Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge didn’t invent pop-punk when they began softening the edges of a SoCal hardcore scene that had exploded in popularity during the first half of the ’90s, but they did more than any other band to reconfigure it for the masses. Blink-182’s 1995 studio debut, Cheshire Cat — a scrappy collection of tongue-in-cheek tantrums that followed the template laid out by the previous year’s regional breakthroughs Punk In Drublic and Stranger Than Fiction — established the band as contemporaries of the rapidly rising punk rock offshoot. But it wasn’t until the group formalized their classic lineup with the addition of phenom-technician drummer Travis Barker that the trio of San Diego skate punks brought the genre to its commercial peak with the release of their landmark third album, Enema Of The State, a love letter to staying young forever that was defiantly catchy, embarrassingly openhearted, and culturally omnipresent.
The impact of Enema Of The State can’t be overstated. Beyond going platinum worldwide 15 times over, the 1999 jock-rock opus’ real legacy lies in cementing pop-punk’s status as a mainstream force; one that would redefine alternative radio over the next decade and beyond. Not only did the album blast open the door for sonically similar descendants to enter the charts, but it shifted the landscape of punk’s spirit, allowing for bands to advertise their rebel ethos while openly shooting for radio play. By the time Blink-182 returned from their inner-turmoil-induced mid-aughts hiatus — one that saw them leave behind a career that had spawned four multi-platinum releases and almost a decade of ubiquitous hit singles — the band had already grandfathered a movement that had packed more into five years than most do in 20.
Although Blink were often seen as an anomalous joke in alt-rock that took too long to deliver the punchline, the band’s impact on music outlived the immediate wake of MySpace-core emo-pop that captured a subset of millennials’ transitory adolescent psyche. Blink’s imprint can today be felt in enterprising indie-rock/emo-revival bands such as You Blew It! and Joyce Manor, as well as a disperse coalition from Grimes to DIIV that have publicly acknowledged the band’s influence. Even when unacknowledged, it’s hard to turn your ears away from the youthful abandon and unabashed earnestness that happens to fall into melodic poise in the music of anthem-instigators like Japandroids. If the first decade of the new century saw Blink’s shadow hover everywhere over alternative radio, the second decade has found the band deeply embedded into the DNA of modern indie rock. For better or worse, there’s a legitimate claim that Blink are the most influential popular rock band of the late ’90s.
While Blink were never critical darlings in their time, the kids who grew up listening to them are now becoming cultural tastemakers and reevaluating the band’s legacy in retrospect. If critics at the time couldn’t understand the worth of man-children prone to toilet humor who sold millions of records, then the kids who bought those records in real time are the ones who are going to retroactively justify their attachment.
The band’s post-reunion LP, Neighborhoods, sold an underwhelming number of copies and was largely greeted by the critical community with little more than a shrug. Criticism wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been given the tenuous circumstances behind its recording, with DeLonge and Hoppus going months at a time speaking only indirectly through separate managers and each bandmate employing his own individual sound engineer rather than a single producer. Neighborhoods wasn’t vital, but Blink’s capacity as a band seemed to be a moot point, overshadowed completely by their brand. While they’ve undoubtedly sold millions of tickets and T-shirts touring on the strength of nostalgia for their back catalog, their current setlists bear not a single trace of Neighborhoods’ existence.
But by that point Blink didn’t need to be producing new and exciting music, they just needed to exist. The band were signifiers of their era — one that fans now approaching their 30s are desperately seeking a chance to return to. The band’s latest LP California — their first without DeLonge after he once again quit under ironically similar circumstances to his first exit — fared a lot better commercially than its predecessor. But while lead single “Bored To Death” may have given Blink their first Billboard Alternative Songs chart topper since 2003’s “I Miss You,” it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that the band has anything much left in them beyond harmless throwbacks to a sound from a period in time long since past.
Blink-182 now exist to serve this past, and they’ve crossed the line where the work that will constitute their legacy is firmly behind them. They’re operating in their classic rock period. But you don’t get the privilege of looking back without creating something worth looking back at, and Blink became a generation-defining band by giving that generation something potent yet playful to fuel them. They were often dismissed as immature, but what Blink-182 understood is that no one experiences feelings in nuanced, subtle ways. In Blink-182’s universe, anger is felt in between every thread of muscle beneath your skin. Grief is an all-encompassing internal wail, not a calculated whimper. Lust is volatile and unrestrained, not poetic or clean or bloodless.
