In Not Fade Away, we take a look at the legacy of some of the greatest albums of the past few decades – some iconic, some lesser known – as they celebrate significant anniversaries. Here, we focus on Blink-182’s 2003 untitled/self-titled album.
By Jon Blistein
Pop-punk had a lot of mortal enemies – jocks, parents, teachers, the guy that got the girl instead of you – but adulthood was always its Moriarty. It’s a genre of stunted adolescent feelings, desperately seeking validation for insecurities and broken hearts while, at its gnarliest, hiding behind a facade of farts. Essentially, pop-punk offers a compelling snapshot of the overwhelming uncertainty over mind and body that mushrooms when your hormones go nuclear on everything you thought you knew about how your own operating system. Three chords can restore some semblance of order, and Blink-182 were the patron saints of petulance and penis jokes, running butt naked from Warped Tour favorites to Top 40 hitmakers in 1999 with the release of Enema of the State. During their crossover success in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Blink were too easily pegged as sellouts or obnoxious man-boy brats, but their steadfast grasp on adolescence was neither a crutch, nor an easy way to cash in on the demographic. It was a very real thing the band grappled with, so much so that Mark Hoppus felt the need to shrug, “Well, I guess this is growing up” on 1997’s “Dammit.”
The general narrative suggests that Blink-182 didn’t “mature” until 2003, when they released their self-titled effort, a heavier record removed from straight-up pop-punk by lyrical content that, at times, is downright crushing. Throughout the last week or so, Blink have been celebrating the record’s 10th anniversary (on Nov. 18) by playing the appropriately-dubbed Untitled album in its entirety at a string of sold-out L.A. shows. The move itself is par for the nostalgia-driven course these days; though admittedly, Blink’s self-titled wasn’t nearly as successful – numbers or reputation-wise – as its predecessors, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Enema of the State and Dude Ranch. Rather, Blink-182 was the band’s most concise break from the pop-punk formula and a catalyst for the wave of pierced-hearts-stuck-to-sleeves-with-tears-and-guyliner “emo”outfits that rose to popularity in its wake (sans the potty humor, of course), including but not limited to Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Panic! At the Disco. For plenty, the record is a ridiculous travesty, evidence of the band further compromising to the powers that be (if you didn’t already think that in 1999 – or 1997, for that matter, when they co-signed with MCA), or those who couldn’t handle all the feels. Or, it was an unquestionable masterpiece — a smart, succinctly executed evolution of band who’d grown up but hardly slowed down.
“It was very forward for us, it was such an adventurous recording,” guitarist/singer Tom DeLonge tells Radio.com. “That really felt good because we’d turned the corner from a pop-punk band to a conceptual and progressive, um–” a pause, then with a laugh – “punk band. It felt much cooler to go in that direction. I also remember playing it live, I felt that the band was communicating from the stage a lot differently, a lot more in a rock band kind of fashion.”