By Peter Lindblad
|Blink-182 in happier times|
When the adolescent pop-punk manifesto Enema of the State came bounding out of San Diego in 1999, with smiling porn star Janice Lindemulder on the cover sadistically pulling on a plastic glove just for effect, Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker should have been encased in amber, never to age a day.
This was their moment. Even more juvenile than Green Day, Blink-182's sound was deliriously infectious, even sunny and completely irreverent – songs like "All the Small Things," "What's My Age Again?' and "Adam's Song" were like sonic bags of Pop Rocks, bursting with radio-friendly hooks that were as addictive as crack. Nothing was out of bounds lyrically, as they trafficked in potty humor and youthful sexual clumsiness, displaying the kind of stupid courage exhibited by skateboarders hopped up on Mountain Dew. Somehow, these class clowns had control of the classroom, and they had everybody pogoing.
Gradually, the party started winding down, although Take Off Your Pants and Jacket hit No. 1 in 2001 in three countries, including the U.S. For the self-titled Blink-182, released in 2003, they started messing with the formula, experimenting with and incorporating new styles and people starting throwing around the word "maturity." Cue the death knell.
DeLonge left in 2005, but the trio reformed four years later, eventually recording Neighborhoods for a 2011 release. It seemed they were on track to follow that up this year, but this week, rumors began flying that all was not well in the Blink-182 camp. That's putting it mildly.
Again, DeLonge appears to be on the outs with Hoppus and Barker, who've accused him of being "ungrateful, disingenuous" in a Rolling Stone article found here http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/blink-182s-hoppus-barker-blast-ungrateful-disingenuous-tom-delonge-20150126. DeLonge shot back on Facebook that band drama had "poisoned" everything, writing an open letter explaining his side of the story. And more's been coming out ever since the first bombshell dropped. Now boys, dad's going to have to stop this car if you don't quit all this nonsense.
Apparently, the ride has come to a halt, at least for now. Not that any of this should come as any great surprise, as tales of infighting in Blink-182 are not exactly government secrets. Barker, in perhaps the most telling comment on the matter, said in the Rolling Stone article, "Why Blink even got back together in the first place is questionable."
And that really is the question, isn't it? Unless you're the Rolling Stones, rock bands usually have a pretty short shelf life, and Blink-182 hit its expiration date a long time ago. They weren't built for the long haul. Theirs was a aesthetic that appealed to youth culture at a certain point in time. Aside from Barker's tattoos, they weren't at all scary or intimidating; rather, they were clean cut and approachable, safe enough for soccer moms who'd wag their fingers at their antics while secretly lusting for their boyish charms and about as harmless as kids caught toilet papering the neighbors' trees.
Of course, they probably said the same things about Green Day, and who could have predicted they'd come out with American Idiot, a stinging and powerful indictment of the Bush presidency and the dumbing down of the country that elected him. It's hard to imagine Blink-182 following suit, not that they'd have to do so to justify their continued existence. Now in their 40s, though, do they have anything left to say? Have they ever shown the slightest interest in tackling more "adult" subject matter? And even if they did, could they pull it off? Has their sense of humor evolved over time? Could they do "dad rock" and make it funny ... like Louis C.K. funny? That would be refreshing, if they could. The Beatles were able to grow as artists, but even Led Zeppelin ran out of steam.
Individually, the members of Blink-182 might go on to make great art, but as a group, it's probably time to hang it up, especially if they can't work through their issues. Airing a band's dirty laundry in public is always a dicey proposition, and it greatly dims any prospects of reconciliation. At least we'll always have our memories ... and Enema of the State.