Juvenility wasn’t anything new for punk bands, yet Blink became pigeonholed by their critics as emotionally stunted frat-bros. Where impudent apathy is usually celebrated in punk music, Blink’s irreverence was deemed irrelevant. Which is a shame, because Blink offered a lot more that critics failed to catch. The band redirected punk ideals to individual concerns — burying into the psyche of the teenage id where their idols like Bad Religion were focusing their aggression outward on a geopolitical scale. Blink’s struggles felt universal — not targeted toward any single national authority, but rather toward the limited freedom inherent under the unassailable expectations of simply being a person.
Blink-182 expressed this discontent more perceptively and accurately than any of their peers, and they ended the first leg of their career as one of the greatest singles bands in recent memory. Not only did the band consistently churn out generational touchstones every few years, but they also amassed an excellent collection of hidden gems that those who dismissed Blink early on never got to experience. Below we celebrate 10 of their absolute best, and discuss why they firmly establish Blink’s status as not merely a generation’s premier class clowns, but their valedictorians as well.
10. “Stay Together For The Kids” (from Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, 2001)
“Stay Together For The Kids” is petty in its depiction of experiencing parental divorce as a child. There’s no nuance or understanding, no empathy for anyone else dealing with the pain of the separation, but rather self-victimization with fingers clearly pointed at the guilty party. Hoppus calls his family “pathetic,” before DeLonge joins in the shaming by accusing his parents of giving their marriage away, rather than being lost in the shuffle themselves. Adhering to a classic Blink formula, the former takes on the tone of despair, while the latter handles the parallel anger — both so lost in their sense of impending damage they become incapable of seeing the day change through the walled-up shades.
The song offers little to help those going through the same situation find resolve, or even a glimmer of hope that everything will eventually turn out all right. It’s purely a pessimistic tantrum, reveling in the unproductive spite because it’s easier to latch onto than an uncertain silver lining. True to their reputation, Blink weren’t ready to move on and handle the trauma with a levelheaded maturity.
But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Despite the obvious anachronism attached to the band’s depiction of youth from above, Blink-182 captured feelings of immature emotional suffering exactly as they are — unflinching in their immediacy and unwilling to dilute the volatility even if it was going to come out embarrassing when spoken aloud. When DeLonge, in his characteristic wail that so much defines the entire spectrum of reactionary teenage angst, screams out to his parents that their marriage belonged to him, he means it without a trace of irony. And he should. At that age, everything was supposed to be yours, and “Stay Together For The Kids” vented that frustration more accurately than any more reasoned approach could have.
The thing about childhood trauma is that it’s not left in the past, but internalized to become a part of who you are. If Blink crafted their ideology from a teenage perspective, it wasn’t them reaching for something that once was. It’s them understanding you never let your childhood go — that it’s an honest and everlasting shade of your present identity. Hoppus’ parents divorced when he was in the third grade, and he spent his youth back and forth between their separate residences as the two distinguished silences reminded him of the noise that used to exist when they all lived under one roof. Kids don’t usually have the capacities to put those feelings into words in real time, and Hoppus revisiting how he felt exactly as it was gave voice to an old mindset he could only adequately crystalize once he was removed from it. “If some stupid poem could fix this home/ I’d read it every day,” he sighs, offering a self-referential take on why millions kept this song, and Blink’s catalog as a whole, constantly on repeat.
9. “Don’t Leave Me” (from Enema Of The State, 1999)
“Nobody likes you when you’re 23″ is Blink-182’s best known lyric, from the band’s most enduring artifact from the ’90s: “What’s My Age Again?” That lyric, and song as a whole, is often touted as the most concise summary of Blink’s ethos: Age is but a number, so you might as well prank-call your girlfriend’s mom until the day you die. “I never wanna act my age,” Hoppus offers as a rallying cry toward the track’s end, as the backing vocals stretch out a plea for the girl whom he so casually and repeatedly offended to “please stay with me.” Those harmonies are the frightened shadow to the band’s apathetic demeanor. Even as they scoff at their dissenters, they know that rebelling against social norms leaves only sparsely populated roads to follow.
