I was way too late to the Blink-182 bandwagon. I missed out on the skate-punk of Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch‘s Princess Leia obsession, and didn’t hear Enema of the State until late-August 1999, over two months after the album’s June 1st release date. It happened during a friend’s birthday party at a mini-golf/go-kart course — someone gave him Enema as a gift, probably spurred by the radio success of “What’s My Age Again?” and later that evening, we listened to the whole thing on repeat at least four times in his house, guzzling Surge and gorging on Cosmic Brownies the whole time.
In retrospect, this was the perfect environment to be introduced to Blink: hanging out with teen idiots, drinking and eating garbage, causing trouble, if you consider hitting mini-golf course obstacles with putters a little too hard, Billy Madison-style, as “trouble.” You should not, but that was the kind of low-level mischievousness Blink reveled in. The most PUNK things about Mark, Tom, and Travis were some tattoos and they said “f*ck” sometimes. But that’s why their music, and especially Enema of the State, resonated so strongly with so many (pre-)teens — there was a baggy pants-edge, however so slight, in songs like “Mutt” and Dysentery Gary.” They touched on themes that made sense to idiots of a certain age; plus, “Dumpweed” is a funny word. If Mark and Tom weren’t singing about wishing their friends were 21, they’re freaking out about aliens. (One of the great things about Blink-182 is that there’s NO depth to their songs — “Aliens Exist” isn’t a metaphor; it’s actually about aliens.)
It’s worth noting that when Enema of the State came out, the fellas in the band were between the ages of 23 and 27. Is it weird that these of-age adults were trying to relate to 16 year olds? As someone who’s about to turn 27, NOPE. Then, I couldn’t get enough of the catchy-goofiness of “All the Small Things,” but now I find myself preferring the “deep cuts,” so to speak. Have a look at “Wendy Clear.”
But I’d play with fire to break the ice
And I’d play with a nuclear device
Is it something I’ll regret?
Or do I want what I can’t get?
I wish it didn’t have to be so bad
The nice thing about being an adult looking back at ostensible “teenage problems” is they don’t sting the same way they used to. As a Hot Topic teen, “Wendy” killed me, because I WISHED I had a risk worth taking, but now, as someone who hasn’t worn a The Crow shirt in years, I can look back at those days with, well, not quite fondness, but they aren’t emotionally crippling anymore. That’s what Mark, Tom, and Travis were tapping into — nearly every track, with exceptions like mature outlier “Adam’s Song,” sounds like an endless summer filled with parties, beer (or maybe caffeinated beverages), and sexual frustrations. Listening to Enema of the State is to constantly live in mid-July, right before going away to college. And when Mark ( > Tom) did go adult, like on “What’s My Age Again,” sung from the perspective of a 23-year-old, he was worried about acting his age. It’s a weirdly timeless album, sentimentality obsessed with teenagers who want to be adults, and performed by adults who feel like teenagers.
American Pie came out the same summer as Enema, and it’s no wonder Blink-182 make a cameo appearance: Jim and Stifler are the characters that make up “Going Away to College” and “Don’t Leave Me.” Watching and listening to them now is to relive the best and worst things about adolescence, when the only thing you truly cared about was wasting time and failing to hook up with disinterested chicks and acting like total dillweeds. Enema of the State turned 15 years old, and it’s finally acting its age.