Essentials Review #2: Blink-182 – Self-Titled (2003)

One of the most banal things about the music scene last year was the sudden surge of new releases from old Pop-Punk bands way out of their prime. From Good Charlotte to Sum 41, the early 2000’s favourites came out of their cave of irrelevance in droves, much to the delight of their normie fanbases who un-ironically declared it was “2005 all over again XD”. None of this stung as much as Blink-182’s attempt to move forward without Tom Delonge on “California”, complete with 5SOS-esque production and horrible lyrics to boot. Some would argue that Blink-182 was never meant to be taken seriously anyway and I would respond by pointing them to the album we’ll be talking about today. By all means this album should have been the death of the band as we knew it. After cracking it mainstream with the beloved “Enema of The State” the band followed up with “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”, an album with some great moments but missing the magic that made its predecessor such a hit. Blink’s sound would need a total reinvention to remain engaging, a reinvention that a trio of pop punkers who love dick jokes wouldn’t be capable of, right? Wrong.

Doubling down on their New Wave influences, Blink-182 managed to craft one of the most nuanced Pop-Punk albums ever released whilst maintaining the charm and catchiness that made them so huge in the first place. The instrumental arrangements on this album are sullen and distorted, giving it almost a Gothic vibe from song to song. The album isn’t afraid to build on this moodiness, often slowing down to let the guitars or Travis’s drums take the forefront, something so rare for Pop-Punk. The songwriting still comes through with some of the best hooks of the band’s career like on “Down”, “Always” and, of course, “I Miss You”. The interplay between Mark and Tom was at its peak here. There aren’t any “Mark songs” or “Tom songs”, their performances play off each other seamlessly with each one picking up the other’s slack vocally. Thematically the album links together nicely with songs about romantic decline and the struggle of letting go of someone you love. On “Stockholm Syndrome Interlude” a war letter sent by Mark’s grandfather to his grandmother is read over some light piano and the dark romantic narrative it conjures fits perfectly with the aesthetic of the album.

Blink-182’s Self-Titled album stands as an outlier in the band’s discography, the perfect counter to critics who want to write the band off as “childish” and “immature”. While it saddens me that the band seems to have written themselves off in a similar way, this album will always be their last true musical statement and a hopeful reminder of what they are truly capable of.

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