Yet even for its generational MTV impact and mythology-cementing, “What’s My Age Again?” is not Blink’s best depiction of youthful insolence and the resulting self-doubt. That honor goes to “Don’t Leave Me,” another Enema Of The State standout that laughs at its own impudence while still trying to conceal the embittered loneliness of defensive detachment. “Don’t Leave Me” isn’t about preserving romance, it’s about dreading solitude. If Hoppus has the instinct to fight to save the relationship this time, it’s not because he wants them to be together, but rather because he doesn’t want to be alone. “Don’t Leave Me” is a cry for help, but rather than approach the task with bravery, Hoppus defects to bravado. So even when he’s committed to keeping a relationship together because he’s afraid of having nothing to hold onto, he can’t help but offer one last witticism that derails his intentions. He fights fear with fire, and subsequently burns away his safety net. And the closest he can muster to an apology winds up being one of Blink’s funniest choruses: “I said, ‘Don’t let your future be destroyed by my past.’/ She said, ‘Don’t let my door hit your ass.'”
Blink eulogized being “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time,” long before Taylor Swift turned 22, but their version of young adulthood was a lot more honest and brutal than Swift’s romanticization. Being in your 20s is saying the wrong things while acting the wrong way, but justifying your intentions to maintain your integrity. “Don’t Leave Me” is about having the last laugh no one will hear.
8. “Always” (from Blink-182, 2003)
“Always” is a caricature of pop music’s male ego. When DeLonge’s apology to a fleeing flame only goes as far as “I’ll admit I’m wrong if you tell me,” it’s hard not to now hear Justin Bieber back-handedly crooning that he’s “missing more than just your body,” or Drake differentiating the good girls of the world from the bad on “Hotline Bling.” DeLonge is basically saying: “Hey girl, I’m trying. What the hell’s your problem?” By the time he gets to the chorus, DeLonge’s barely interested in presenting a rational case anymore and is just begging that you “come on” and let him in so he can “kiss you, taste you all night.”
It’s not exactly a sentiment that would win anyone over in real life, yet it’s precisely this bruised ego and careless desperation that makes “Always” one of Blink’s most enduring songs. From the widescreen synth bleeds to the pattering stereophonic drum scats, the warm palette of new wave textures turns out to be a good look for the band. Although Robert Smith actually contributed vocals to a different song off the band’s eponymous album, nowhere else does Blink-182 more successfully incorporate the melodramatic magic of the Cure than on “Always.” Hoppus’ songwriting style, a mopey aggression equally accusatory toward others and himself, always seemed more directly influenced by the likes of Smith, yet it took DeLonge’s unhinged moan to infuse “Always” with the maudlin sleaze it needed to thrive.
DeLonge was the more carnal songwriter; the snottier id to Hoppus’ dejected ego. “Always” works in spite of the faults in DeLonge’s emotional approach because of the sheer strength of his conviction. You know he’s trying to win her back for the wrong reasons, but you can’t deny that when he sings of the two as “dying,” the word choice doesn’t seem dramatic to him. DeLonge would go on to explore a theatrical savior-complex to unfortunate effect in his post-Blink band Angels And Airwaves, and there are way too many Blink songs where the band’s sense of self-importance leads them to innocently fighting for a misguided conclusion. Yet “Always” endures, in part because it’s the most convinced of its own merit — selling its faults in searing high-definition with undeniable heart.
7. “Man Overboard” (From The Mark, Tom, And Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back), 2000)
Blink-182’s greatest strength was their economy; the band never dressed their songs in unnecessary production flourishes or extended instrumental breaks. They got in right away and quickly backed out, but then stayed in your head all day. There’s a craft to this, and Blink were unequivocally the best in the game, hammering out so many functional choruses through their career they often fit two per song (e.g., “Feeling This”).
