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+ {Box Car Racer} + {+44}

Hot on the heels of GREEN DAY and a plethora of punk-pop revivalists Stateside, BLINK-182 surfaced from out of the skateboard park in August 1992. Soaring beyond anyone’s expectations as the new millennium approached, Messrs Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker caught the attention of adolescent kids a la hit songs `All The Small Things’ and `What’s My Age Again?’ (both features on their breakthrough 4th set, `Enema Of The State’). Remarkably, the derivative Californians were still riding atop the global charts in 2016.
Formed Poway (nr. San Diego), the earliest incarnation of “Blink” – as they were then billed – consisted of college kids DeLonge (vocals/guitar), Hoppus (vocals/bass) and original drummer Scott “Mad Dog” Raynor. This animated, skate-punk combo began their irreverent trip into the minds of the few by distributing their collection of demos, most of which would duly appear on the EP `Flyswatter’ (1993) and the BUDDHA (1994) {*5} cassettes.
Amateurish and squeaky, but catchy in its innocent barrage of quick-fire tracks, the latter half-hour set was as rambunctious and ramshackle as any early GREEN DAY mini-album; three pieces that stood out were the jangly `Time’, the head-on `Sometimes’ and a cover of SCREECHING WEASEL’s `The Girl Next Door’. Unfortunately their quest to brainwash the frat-boy slim masses did not succeed, forcing the mangled, spiky-haired anti-heroes to issue their second, self-financed LP, CHESHIRE CAT (1995) {*6}, whilst still under the name of BLINK. Blasts of brash, impish pop-punk were the order of the day through repeats `Fentoozler’ and `TV’, plus DeLonge/Hoppus fresh cuts `Carousel’ and `Romeo And Rebecca’.
However, with pressures from an Irish group of the same name, the band re-emerged as BLINK 182 – the 182 in question being the number of times Al Pacino said the “f”-word in the movie, Scarface. The more fruitful DUDE RANCH (1997) {*7} third album boasted catchy college anthem, `Dick Lips’ (among other potty-mouthed poppers `Dammit’, `Waggy’ and `Emo’); dirges that sent the lads astutely on the road to semi-stardom via a little help from supportive peers GREEN DAY and NOFX. Major labels began to show interest, with M.C.A. Records duly winning a bidding war for the signatures.
Enlisting aforesaid fresh drummer Travis Barker (from The AQUABATS) to fill the stool for the departing Raynor, ENEMA OF THE STATE (1999) {*7} was when the fun got serious. Featuring aforementioned hit breakthroughs and porn actress Janine in scantily clad nurse’s uniform on the sleeve, BLINK-182 went on to achieve double platinum Top 10 sales figures throughout America and Europe. Memorable single fodder, `What’s My Age Again?’ and `All The Small Things’ (classic 2-3 minute punk-pop rants), saw the trio run naked through L.A. (in the videos at least!) and earned them a cameo performance in “ironic” coming-of-age teen movie, American Pie. No underlying message, it seemed that BLINK-182 were just out to drink, party and get nekid!
Indeed, their next unadulterated offering hinted as much. Forgetting the decidedly dismal THE MARK, TOM & TRAVIS SHOW: THE ENEMA STRIKES BACK! {*4} live/odds’n’ends set, a year earlier, 2001’s TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS AND JACKET {*7}, smashed in at No.1 in the charts and cracked the UK Top 5 thanks to the hit single, `The Rock Show’. Now described as punk’s answer to Toys-R-Us, MTV play-listed the trio’s fast ’n’ furious playground-punk ditties; `First Date’ (the other UK hit), `Story Of A Lonely Guy’ and `Stay Together For The Kids’, resonated with everyone bar the fussy punks of ’77.
In 2002, and with spare studio time in hand, DeLonge and Barker (alongside 182 producer Jerry Finn) formed side-project, BOX CAR RACER. Recruiting new (s)kids on the block, guitarist David Kennedy and bassist Anthony Celestino, BCR surprised fans and critics alike with a more mature emo sound on their eponymous Top 20 album, BOX CAR RACER {*6}. Although not a million miles from the retro, party-boy theatrics of the Blinkos, `I Feel So’ (a minor UK hit), `There Is’ (a US Modern Rock Chart entry) and the minute-long `My First Punk Song’, had the desired effect. For his next move, the tattooed Barker teamed up with Tim Armstrong (of RANCID) and roadie-turned rapper Rob Aston as the Epitaph-signed punk supergroup, TRANSPLANTS; an eponymous set was unleashed in 2002; others thereafter.
