Blink-182’s seventh studio album California, released on Friday, is set to beat Drake on the album charts this week. It will likely move between 120,000 and 150,000 units, proving that people still care about a twenty-five year old band. Its debut single, “Bored to Death,” hit #1 on the Alternative Singles charts, and has garnered unexpected heavy airplay. It is, indeed, the best Blink-182 song in years. Maybe the band doesnt need legendary co-frontman and notorious nutjob Tom DeLonge to succeed after all.
Why is Blink-182 still important? Why are the kids, as well as Day 1 fans, still tuning in? Here’s a power ranking of all of Blink-182s releases, tracing their commercial ascent and cultural impact.
10. Dogs Eating Dogs EP (2013)
The definition of a stop-gap measure, this is hardly the same band that any serious Blink fan might have fallen in love with. It’s a collection of haphazard, pretentious, slightly grimy songs that sound like Tom and Mark at odds rather than working together — that is, like dogs eating dogs, or whatever.
9. Neighborhoods (2011)
Blink’s would-be comeback album appropriates a fair amount of the elegiac, emo-arena quality of DeLonge’s too-prolific solo project Angels and Airwaves, mixed with the more pokerfaced emo/Cure undertones of blink’s 2003 self-titled. With that, expectedly, come the empty platitudes of a DeLonge hung up on graphic novels and government conspiracies, and a Hoppus who is now a self-reflective dad or whatever. DeLonge can’t sing as well as he used to — look no further than videos of him attempting to deliver the old songs, and any number of other sources — and as a result, his melodies are far from the whiny tenor earworms of Blink’s commercial heyday. Also, his heart, we would learn later, hadn’t been in the band for years. Neighborhoods is the Tom Show at its most disappointing.
8. California (2016)
Most of the bloated new Blink-182 album — first sans Tom — is so on-the-nose Hoppus Blink that it’s basically parody. But lead single “Bored to Death” is the most like the platonic version of themselves the band has sounded since “I Miss You.” Its cathartic refrain of “Life is too short to last” is like a charmingly lobotomized, middle-aged version of “Well, I guess this is growing up.” On other tracks, you can hear classic Blink musical cadences returning: “She’s Out of Her Mind” aping the chorus of Rock Show, for instance. Its a bit self-consciously a “return to form” album, yet gains a lot of points for truly sounding like a passion project — an illustration of Hoppus’s ardent commitment to return Blink to its former consistency. He crowd-sourced the endeavor, soliciting the advice of two proven pop-punk architects — Tom replacement Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and producer/Goldfinger veteran John Feldmann — and it shows. There’s even a song cowritten by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. No way Mark and Travis were going to squander this opportunity to restore the project they never stopped believing in to its former glory.
7. blink-182 (2003)
After exploring solo projects (remember Boxcar Racer?), the Blink 2.0 of the aughts felt bit too self-serious, and not as consistent, to many fans (this author included). Still the boys still shared a vision and a songwriting ability even their newfound pretensions couldn’t manage to suppress entirely. The mix was potent to draw in a whole new younger generation of fans with hits like “Feeling This” and “I Miss You.”
6. The Mark Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) (2000)
This live album and fan favorite embodies the raw spirit of Blink-182: the attitude that helped them develop a diehard international fanbase. It’s a documentary highlighting the poop jokes and fucking-people’s-moms jokes only grazed in their studio work. It would simply be impossible for this shtick to play today, and probably for any live album by a rock band to do this well. Now sadly out-of-print, The MTaT Show was a Top 10 pop album that lingered on the charts for over a year; today, kids would just go to YouTube to get the experience. There’s no doubt that The Mark, Tom and Travis Show is an important artifact, as well as a document of Blink at their commercial peak.
5. Buddha (1994)
Mostly just a trial run for Cheshire Cat, this shows exactly the through line from formative pop-punkers like The Descendants to Blink — the group wrestling with hooks with true pop potential, and singing in tune, without quite getting there. Listening back to it twenty-two years later, however, it’s amazing to see the raw talent for simple potent melodies this band had before they could remotely play their instruments or drink legally. Songs like “Romeo & Rebecca” sound like the most fun garage-band rehearsal ever. You can almost see the infuriated neighbors peeping out of their kitchen windows.
4. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
Despite the title, Blink-182 wanted to try to say more with this album. Look no further than the first song on Jacket, “Anthem Part Two,” with its pseudo-politics, recalling a chat with your buddies while trying to illegally buy cigarettes at the gas station down the street from your childhood home: “Corporate leaders, politicians/ Kids can’t vote, adults elect them/ Laws that rule the school and workplace/ Signs that caution, sixteen’s unsafe.” The arrangements were even more sleek than Enema, the chording more ethereal. Jacket if anything, hinted at the schism to come in Tom and Mark’s sensibility: Mark content to recall aberrant high school affairs and grandpas shitting their pants, Tom already sounding a bit bored with the past on the by-the-numbers-Blink of “First Date.” That didn’t stop Jacket becoming the band’s first number one album.
3. Cheshire Cat (1995)
Cheshire Cat was the band’s first authentic statement: crass skits, joke songs, serious hooks, and scrubby, half-developed punk onslaughts. Its rough but more listenable than the Buddha collection, which shares some of its songs. Their hair was still bleach-blonde. It made them heroes among the skater scene in San Diego. “Carousel” and “M+M’s, among others, still rank among their best songs; Cheshire Cat is simply an indelible part of their DNA. They almost seem to gain more confidence as the album progresses…. all the way to “Ben Wah Balls.”
2. Dude Ranch (1997)
Dude Ranch was not only the album that set the stage for Blink’s commercial breakthrough at the turn of the millennium; it’s a document of a band practically falling over too many ideas, and in the midst of progressing creatively at a crazy rate. The breakneck tempos mirror their desperate zest for success; everything else had fallen away but the desire to ride a shitty tour van to radio ubiquity and delivering dick jokes live on MTV. Blink had been touring non-stop, writing simultaneously, and relentlessly honing their chops; their voices sound rawer than on any of their other albums. It’s a full 15 songs without a dull moment, and seems mixed for Discman consumption on a despondent walk home from middle school. All it would take to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world would be a few more “Dammit”s (the track would become their first hit on the rock charts).
1. Enema of the State (1999)
This album is just a tremendous achievement by any standards; next to, say, Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American, few pop-punk albums of its era hold up as well. Today, authenticity cred means next to nothing, and Enema seems like a unconditionally great rock album of its time: the kind of thing you’d feel comfortable putting in a time capsule without any context. Older fans deeming it the band’s sellout moment means exactly nothing anymore; does anyone still say that about Green Day’s Dookie, or anything, really?
On Enema, there’s no throwaway; the addition of producer/songwriting assistant Jerry Finn makes for a crisp sheen to the layered guitars, and powerful dynamics that were not anywhere near the mix of Dude Ranch. Enema of the State is a tribute to the positive power the studio/major label treatment can have on a band, as much as a document of their raw prowess, as earlier projects were. Blink never wrote a better group of songs about high school and being an idiot; Take Off Your Pants and Jacket would ultimately feel a bit redundant next to all the territory the band covered next across these twelve songs. It also boasts no lines as good as “If young love is just a game, then I must have missed the kickoff.