“Man Overboard,” a studio one-off accompanying the band’s Enema Of The State-era live album, is composed solely of hooks. There’s not a single section that couldn’t function as the song’s center, with one of Hoppus’ all-time best bass lines reigning most identifiable as a chorus. But all three band members are truly in top form, with DeLonge’s guitar work in the second verse recalling the punchy snaps of the band’s earliest recordings. It all clicks perfectly on impact.
The song allegedly illustrates Hoppus and DeLonge’s relationship with former drummer Scott Raynor’s alcohol abuse. Alternating between remorseful affection and cold bitterness, Blink cover the entire emotional spectrum. The overlap in their distinct vocal parts — each one adopting different tones in discussing their troubled former friend — serve to offer a conflicted account out of two unambiguous narratives. “So sorry, it’s over,” Hoppus tenderly states as a matter-of-fact, as DeLonge bemoans that there’s “so much more that [he] wanted” from Raynor. Where Hoppus at least wants to “take some time to talk this over,” DeLonge is contemptuous, sneering: “You can only lean on me for so long.”
The best Blink songs have always featured Hoppus and DeLonge bouncing off one another their respective takes on a singular topic, which is one of the reasons the DeLonge-less California sounds like a Blink album without offering any of the dynamism that made Blink stand out at the turn of the century. Unlike almost every songwriting duo in popular music, from McCartney and Lennon to Big Boi and André 3000, Blink fans rarely argue about who was the more valuable voice between Hoppus and DeLonge. In part that’s because both of their respective side and solo projects have been equally regrettable as to discredit the notion that either offers all that much individually over the other. Moreover, it’s because Blink are at their best when those two voices coexist as one unequivocal pulse.
6. “Carousel” (from Cheshire Cat, 1995)
As the first song from the very first Blink LP, “Carousel” comes off as a statement of intent. The band kicks up a lot of dust on an opening lattice of bass and guitar leads that, after nearly a minute of skipping around one another, crescendo into a full-on thrashing. It’s almost halfway into the song before DeLonge finally gets his first word in, sounding characteristically snotty and hoarse, as would come to be his trademark. But compared to the rowdy humorists Blink would reveal themselves to be not only in later years but deeper into the same album, “Carousel” is decidedly morose. By the time we first meet Blink-182 the party’s already over, and in its place is a deserted ghost town DeLonge no longer wishes to call home.
School’s out, and where DeLonge expected to cherish his newfound freedom from 12 years of institutional oppression, he instead finds the quietude unsettling. He practically mourns his time back in school on “Carousel”, offering a dirge for days gone by when, at the time, he was probably counting down individual minutes to summer vacation. It speaks to the universal student condition: that you can’t wait to graduate until you actually do, because when you look back you realize that school isn’t so much of a prison as it is a playpen. It’s shelter and purpose from the aimless outside world, but more importantly, it’s a space for companionship.
Yet it doesn’t last forever, and gone after graduation are those same friends who are now off starting the rest of their lives. “Aren’t you feeling alone?” DeLonge asks, hoping he’s not the only one weighed down by the false start and subsequent vacuum left in its wake. He’s reeling, first from the lack of “motion from the telephone,” but then the loneliness he feels even after the rare moments when he can catch a glimmer of his friends’ voices. “Carousel” is his attempt to scream loud enough that the slapback from his echo might feign the sound of conversation. Or at the very least, it could cover up the silence before it swallows him whole.
5. “Anthem” (from Enema Of The State, 1999)
“Anthem” is the epitome of what everyone assumed Blink was, and is the image of youth every adult secretly wishes they embodied after they grew up and found out recklessness had consequences. The narrative is straightforward: DeLonge throws a house party for his band, tries to cover it up when his parents get home, bemoans their control while at the same time boasting that he’s beyond it, and then fantasizes about running away and binge-drinking when he’s finally old enough to buy booze.
Yet the song is less about the story than it is about the spirit. The imagery is inflammatory, with DeLonge comparing his parents to slave masters and himself to a ticking time bomb ready to combust, but it’s also evocative. The details capture a time when all rebellion had to be in secret — of telling “white lies” with “bloodshot eyes.” A time when the reason to be antagonistic itself was unknown, both to his parents and, one imagines, to DeLonge himself. When you’re young there’s no way you could explain the plan even if you wanted, because there is no plan. There’s just an unyielding restlessness, one echoed by the songs muscular bombast and frenetic rush to topple over itself.
