It’s almost a given that the story of blink-182 is already familiar to most fans of current rock music. The scrappy pop-punk band forms in suburban San Diego in 1993, releases their debut album Cheshire Cat on a local label and four albums, countless stages and several million albums later, ends up as one of the world’s most wanted, most recognized and most emulated pop-punk acts.
However, it’s the new story of blink-182 that’s rather different.
It starts with nearly the same intro, back in the house of a San Diego suburb — this time, it’s a decade later and a rented house in Rancho Santa Fe — where band members Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker spent hours on end discussing, writing, rehearsing and assembling their fifth untitled (not self-titled) full-length in early 2003.
The mere shift in environment is one of the many foreshadowing elements in blink-182’s latest, most challenging endeavors. Not only does the new album represent a new approach — it really represents an entirely revamped and mature Blink-182.
“On this album, we really made a conscious effort to go in with the attitude that we're not making our next record, we're making our first record,” says Hoppus. “So we went in, and we didn't think about what people expect from blink-182. If we had an idea, we wouldn't second guess, ‘Does that sound like blink-182?’ If that's an idea that we love, then what it'll sound like.”
Armed with this new sense of creative freedom, blink-182’s new album is quite the departure from their previous efforts of primarily guitar/bass/drums pop punk rock. And their redirected vision was further refined by long-time collaborator and producer Jerry Finn, whom Hoppus likens to “the fourth member of Blink.”
Partially ignited by lifestyle changes — all three members became fathers recently — and side projects (including Barker’s electronica-inspired punk act the Transplants and the dark, experimental rock of DeLonge and Barker’s Boxcar Racer), the new album showcases Blink-182 on an entirely new plane — whether it be instrumental or compositional.
“Go” is a blazing track, clocking in at just under two minutes, revolving around a single-stringed guitar riff. “Feeling This,” the album’s first single, finds itself oscillating between manic, compressed verses, while half-timed rhythms dominate the choruses. “That’s the first song we wrote for the album,” Hoppus notes. “It’s about love and sex. The verses are very passionate, basic sides of sex. The choruses are a lot more romantic.” The spoken-word verses of “Violence” by DeLonge and Hoppus are nearly stripped naked, merely backed by a couple shakers and some finger snaps. “Here’s Your Letter” is a powerful, straightforward cut, featuring the impressive stickwork of Barker.
And the act enlisted a few friends for some creative input — namely the aforementioned Finn on harmonium, The Cure’s Robert Smith guest vocal appearance on “All Of This,” Cypress Hill’s Sick Jacken production on “Fallen Interlude” and Failure/Year Of The Rabbit guitarist Ken Andrews contributing his two cents. blink-182 also enlisted the mixing talents of Finn, Tom Lord-Alge, Andy Wallace and Ryan Hewitt.
But, it’s not just musically where blink-182 have turned the page. There’s a new sense of maturity lyrically, as the new album is also blink-182’s most serious effort to date.
“We don't have any joke songs or anything like that on the record,” says Hoppus. “Everything's pretty straightforward. On the other albums, we'd have 12 songs on them and two of them would be the joke songs. On this one, we don't have any.”
The new album is also more of a concept-oriented collection of tracks, featuring a host of interludes that bridge songs together.
“It’s one of those albums where if you don’t listen to one song on it, you’re not going to get it,” Barker explains. “You’ve gotta listen to the whole thing — it’s kinda lllike a mini-movie.”
Although certain song themes might appear as simplistic as “having sex with your girlfriend” (“Feeling This”), “Stockholm Syndrome” is an incredibly touching and introspective track, with spoken word lyrics extracted from letters written by Hoppus’ grandmother to his grandfather during World War II.
Inspiration with blink-182 is also rooted in interests that probably many wouldn’t have imagined.
“I only read non-fiction books,” DeLonge says. “I have a book that I bought that’s the Oxford Guide To The United States Of The America’s Government. It’s just like a textbook that describes everything there is about government. I have books on the Rockfeller family starting the Chase Manhattan bank. Anything that has to do with wealth and power and how it affects government I’m very, very into. And no one knows this shit until they come and talk to [me] about it — people don’t expect that. I think that’s another reason why people are gonna kind of trip out on the record. Because there’s a lot of things that people don’t know about blink and think that Blink’s a certain way.”
Once again proving that things don’t always have to work a prescribed, certain way, blink-182 opted to launch the release of their latest album with the DollaBill club tour, performing selected dates in advance of the album’s release in intimate venues throughout the nation, in an effort to reach out and support to those who had supported the act throughout the years — their fans. Most incredible of all, every ticket on the entire tour was priced at one dollar.
Still, blink-182 affirm that the act haven’t turned a new corner when it comes to entertaining their audiences on stage.
“We're not done with the jokes,” Hoppus says. “We're just ourselves. We'll always be ourselves. Sometimes we'll act like idiots, sometimes we're serious, sometimes we'll just be whatever.”
“If I’m in front of a lot people, I’m gonna say something stupid,” DeLonge adds. “I have fun when I play no matter how sad the next song’s gonna be. Our shows are always going to be like that.”