The truth was out there. After leaving Blink-182 in 2015 to focus on studying UFOs, singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge is returning as the frontman of a group that took him to stardom. With DeLonge back, tickets for Blink-182’s new world tour have sold out practically within minutes, despite many fans’ complaints about the price.
The trio, which also includes bassist Mark Hoppus, who recently recovered from cancer, and drummer Travis Barker, is deeply linked to the culture and sensibility from the end of 2000. Blink-182 sold out stadiums and dominated radio stations with fart jokes, sex jokes and teenage foolery. The band’s rise to fame coincided with the American Pie movies (1999-2012), in which they contributed songs and even made a cameo, MTV shows such as Jackass, and even the boom in boy bands such as NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. The group mocked these boy bands in the music video for All the Small Things, even though the fans of the two were not so different. Today, the nostalgia of their now-adult fans, along with the band’s iconic repertoire, seems to have outweighed any fears about how their music has aged.
In 2021, the comedian Chris Thorburn made a video parodying the predicament of those nostalgic for the hedonistic pre-9/11 culture of the end of the millennium. In the clip, he shows a girl a movie – invented for the sketch – that he used to find funny. He pales as it unveils a string of diarrhea gags, sexist and homophobic jokes and a tribute to US troops in Iraq.
The final gag comes in the credits, with a song that the protagonist “hadn’t heard in a while”: a version of Blink-182′s Dammit, which includes the line “that’s why women should earn less.” This lyric wasn’t actually part of the original song, but Blink-182 did play for US troops in Iraq, and their lyrics don’t stray far from the clichés lampooned in that video. Drummer Travis Barker’s new status in the Kardashian celebrity ecosystem – he has married Kourtney three times – would have been a fatal blow for the credibility of any punk group. But Blink-182 hasn’t fallen into the same oblivion as contemporaries such as Smash Mouth.
“The other day I went to see Sum-41 and Simple Plan at the WiZink Center [in Madrid]. Simple Plan played a piece of Smash Mouth’s All Star and we all laughed. It was celebrated as a meme. That is something that does not happen with Blink-182,” cultural journalist Pablo Fluiters tells EL PAÍS. “Despite everything that Blink-182 may have against them, they are truly a defining group of the scene, a generator group like Bad Religion or The Sex Pistols were in their day. The number of groups that cover them is monstrous. Even bigger or older bands, such as NOFX or Green Day, changed their sound and what they did when [Blink 182] came out.”
Staying together for the kids
DeLonge has always pointed to NOFX’s Punk in Drublic album as Blink-182′s main influence, but unlike the punk group, there is nothing political about Blink-182′s music. Instead, the band reimagined its predecessors’ sound by marrying it with catchy pop. Regarding the song What’s My Age Again?, journalist Jorge Loser wrote in the online magazine Canino: “The chorus offered something that we had already heard, but in a whole new way: the riff of the middle of Basket Case by Green Day, with a single chord changed, with the same rhythm and beat, with the voice accompanying the rhythm and an unforgettable: Nobody likes you when you’re 23.”
Now, 23 years have elapsed since the song’s release. It was part of the album Enema of the State (1999), the band’s most emblematic album, produced by Jerry Finn, who also mixed Green Day’s Dookie (1994), and it was released by MCA.
“Blink-182 decided that punk authenticity is a farce. They believed that a multinational company was going to give them more money and they went there from the beginning. Green Day or The Offspring, at least, did work at some point with independent labels linked to the scene. The great influence of Blink-182 is the idea that punk is just normal music, like all the rest, and that you don’t have to self-distribute, but you can be a rock star doing punk. In the 1970s, the Pistols, The Ramones and the Clash had that clear, but in the 1980s the scene concentrated on itself. They all withdrew from each other, and there was that idea of punk as sacrifice and penance. They ruled it out completely,” explains Fluiters. “[Blink-182] moved away from punk’s story of suffering and did not make political songs. All their lyrics are about being a teenager, about taking drugs, about being sad, about making jokes with friends.”
The band did try to broaden their scope, but with mixed results. In 2004, Blink-182 released an eponymous album, which was intended to mark a new beginning for the group. The success of Adam’s Song, a song about teenage suicide from Enema of the State, led them to delve into social issues with singles such as Stay Together for the Kids. The song’s melodramatic lyrics, about the damage that divorce does to a child, are far more cringe-worthy than the band’s earlier hits. Here’s a sample: “I see them everyday/ We get along so why can’t they?/ If this is what he wants/ And it’s what she wants/ Then why is there so much pain?”
Frustrated at the band’s lack of evolution, DeLonge formed a side project, Angels & Airwaves, which he enthusiastically heralded as “the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation” – a statement that he later admitted to having formulated under the influence of Vicodin. In this century so far, the band’s spotty trajectory has been marked by DeLonge’s comings and goings, his passion for conspiracy theories – the organization he founded to study UFOs leaked the classified videos that the Pentagon released in 2020 – and his tensions with Mark Hoppus.
The band, however, has gained greater visibility thanks to Travis Barker, who, in addition to being a current member of the Kardashian clan, has his own group of followers. “Travis Barker has become a pope who, beyond his personal musical achievements, is promoting a fourth or fifth generation of pop-punk as a producer of Blackbear, Yungblud, Machine Gun Kelly and Avril Lavigne herself. He wants to be the guy who defines that new sound and who other people imitate, something that had already happened on the last two Blink-182 albums without Tom DeLonge,” reflects Fluiters.
Barker is a favorite of the tabloids not only because of his marriage to a Kardashian, but also because of his turbulent personal life. In 2008, he and his friend Michael Goldstein, aka DJ-AM, survived a plane crash in which four people died. Goldstein would die of an overdose a year later. Barker spent weeks in the hospital. He fell into a depression that, according to his own statements in interviews, eventually helped him focus and recover from his addictions.
With the release of the group’s new song, Edging, and the announcement of a new album with DeLonge back on board, Fluiters believes that the band will stop trying to experiment with new sounds and focus on reviving their old one. Now Blink-182 will be able to sing the chorus of Dammit with conviction: “I guess this is growing up.”