DeLonge leans into that youthful abandon as if angst is fuel for celebration. He parades the virtues of passing out on the lawn from stolen alcohol, as if he was singing while ribbon twirling with rolls of toilet paper. True to its title, “Anthem” is a rallying cry for adolescent aggression, with the repeated “I time bomb” chant an emphatic threat recycled from generation to generation as each passes through the pressure cooker of being a teenager. The irony is that ultimately we all grow up and our menace gradually settles into an apathetic grumble. The ticking slows down, and the explosives become covered in dust, and what remains is a dormant weight that’s lost its capacity to light. You’ll wish your friends were 21, but only if you’ll always remain 18.
4. “I Miss You” (from Blink-182, 2003)
In all the cacophonous bickering that was publicly traded as Blink imploded for the second time in the second consecutive decade, DeLonge’s behavior is easily the least defensible. Both sides offer conflicting reports, but even just DeLonge’s perspective is far from consistent. First, DeLonge denied he ever quit the band, and then later tried to turn the angle into him and Hoppus having once discussed kicking Barker out, before finally settling on the line, “Never planned on quitting, just find it hard as hell to commit,” in a lengthy Facebook post. Then eventually, as it always seems to with DeLonge, the press cycle returned to aliens. But even if you take DeLonge’s word for it, there’s no denying that it’s clear Blink wasn’t his priority, and if Hoppus and Barker were trying to keep the Blink reunion momentum moving, DeLonge was the one actively holding it back.
Yet DeLonge is not entirely without sympathy, because can you really blame him for wanting to move on from his old post-prepubescent outfit? I empathize, because even as a fan I know my moment with Blink has long since passed its prime. And while I can appreciate everything the band was to me, what they will be for others, and even what they are now, the same sense of urgent release their music used to elicit when I first discovered them rarely returns. Instead of being hit with a rush of defiant excitement, I’m often smacked by a solemn sucker punch because of the pain of knowing there’s an absence of such. I long to reconnect with the band as I used to, missing not the music itself but how I used to respond to it. I would guess that DeLonge feels the same way, nostalgic for what Blink once did for him, but knowing the magic’s gone not from the band but from his own capacity to engage with it. I guess this is growing up.
That desire to a return to what no longer exists is at the heart of DeLonge’s mantra of hopeless affection on the iconic hook of 2003’s “I Miss You,” a heart-choking ache into the ether. “Don’t waste your time on me, you’re already/ The voice inside my head,” DeLonge emotes with nasal longing, pronouncing his “h”‘s like bleary “y”‘s, equally bitter as he is apologetic. For all the youthful apathy the band so proudly paraded during the prior eight years, “I Miss You” was Blink sobering up the next morning and ruminating over the post-party pangs of loneliness.
“I Miss You” is the most vulnerable Blink ever got. Hoppus and DeLonge trade verses about the devastating effects of depression on a relationship, and more broadly the unnerving desire to reconnect with what you know is already gone. It captures succinctly how desolate memories can feel. Atop a backdrop that was at the time truly unrecognizable for the band — an acoustic, orchestral romp with upright bass and a brushstroked drum loop — Blink wax regretfully about what they’ve lost, pleading in devastation, “Won’t you come home and stop this pain tonight?” They’re aware that even back then there was still pain, but it was a more familiar one — one that feels manageable in hindsight because they know they’ll never get a chance to prove to themselves that it actually wasn’t.
That’s the most soul-crushing realization of “I Miss You,” that what you hope to return to might no longer exist for a reason — that your interpretation of a moment might be all you can do to cope with the guilt of either letting it go or forgetting to cherish it when you still could.
3. “Waggy” (from Dude Ranch, 1997)
One of the least-taught lessons of childhood is learning to accept discontinuities. We try so hard to put all the components of a picturesque existence together that when we find a puzzle piece with a broken edge that doesn’t fit, we often try to force it into place rather than accepting that it’s incongruous. And while enduring through a difficult situation shows a degree of strength, it takes a considerable amount more to be able to let go. That’s the moral of “Waggy” — that it’s better choosing to get lost in the optimistic unknown rather than stuck in the reductive familiar.
