Review Summary: blink-182's raw efforts in Buddha give them some shining lyrics and memorable musicianship. Don't be thrown off by the fact that they later became radio stars, Buddha shows a completely different side of these California pop-punkers.
Before Mark, Tom, and Travis were playing in huge arenas, Mark, Tom, and Scott were playing in Tom's basement. Before What's My Again and All The Small Things filled the radio, Carousel was blink-182''s gem. Before Tom had enough nerve to create the "best band in the world," Angels & Airwaves, he was an 18 year old kid playing distorted punk riffs and making fart jokes.
Buddha was blink-182's first attempt in a studio. Recorded over three rainy nights, with a very sick Mark Hoppus, Buddha was originally released on a limited cassette tape with no title and a big picture of Buddha on the front. However, in 1995, Kung Fu records agreed to remix and remaster the album and release Buddha on a disc. The inside front cover reads, "Please enjoy this whimsical journey back to our humble beginnings."
And while Buddha may not be exactly whimsical, it is no doubt incredibly enjoyable.
One of the great things about Buddha is that the music is completely unrestrained. It is the way Mark, Tom, and Scott played it, no keyboards or synth backing them up. This is raw blink-182. Tom's screeching voice is completely untamed and Mark, well, he sounds pretty much the same. Scott is relentlessly banging the drums as if there is no tomorrow. Listen to the opening track, Carousel. Tell me that isn't some amazing drum work. Oh, I almost forgot the best part about all this. Tom is actually good
at guitar! It's hard to believe, but if you hear My Pet Sally or the rolling Romeo & Rebecca, you may come to this shocking realization. Most importantly, listen to the guitar solo in Reebok Commercial. That's right, a guitar solo in a blink-182 song. While Mark does have his shining moment in Carousel, his bass work on the rest of the album is sadly unnoticeable and bland. This is not saying it is weak or bad, only that his bass blends into the background, providing a backdrop from Tom and Scott to paint their beautiful murals upon. Clearly, blink was much more focused on the music in their earlier days.
It seems that where Buddha lacks in musicianship, it makes up with captivating lyrics. T.V., obviously about television, has some of Mark's fastest, catchiest lines. Reebok Commercial tells a story about a boy being brought up with no money, compared to the rich girl he loves. The Girl Next Door tells yet another tale of a girl who lives a boring, dull life where she does the same thing every day, eventually leading to her suicidal drowning. Although this song is a Screeching Weasel cover, it is one of the shining moments of Buddha.
Though there are times when each individual member of blink takes time to show off their personal skill, Buddha's best moments are those when each member comes together to meld their sounds into the best songs on the album. The bass into in Carousel leads up to one of the best tracks on Buddha. Carousel is an all-out pop-punk thrash with fast, screaming lyrics and great musicianship by all three members. 21 Days is another standout track. The rolling bass intro with clean electric guitars playing along leads up to the love story sung out by Tom. Thanks to the lyrics, The Girl Next Door is easily one of the songs on Buddha you will be singing along to every time you hear it. The addictive guitar riff and chorus of, "Every day's the same." is hauntingly catchy. The upbeat, bumbling Time is the final gem you will find on Buddha. The poppy, almost reggae-esque intro leads to Mark's howling song about not having to worry about time. While there isn't one bad or intolerable song on Buddha, there is a clear line between the standout, great tracks and the forgettable, yet catchy rest of the album.
Although blink-182's future would be filled with fart jokes and annoying choruses of "na-na-na-na-na-na....," Buddha shows a different side of the band. Here, we get to see what the boys are like when they're not surrounded by thousands of topless teenage girls. We hear the raw, screeching blink-182 that is begging to be recognized and make it big. Although they eventually did "go big" it may not have been for the better. I'll let you decide.