Formed: 1993 as Blink, Poway, California
Members: Travis Barker, drums (born San Diego, California, 14 November 1975); Tom Delonge, guitar, vocals (born San Diego, California, 13 December 1975); Mark Hoppus, bass, vocals (born San Diego, California, 15 March 1972). Former member: Scott Raynor, drums (born San Diego, California, 23 May 1979).
Genre: Rock, Punk, Pop
Best-selling album since 1990: Enema of the State (1999)
Hit songs since 1990: "All the Small Things," "What's My Age Again?"
Injecting a healthy dose of scatological humor and teen angst into the prefabricated world of late-1990s pop, Southern California's Blink-182 brought ultra-catchy, humorous pop punk to the top of the charts with their 1999 album, Enema of the State. The potty-mouthed trio infiltrated the music mainstream with a string of slapstick videos and bathroom-humor-filled concerts, paving the way for countless of their peers to follow them up the Billboard charts.
Formed near San Diego in 1993, Blink began life as a skateboarding punk trio obsessed with playing fast, melodic songs about teen angst and the fruitless search for love. After playing dozens of live shows—which invariably featured wet T-shirt and wet shorts contests—the group self-released an eight-track album entitled Fly Swatter (1993), which featured several songs that later appeared on Buddha (1994) on the Kung Fu label.
Lacking the polish of the band's later work, Buddha songs such as "Carousel" and "Fentoozler" show signs that the group knows how to use melody amid the furious punk-rock assault. The lyrics to "Carousel" ("I talk to you every now and then / I never felt so alone again / I stop to think at a wishing well / My thoughts send me on a carousel") also display a poetic sensibility that would later help the band reach a mass audience. With whiplash rhythms and bored, snotty vocals, the album is a rough template of things to come.
Cheshire Cat (1995) features more refined versions of several songs from Buddha, as well as the twisted, homoerotic "Ben Wah Balls." Along with their penchant for performing barely clothed or nude, "Ben Wah Balls" was typical of the group's boyish bathroom humor. By the time they released their third proper album, Dude Ranch (1997), the group had changed their name to Blink-182 after the threat of a lawsuit by an Irish band named Blink, toured the world with such popular punk groups as Pennywise and
NOFX, appeared on the Vans Warped punk rock package tour several times, and had their music in a series of popular skating and snowboarding videos.
Picking up the mantle of another successful punk rock group that learned how to inject melody into its songs, Northern California's Green Day, Dude Ranch spawned the radio track "Dammit (Growing Up)," which was a harbinger of the group's crossover into the music mainstream. Built on the same loud, aggressive punk rhythms of their earlier songs, "Dammit" slows down the pace a bit and allows room for a more deliberate, traditional rock arrangement. Delonge plays a speedy, distorted guitar riff over a lyric that glumly states, "And it's happened once again / I'll turn to a friend / Someone that understands / Sees through the master plan / But everybody's gone / And I've been here for too long." Produced by local punk drummer Mark Trombino, the album weds a pop sheen to Delonge's and Hoppus's snotty, nasal vocals, highlighting their strong lyrical vision.
A founding member, Raynor, was replaced by former Aquabats drummer Travis Barker following the album's release. Barker's precise yet acrobatic drumming is in evidence on the band's breakthrough album Enema of the State (1999). A brilliant mix of Blink-182's punk energy and pop smarts, the album spun off a series of hit songs and videos, eventually selling more than 6 million copies.
Their gleeful homage to immaturity, "What's My Age Again?" ("Nobody likes you when you're 23 / And are still more amused by prank phone calls"), was accompanied by a wildly popular music video in which they famously ran down the streets of San Diego naked. But the song and video that rocketed the group to superstardom was the pure pop confection "All the Small Things." Dressed as the boy band the Backstreet Boys, the group mocked mainstream pop music even as they performed it themselves with a head-bobbingly catchy ditty complete with a "nana-na-na" chorus.
Both hits find singers Delonge and Hoppus practically crooning and singing in two-part harmony over Barker's bashing drums and alternately furious and delicate guitar strumming. While songs such as "Dysentery Gary" revel in grade-school humor, the sensitive ballad "Adam's Song" tackles the horrors of teenage suicide with sober seriousness and a thrilling ebb-and-flow arrangement complete with a dramatic piano solo. In a further nod to their mainstream acceptance, Hoppus and Delonge were asked to record a version of 1960s surf duo Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve" for the CBS miniseries The History of Rock 'n' Roll.
The live album The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) (2000) is a snapshot of the group's typically crude, lewd live show, highlighted by bathroom and sexual humor and copious foul language. Barker (Famous Stars and Straps) and the combo of Delonge and Hoppus (Loserkids.com) launched youth-oriented clothing and accessories companies during this period. Secure in their pop stardom, the trio returned in 2002 with the pruriently titled Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Though still approaching their music with the same aggression and punk energy, the trio had clearly matured, tackling such subjects as broken homes and emotional abuse, along with the usual litany of failed love affairs and teenage angst.
Barker's drumming shows an almost jazzlike efficiency and precision, while Hoppus and Delonge trade vocals on tracks about young love ("First Date"), goofing off with friends ("The Rock Show"), and, in their most accomplished song to date, divorce ("Stay Together for the Kids"). Juxtaposing spare, elegantly strummed guitar, lean drums, and sensitive singing on the verses with choruses of snarling vocals, ominous walls of guitar, and bashing drums, the song is an example of the band growing up without losing their edge.
Delonge and Barker formed the side project Box Car Racer in 2001 with guitarist David Kennedy and bassist Anthony Celestino. The group's self-titled 2002 debut was in a more traditional hard, bleak punk vein than Blink-182's albums. Barker teamed with Rancid front man Tim Armstrong for the self-titled 2002 debut from the Transplants, a hard-edged album that mixes punk, reggae, rapping, and programmed drum-machine beats for a raucous, multigenre explosion of noise and fury.
Blink-182 became famous by never underestimating the value of a catchy chorus and a juvenile bathroom joke. With their carefree attitude and increasingly sophisticated arrangements, the trio proved to be much more than a one-note joke band.
Buddha (Kung Fu, 1994); Cheshire Cat (Cargo/Grilled Cheese, 1995); Dude Ranch (Cargo/MCA, 1997); Enema of the State (MCA, 1999); The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) (MCA, 2000); Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (MCA, 2001); With Box Car Racer: Box Car Racer (MCA, 2002).
A. Hoppus (ed.), Tales from Beneath Your Mom (New York, 2001).
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