Before you even pressed play, it was clear Blink-182 were picking up right where they left off. On the opener for 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, which turns 20 tomorrow, the trio of bassist-vocalist Mark Hoppus, guitarist-vocalist Tom Delonge, and drummer Travis Barker made their ambitions clear. They’d found mainstream success a couple years prior with their breakthrough, Enema Of The State, and, rather than branching off into a different direction, they doubled down on the juvenile pop-punk they had come to be famous for. They made this continuity apparent by naming the opener “Anthem Part Two,” marking it as a sequel to Enema Of The State’s closing track, “Anthem.”
Another way the album telegraphed its resemblance to its predecessor: an incredibly crude album title. The group brainstormed some other names for the record, lewd puns including If You See Kay (what does that spell?) and Genital Ben, an allusion to the 1965 children’s novel Gentle Ben. Eventually, they settled on Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, proving that they hadn’t grown up just yet. Blink-182 wouldn’t reach “maturity” or fully embrace earnestness until their 2003 self-titled record. In the interim, Take Off showcased an elevated version of Blink-182 that fans were well-acquainted with, replete with refined songwriting and incredibly infectious hooks.
After “Anthem Part Two,” the trio maintains its momentum with “Online Songs.” It’s a blistering track that plays like a sequel to Dude Ranch‘s “Josie,” Hoppus venting about his jealousy and frustration with lines such as “Please don’t remind me, put your past behind me/ It shines so bright it blinds me, I wish that this would end.” DeLonge follows it up with one of the band’s biggest hits, “First Date.” Following Barker’s iconic opening drum fill, DeLonge sings about his nerves and anticipation: “I dread the thought of our very first kiss/ A target that I’m probably gonna miss.”
As expected, Hoppus and DeLonge (whose musical output may soon be overshadowed by his career as an increasingly legitimized alien expert) trade songs like an Olympic torch, creating a dynamic experience built on the ’90s alt-rock formula of quiet verses and loud choruses. Lyrically, the album centers on parties, sex, and, of course, high school angst. Although most of Take Off revolves around light-hearted concepts, “Stay Together For The Kids” takes a dismal turn in a similar way that “Adam’s Song” did on Enema Of The State. Its lyrics explore the tragic effects of divorce, and it’s the only track on the record where Hoppus and DeLonge, who both have divorced parents, share lead vocal duties. The music video includes a wrecking ball swinging into a house, a metaphor even less subtle than the band’s album titles.
“Stay Together For The Kids” foreshadowed where Blink-182 would go next, a sentiment DeLonge laid out in the tour program for Take Off. Writing about closer “Please Take Me Home,” he said the “next record will have more songs like this and STFTK. These songs are fun to play.” DeLonge wanted the band to take itself more seriously and draw from post-hardcore bands like Refused and Fugazi, a style he explored in his side project with Barker, Box Car Racer. Hoppus, on the other hand, wanted to embrace the potty humor of Enema Of The State. Consequently, this album marks a point where the band began splintering off due to their disparate visions. Given Barker’s later dalliances with hip-hop, perhaps it’s not so crazy to compare this chapter in Blink’s history to Outkast circa their own fourth album Stankonia — two primary creative forces that had always complemented each other now beginning to clash, sparking tension and pressure that would lead to disbandment within a few more years.
While “Stay Together For The Kids” laid groundwork for the future, that tone didn’t define Take Off Your Pants And Jacket entirely. MCA still got the final say, and they requested the trio stick to their pop-punk guns. Enema Of The State made plenty of money, and the label didn’t want Blink to take any risks. This is how we ended up with Take Off‘s two biggest songs, “The Rock Show” and “First Date.” MCA’s executives were dissatisfied with the initial tracklist, so the band’s manager complained that there weren’t any summertime singles. Annoyed, Hoppus and DeLonge each wrote their own deliberately corny single. It’s also how we got the lyric that is arguably the record’s thesis statement: “I couldn’t wait for the summer and the Warped Tour.” The strategy obviously worked, as Take Off debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. (Many have called it the first categorically “punk” album to hit #1 in America, though others might argue No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom deserves the designation.)
DeLonge, however, felt that the record took no “creative leaps or bounds.” You can hear his and Hoppus’ ideas colliding rather than merging. “Story Of A Lonely Guy” is a brief glimpse of where DeLonge wanted to take Blink: laden with modulated guitars and Barker’s snare clicks, taking a quieter and more solemn approach than what the band was characteristically known for. “Happy Holidays, You Bastard,” by contrast, is juvenile for no substantial purpose, comparable to their most profane material such as “Family Reunion” and “Blow Job.” Though Take Off still highlights some of Blink’s best songwriting, you can palpably hear the first few moments of DeLonge’s disillusionment.
From this point, it’s a well-documented story. Two years later, Blink-182 released their eponymous record and broke up not long thereafter. DeLonge started his galactic alt-rock outfit Angels & Airwaves while Hoppus and Barker founded +44. It wasn’t too long before all three members reappeared on the Grammys stage in 2009 to announce their reunion. They embarked on a reunion tour and released 2011’s Neighborhoods, only to break up for a second time. Turns out they weren’t staying together for the kids, after all. Hoppus and Barker trekked on, recruiting Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba to replace DeLonge and continue their Blink-182 endeavors. It’s been a tumultuous journey for this band.
That’s partly what makes Take Off Your Pants And Jacket such an endearing time capsule. Although Blink’s arduous future was just beginning to form, it also shows Delonge, Hoppus, and Barker in a (mostly) harmonious light that they will likely never again return to. In the album’s reissue liner notes, Hoppus called Take Off “the permanent record of a band in transition.” He continued, “Take Off Your Pants And Jacket was our confused, contentious, brilliant, painful, cathartic leap into the unknown!” Even though Blink-182 adhered to the pop-punk foundation laid out on Enema Of The State, Take Off would prove to be a launchpad for the trio’s divided future. It presents a band that was destined to fracture, but not before writing some of the catchiest choruses you’ve ever heard.