Blink-182 and the Silliness of Middle-Aged Rocker Angst

If you were an angsty teenager like me in the mid-to-late 1990s / early 2000s timeframe, finely attuned to all of life’s unfair absurdities—for example, your baseball coach was kind of a jerk, your English teacher just didn’t understand why that poem you wrote was actually deeply poignant and profound, your parents belonged to the slightly less prestigious country club and wouldn’t buy you a paintball gun for your birthday, or a MiniDisc player because you already had a Discman (and what’s the difference anyway?), and also that girl you liked would never answer your AOL instant messages and kept putting up that annoying “away” notification even though you knew she was right there at her computer the whole time—if you were anything like that, or completely different, it doesn’t matter, you probably were obsessed with Blink-182.

I didn’t need to know what an enema was to know that Enema of the State was a seminal album that changed everything. Hit songs like “All The Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” were fun and catchy and easy to play (terribly) on the guitar. One can only imagine how many truly awful new bands were started as a result of that album.

Oh, yeah, and “Adam’s Song” and “Aliens Exist” and “Dumpweed” and “Mutt” and “Anthem.” Sorry, I got distracted just now and had to go listen to them all on YouTube. I won’t lie, my teenage self was geeking out a little, suddenly transported to the back seat of a school bus on the way to some crummy field trip destination, savoring every drop of restless youth pulsing through lines like, “I’ll pack my bags I swear I’ll run, wish my friends were twenty-one.” It’s a pretty good album.

Still, it’s hard to get excited, or even a bit nostalgic, over the fact that Blink-182 just released a new album, California, the band’s first in five years. The same goes for all the other albums they apparently made since Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (get it?) in the summer of 2001.

That, by the way, was one of the first times I can remember experiencing a genuinely political emotion before 9/11 happened later that year, which is going to seem like a pretty ridiculous thing to say once I quote some of the lines, from “Anthem Part 2,” that brought about this epiphany. Here they are:

Corporate leaders, politicians

Kids can’t vote, adults elect them

Laws that rule the school and workplace

Signs that caution, sixteen’s unsafe

It’s a message any angsty teen, or Bernie Sanders supporter of any age, can get behind. The chorus kicker—“If we’re f—ed up, you’re to blame”—is purely distilled youthful rebellion. It is also the essence of most political campaign messaging these days: “There’s something wrong with you, and it’s someone else’s fault.” What’s not to love?

The members of Blink-182 were in their late twenties (and very rich and successful) when they sang those words. Looking back on it, that’s a little weird. Who is the “we” they’re referring to? What well-adjusted adult citizen wants to give children the right to vote?

So it’s even weirder, and even a bit sad, to learn that these dudes, all in their early forties, just recorded an album that sounds exactly the same. Power chords, simple three to four note riffs, somewhat catchy choruses, and manic drumming from Travis Barker, whose musical talent is almost comically superior to that of his bandmates. The lyrics, meanwhile, approximate the concepts of “angst” and “twee,” and, intentionally or not, seem as if they were written by an actual teenager.

Here’s an example, from the song “Sober”:

I know I messed up and it might be over
But let me call you when I’m sober
I’m a dandelion, you’re a four-leaf clover
But let me call you when I’m sober

Naa, na na na na na naaaa
na na na na na na
Naa, na na na na na naaaa
na na na na na na

It could very well have been written from a very dark, very adult place, but you’d never know because it sounds like a song about falling in love at a rock concert when you’re seventeen. Also, because lead singer Marc Hoppus places a little too much emphasis on the last syllable of the word “dandelion.” It’s hard to take anything else seriously after hearing that.

Here are a few more example, just so you get the idea.

“No Future”:

Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
They don’t care about you
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
They don’t care about you

“Teenage Satellites”

We tumble through the night
We burn so bright
We’re teenage satellites

Woo oh oh oh oh oh oh
Woo oh oh oh oh oh oh

“California” (pronounced here as a five-syllable word):

Hey here’s to you California

Beautiful haze of suburbia

Living in the perfect weather

Spending time inside together

Hey here’s to you California

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Yeah, there are quite a few “Nas” to go around. Well, what did you expect? It’s Blink-182. They could have sounded more like Coldplay. That would have been horrible. So what if you’re too old to appreciate it? Maybe the current generation of rebellious teens will find angsty inspiration in California. Maybe it’s silly to assume that artists should “evolve” if evolving means abandoning their distinctively juvenile sound. All I know is that I couldn’t help laughing (with them) when I heard “Built This Pool,” the album’s sixth track. It is fifteen seconds long. The lyrics are:

Woo, woo
I wanna see some naked dudes
That’s why I built this pool
Is that really it?

It really is.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

newsletter-signup