The riffs and teen-punk harmonies still intact, the eponymous BLINK-182 (2003) {*7} set had created a richer atmosphere than on previous records. Think GREEN DAY’s seminal `Kerplunk’, all twisted guitar hooks and downbeat lyrics of genuine angst and loss of self-control; examples `I Miss You’, `Feeling This’, `Always’ and `Down’ (all Brit hits). Hell, even The CURE’s Robert Smith popped up to lend his vocals on the Top 3 LP (for `All Of This’), and while it was no classic, the record was still a departure from porn star covers and silly songs about masturbating and snot.
With more than a decade’s worth of recordings behind them (and 20 million album sales so far), it was inevitable that a “Greatest Hits” set would surface sooner or later; it arrived just in time for the Xmas 2005 rush, almost a year after their “indefinite hiatus”. The said compilation also showcased a posthumous UK Top 30 single, `Not Now’ (from the outtakes of their previous LP) and a decent cover of The ONLY ONES’ `Another Girl Another Planet’.
As Hoppus and TRANSPLANTS retainer Barker struck up another partnership in +44, DeLonge and his ANGELS & AIRWAVES superband associates David Kennedy, drummer Adam “Atom” Willard (ex-ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT) and bassist Ryan Sinn, made a by-the-book bid for “serious artist” status in an 80s-centric attempt at stadium cerebro-rock: `We Don’t Need To Whisper’ (2006), which guaranteed them a Top 10 place.
The aforementioned +44 band dialled up vocalist Carol Heller (of Get The Girl), but when demos of `No, It Isn’t’ didn’t quite work out, calls were duly made to indie axemen Shane Gallagher (of The NERVOUS RETURN) and Craig Fairbaugh (of FORGOTTEN, MERCY KILLERS and Lars Frederiksen & The Bastards). Released at the tail-end of 2006, the Top 10-listed WHEN YOUR HEART STOPS BEATING {*6} was a sombre, thoughtful and unpretentious BLINK-182 subterfuge. As upbeat, dramatic and summery as anything the 182 team showed in the past, the title track, plus `155’, `Lycanthrope’ and `Baby Come On’ showed promise.
Inevitably, but under a cloud after the untimely death of long-time producer Jerry Finn (from a heart attack after suffering a brain haemorrhage) – an injured and traumatised Barker was also involved in a plane crash which killed both pilots and two colleagues/associates – BLINK-182 decided to re-form in 2009. Hoppus, DeLonge and Barker first supported WEEZER and plans were made for a “comeback” album.
Delayed until September 2011, the self-produced sixth set NEIGHBORHOODS {*7} was a crunchier and meatier proposition, although the punk-pop pattern was not lost on opening triumvirate `Ghost On The Dance Floor’, `Natives’ and `Up All Night’. The 30-somethings still rocking near the top of the Billboard charts (No.6 in Britain), past indiscretions were almost forgotten with un-caged earworms `Wishing Well’, `Heart’s All Gone’ and anchor track, `Love Is Dangerous’.
Subsequently moving from Interscope/D.G.C. to B.M.G. as Hoppus and Barker dispensed, one way or another, with ANGELS & AIRWAVES’s DeLonge, BLINK-182 re-grouped once again, enlisting guitarist Matt Skiba. Unofficially at first as press and Facebook squabbles continued, the former ALKALINE TRIO member was installed in time to record album seven, CALIFORNIA (2016) {*8}. Produced and co-penned with GOLDFINGER kingpin John Feldman, the transatlantic chart-topper was in-tune to the So-Cal punk scene of yesteryear as well as today’s pogo-centric party-poppers. From the gentile `Home Is Such A Lonely Place’ to the power-driven `Cynical’, `Bored To Death’, `She’s Out Of Her Mind’, `Los Angeles’, `Kings Of The Weekend’ and `Sober’ (the latter scribed with FALL OUT BOY’s Patrick Stump), nostalgia was restored full-circle, full stop.
Bypassing a pair of 80s-styled synthpop EP efforts as Simple Creatures (`Strange Love’ and `Everything Opposite’) by Hoppus and ALL TIME LOW’s Alex Gaskarth, the BLINK-182 trio were back in action on the rather derivative NINE (2019) {*5}. The record was written when a cathartic Hoppus was in a dark depression, however, instead of dumbing down their quickfire 3-chord wonders, the anthems were thick ‘n’ fast and almost fist-high celebratory. Maybe the dark undercurrent deflected Mark’s misery-loves-company motif, but in all honesty there was no real change in tempo. Still, the kids were united in buying the Top 3 set; possibly out of curiosity, and many might extol the virtues of download previews: `Blame It On My Youth’, `Generational Divide’, `Happy Days’, `Darkside’ and the equally loud ‘n’ proud `I Really Wish I Hated You’.
© MC Strong 2000-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Jul2016-Sep2019

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