Mark >>> Tom. OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Blink-182 announced this week that they’ll release their seventh album later this year, which makes our 15-year-old selves totally stoked, brah. So let’s rank all of their studio (and one live) albums from worst to best, keeping in mind that “best” is relative. Except “Dammit.” That song was legit great then and it’s even better now.
Yeah, I forgot about this one, too. And then I put it on and remembered why. Neighborhoods strips away everything people like about Blink 182, and replaces it with a thick production, an abundance of Tom’s increasingly thin vocals, bland hooks, and overly earnest nonsense about God getting chills, or something. Neighborhoods is perfect for fans of Angels and Airwaves, but Blink 182? Not so much.
6. The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back!)
The year was 2001. I was 14 and my mom gave me a choice: she would buy me either The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits. Needless to say, I choose The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show, and didn’t regret my decision until years later. I loved the cuss-filled, Satan-speaking, panty-dropping, boner-dying live album at the time, especially the song that goes, “Sh*t piss f*ck c*nt c*cksucker motherf*cker tits fart turd ‘n’ twat” (I think it’s a Nat King Cole cover?), but holy moly does it not age well. You feel embarrassed for the band, who are egging on young girls to show their boobs. It’s like listening to an improv group tell unfunny dick jokes and oh yeah, they play instruments, too. It does contain the definitive version of “Aliens Exist,” though. Tom has sex with guys…
Self-titled albums are typically associated with a band’s debut, so when Blink went the eponymous route for their fifth release, you know they meant BUSINESS. Blink 182 was the album where a lot of early Blink fans stopped paying attention, and a lot of new Blink fans first fell in love. It came only two years after Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, but in that time, as the talking points story goes, they “matured” and got “experimental.” Mark and Tom sound incapable of telling a joke anymore (“matured”), and Travis Barker gets to show off with clever time signatures (“experimental”). For the most part, it works, and it’s arguably the band’s most autobiographical release; they were all nearing 30 and either had or were expecting babies — the expectations and fears of being a responsible husband, father, and man is a clear theme. That being said, it occasionally drowns in its own misery, and you can’t help but pine for the days where Tom would have made a dumb sex joke after I used the word “release.”
4. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Blink was torn between two worlds on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. They were still the bunch of bratty hooligans who would call an album TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS AND JACKET, but they also wanted to be taken seriously. Their solution: do both, which is how you go from “I couldn’t wait for the summer at the Warped Tour” (“The Rock Show”) to “Their anger hurts my ears, been running strong for seven years” (“Stay Together for the Kids”). This works for and against the album — the tone is all over the place, but the good songs are really good (“Everytime I Look For You”), while the duds are drags (“Shut Up”). Take Off Your Pants was the band trying to grow up, and mostly succeeding, with a few embarrassing hiccups (and belches and farts — this is Blink we’re talking about) along the way. Just like real life!
3. Cheshire Cat
The production’s crappy. The instrumentation is mediocre at best. The band sounds unsure of themselves. And yet, there’s something undeniably charming about Cheshire Cat, insomuch as any album with a song called “Ben Wah Balls” can be considered charming. It’s 16 songs and 41 minutes, but feels much shorter than that — Mark and Tom’s sneered vocals are always trying to out-run the music, giving the thing a loose, frantic feel. Weirdly, they sound more adult here than they do on future albums — the lyrics are aching, tortured, age appropriate (“Because when I’m with you there’s nothing I wouldn’t do/I just want to be your only one”), and aren’t riddled with poo-poo and pee-pee jokes. I mean, sure, half the album’s about masturbation, but in a really, really sad way.
2. Enema of the State
I’ve made my feelings for this album very clear.
1. Dude Ranch
I’ve never understood why people care so much about what is and isn’t punk. “Don’t label me, BRO.” Is Blink 182 a punk band that plays pop songs, or a pop band that plays with punk pacing? It doesn’t matter — it’s all in the music, and Dude Ranch is the closest Blink got to perfecting their pop-punk, or is it punk-pop, sound. Self-loathing, stupid funny (it’s the last time their jokes felt honest, and not because they felt like they HAD to tell them), juvenile, obsessed with girls, un-polished, fast, loud, and catchy as f*ck, Mark, Tom, and Scott Raynor tapped into everything great and awful about being a teenager, which is why you probably stopped listening to them when you graduated high school. But give Dude Ranch another shot — it’s the soundtrack for a dumb-ass, one who turns a song titled “Dick Lips” into a mini-tragedy about getting the shit kicked out of you by your drunk dad. I guess that’s growing up.