sober” and “I remember shots without a chaser” certainly allude to such an episode. But the part that must cut Raynor the deepest is on the final verse – “Man on a mission/ Can’t say I miss him around.” Diss track.
"Stay Together for the Kids"
Divorce sucks, particularly for the innocent victims in any split – the kids. “Stay Together for the Kids” finds Blink once again appealing to its core audience — teenagers, many of them disaffected — and speaking of a divorce from the kids’ perspective. This is a song that, in theory, should be somewhat hokey, but Hoppus and DeLonge, as they did all too often before the latter left the group, absolutely nail it.