Release Year: 2003
It’s been over ten years since Blink-182 released this groundbreaking album. Though now it’s hailed as their underrated masterpiece, fans didn’t know what to think of the new sound. This wasn’t the fun, happy-go-lucky, jovial band they were expecting. This band was dark, moody, and bleak. The music was heavy, the songs were serious, and the pop-punk shtick was left behind. Many say this is when Blink matured, grew up, and forgot the fart jokes. This is also where they expanded their sound, including more instruments and genres they never explored before. All of it lead to their strongest and best album yet.
For this release, Blink-182 did a complete 360 to how they approached their music. Everything here is heavier and darker than before, which you can hear right off the bat with “Feeling This.” There’s a lot of aggression in both the music and the lyrics, which fits perfectly with the theme. It also has more impressive guitar playing from Tom Delonge. He’s always been a decent player, but doing the same three-chord rock didn’t allow him to expand. Here, he messes around with different styles and sounds to get a bigger, better result. He plays with more flair along with the other guys. This track is a warning to fans: there’s no Enema of the State 2 here.
As I mentioned before, Blink’s music is usually upbeat and fun. Here, it’s the opposite. On songs like “Obvious” and “Easy Target” they explore their heavier side with brutal music and somewhat bleak songs on relationships. They let everything go on the chaotic “Stockholm Syndrome.” Everything on this track is fucking crazy and destructive. The way the guitar and bass chug along make it sound like they’re destroying everything in their path. Both the music and the lyrics are dripping with venom and anger. It blows you away because it’s unlike anything they’ve done before. “Violence” follows a similar format, but has a more punk rock vibe. Though the verses are paired with muted music, the chorus explodes with energy and loud guitars. Along with expressing their anger, the album has its share of moody moments.
“I Miss You” is a different direction for Blink because it’s entirely acoustic. It also finds Mark using a stand up bass, while Travis uses steel brushes for the drum loop. With the longing lyrics and the dark toned music, the song is very melancholy and somewhat gothic, especially with references to The Nightmare Before Christmas. What’s interesting is the track is directly inspired by The Cure’s “Lovecats.” Blink has always been big fans of the band, but it seems like their love for them comes out the most on this album. This is most obvious on “All of This,” which features Robert Smith. This is pretty much a Cure song. Everything about it sounds like something the seminal 80’s band would do. With Smith singing “Another night with her/but I’m always wanting you” it comes across as brooding and bleak. I just love how they step aside and let Smith do his thing on this track.
Not only did the band step up their sound, they stepped up their songwriting too. You won’t find songs about running naked and awkward first dates here. Rather a lot of them deal with serious, some might even say adult, topics. Even though “Go” is fast paced and upbeat, it seems to be about Mark’s parents fighting and how he wants to take his mom away from the scene, but being helpless. “Down” is about longing for someone, but not being sure if they feel the same way. “Asthenia” is interesting because it foreshadows what Delonge would do on Angels and Airwaves. The song is about an astronaut stranded in space and wondering if coming home would make a difference. The space theme can be found again on the sappy “I’m Lost Without You,” which has more of a prog/space rock sound. It’s also the weakest song on the LP, since it sounds like Delonge is whining the entire time, but it’s forgivable.
When you start to read the history of the album, you learn a lot went into making it. Not only did the guys change their style, they changed their recording techniques. Songs like “Feeling This” and “I Miss You” were written by Mark and Tom, but they were in separate rooms when they did it. To get different sounds out of their instruments the would either record the music from different rooms or the music was recorded separately and pieced back together, such as Travis’ playing on “All of This.” Incorporating these various techniques shows how ambitious they were when putting the album together. They wanted to change things so much that they recorded in an unfamiliar way. It seems to have worked in their favor.
This album means a lot to me. It’s one of those records where I remember where I was and how I felt when I first heard it. Though fans were initially split on the new musical direction, it has since become their most appreciated work. While there are still some elements of pop-punk on the album, it’s almost abandoned in favor of dark tones, lush rhythm, and aggressive riffs. It was important for them to make this album. They’ve always been the butt of everyone’s jokes; this showed the world they were ready to be taken seriously. They grew both as musicians and songwriters and made what may be their greatest album so far.