Originally appearing on Blink’s unfortunately titled They Came To Conquer…Uranus EP, “Waggy” later returned on the band’s second album Dude Ranch, where it offers about as much of an emotional centerpiece as an album featuring a song titled “Dick Lips” possibly could. Over a terse gallop of DeLonge’s plowing guitar histrionics, Hoppus tells a story of finding the strength to walk away from a relationship that’s offered little reciprocity. He’s simultaneously optimistic and frightened, pushing himself to be proud even when he’s terrified of what comes next. The music captures that jittery tension in all its oscillating conviction — burying pride in a blanket of suffocating distortion used to keep out the harsh light.
Hoppus is at his best as a lyricist, capturing succinctly the deflections he’s endured before standing up and kissing off like a champion of the form. When he delivers a line like, “You say you want someone to call your own/ Open your eyes, you can suck in your pride/ You can live your life all on your own,” it’s unclear whether this is a “fuck you” to a lover who didn’t value him, or an assertion to himself that he’s beyond being unvalued. His intentions are more clear when he tries to affirm his position: “I know I’ll get it right but I don’t know when/ I’ll open my eyes, I’ve got something in side/ I’ll just jack off in my room until then.” It’s a perfect pathos of lines that captures chest-puffing for the shallow airbag cushioning it is. Sure his words are crude, but at that age, crude is the truth.
Ultimately, “Waggy” is about learning self-control by indulging in other vices. There’s no maturity, just enmity — but a kind that feels like self-empowerment. It’s a song that reaches the right conclusions through the wrong methods. Hoppus can’t keep playing the part of the fool week after week, but he’s also not going to discover who he should be instead through self-pitying masturbation. He’s upset; he feels rejected even though he’s the one walking away. But that’s how it always feels. You don’t feel good leaving a bad situation, you feel defeated knowing you couldn’t make who you loved appreciate you in the way you wanted. It’s the kind of experience that can shake your self-confidence to its core. And how do you recover from that? Most of us don’t even try, because it’s terrifying to navigate ourselves unknowingly. “Waggy” is a self-portrait of us all — children jerking off when we’re afraid of the dark.
2. “Adam’s Song” (from Enema Of The State, 1999)
A band like Blink-182 was never built to tackle subject matter as emotionally charged as teen suicide. If the mere existence of “Adam’s Song” wasn’t remarkable enough, the fact that the band positioned it on Enema Of The State between a take-down of sleazeballs with STDs (“Dysentery Gary”) and the band’s puppy-dog idealism of young love that doesn’t get much deeper than “Nana nana nananana na na” (“All The Small Things”) is all the more mind-boggling. Given Blink’s reputation by that point, the odds were that “Adam’s Song” would be a disaster — embarrassing, if not outright disrespectful.
And yet “Adam’s Song” is a triumph — a deeply considered, mindful exploration, that, if a bit simplistic, was at least emotionally resonant. The lyrics are delivered in the form of a suicide note, and push the band creatively beyond anything they’d ever attempted in the past. Both thematically and sonically, “Adam’s Song” was and remains a complete outlier in Blink’s catalogue. Perhaps more remarkably, the song became a hit, and is one of the band’s best-known songs.
Blink lyrics don’t usually paint portraiture, instead existing as fragmentary segments of a single train of thought. But “Adam’s Song” is a detailed character study of Hoppus’ own psyche as he goes from a place of resolute hopelessness to careful optimism. Depression takes many forms, and Hoppus draws both within and between the lines as he casts poetic brush strokes to detail the moving pieces in his semi-autobiographical character’s mind. Along the way he alludes to associations with his actions to Nirvana and Julius Caesar, wonders if he’ll be remembered after the fallout, and feels residual guilt from a childhood making messes others had to clean up. The last thread traces to a hesitant pause, before a final request that the reader of his letter, “Please tell mom this is not her fault.” It’s a striking moment, one that always overwhelms me; an illustration that even in the conviction of cutting your ties to everything all at once, there are still insurmountable bonds that will keep you tethered to life.
1. “Dammit” (from Dude Ranch, 1997)
The greatest criticism tossed at Blink-182 is that they never grew up — that they were emotionally stunted songwriters who weren’t dangerous enough for punk and refused to “act their age.” Their track record is remarkably consistent with this impression, and more often than not the age at which they released their singles was far beyond the target demographic that would most relate. On “A New Hope,” Hoppus described a non-graphic wet dream about Star Wars’ Princess Leia when he was already half-way through his 20s. Later, in “What’s My Age Again?,” Hoppus complained of the burden of being 23 when in reality he was 27. It all became self-caricatural when on their next album, as the band approached their 30s, they doubled down on the adolescent despair and sang of nerves on first dates, bringing Warped Tour girls home when their parents are out of town, and emotional roller coasters in the metaphor of…well, roller coasters.
But while no one was ever going to call Blink-182 a band “beyond their years,” was Blink really a band that offered nothing by way of grown-up perspective? As I age I seem to be figuring less and less out, and if those even older than me seem settled, they rarely seem content. While I empathized emphatically with the hard luck anxiety of “Dammit” when I was 14, the song’s perspective has only come to resonate more as I’ve gotten older. That feeling of “When I move, I’m flailing” has only become more visceral, not nostalgic.
It’s the depressing universalism of the human experience — life will keep happening, we’ll keep being “a day late, a buck short,” and never truly understand how to handle it. “Dammit” is dodging fear through anger, confusion with unreasoned conviction. We all think we know the correct way of expressing ourselves in distress, but that’s only the case when we aren’t in it ourselves. Meanwhile, when our emotions start creeping up outside of our own volition, it’s impossible to be anything but volatile — to find solace in the venom of proclaiming, “It won’t last/ When he’s gone, I won’t come back,” even though no one’s listening. “Dammit” finds catharsis by being so loud that it smothers any opposing viewpoints. It’s an attempt to find comfort even though you know you’re wrong by putting off being told so.
“Dammit” is the aggravated companion to LCD Soundsystem’s wistful “All My Friends” — a generational anthem to express the discontinuity between the passage of time in the external world and your own internal hourglass. It’s the drunken stumble, going from the party where everyone’s disorientation matches your own to form some sort of equilibrium, to the solitary walk home where the world’s so stubbornly fixed that you finally realize you’ve actually been hurdling slanted towards the sideways the whole time. “Dammit” isn’t Blink sobering up, but their head pulsating at the end of the night working its way to becoming the next day’s hangover. It’s everyone’s morning resolve that “they’re never drinking again,” a lie they’ll believe until the headache alleviates and Friday returns right on schedule even though you haven’t taken any new steps to become better at controlling yourself in the meantime. It’s the recycled mistake you’ll always make — because growing up doesn’t mean you’ll stop fucking up, it only means the stakes are higher when you do.
“Dammit” isn’t about dealing with those consequences, but it is very much about looking directly into the aftermath. Hoppus dove so deep into this relationship that he comes out seeking refuge only to find that “everybody’s gone.” Where James Murphy’s existential reality boiled down to the not-quite-rhetorical-not-quite-literal question, “Where are my friends tonight?” Hoppus isn’t even interested in any answers. He simply turns back, absolves himself of any hope, and shrugs “Well, I guess this is growing up.” He’s used to failing (“it’s happened once again”) so he’ll do what he’s always done and try to find a place to crash until the next time he goes back out.
It comes back to Blink’s best quality — their unflinching honesty. You can fault them for employing cheap riffs or unrefined sentiments, but you can’t deny that there’s power in both. Everyone can sing the guitar riff of “Dammit,” and everyone can read into exactly the frustration those notes are expressing. Blink realized that what everyone meant when they were being shouted at to “grow up” wasn’t to develop into a more mature person, but to neglect the honest parts of yourself that are petty, jealous, anxious, and unhappy. Blink testified in opposition and never cleaned up their approach, because to do so would be to conform to a definition they don’t believe in — cementing their status as some of the truest punks in the game. We’re fortunate that Blink never left their youth behind, because the whole time they were never failing to act their age; they were proof that your age doesn’t have to define how you’re allowed to act.
Listen to the playlist on Spotify.