It’s one year after “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”, one year before “Blink-182”, and fans are noticing a change in their three favorite young misfits. Stay Together For The Kids
allowed us to hear a lot of pent up anger in the boys, especially Tom, and the band faced a fork in the road dividing tradition and emotion. But it was blink-182’s tour bus stuck at this road, and not Box Car Racer’s. Tom gathered a few musician friends and began recording song ideas that wouldn’t fit in on a blink-182 record, and even though they sort of did a while later, I’m very glad that we have BCR. An interesting blend of blink’s typical songwriting format and a taste of what was to come, Box Car Racer is a bleeding heart of nostalgia and hormones. Carried by DeLonge’s angst-ridden singing the album marked a monumental shift in popular punk music, letting tears and fears right through the front door. The instrumental proficiency got better, the songs got sadder, and an overwhelming departure from their norm created a whole new, about to combust blink-182 – from the day I first listened to this album on my front lawn to right now at this bright computer screen my appreciation for Box Car Racer grew to the point where I feel pained that this might never happen again, but happy that it did anyway.
When the sky seems to clear who will then be left but a few? Me and you.
The lyrics alone don’t feel like anything I’d have expected of blink-182. They’ve never come up short in that department but I’d still never figured Tom for a poet, however amateur; Box Car Racer is easily his best performance on record. Romance and loss weave their way in and out of his words and his voice is clear, ashamed, desperate and confident. He tackles lyrical subjects like his stifled feelings for a friend’s ex-girlfriend, fear of sinning in the face of God, and the mentality of a suicide jumper among other things. It’s clear this side of Tom was prying its way out of him and something like this was inevitable – Box Car Racer is the artistic example of Tom DeLonge himself. Depression wasn’t much of a motif in blink’s musical catalogue but if anyone in the band seemed to be, it was Tom. His subtle insecurities and concealing smile left gossip to be desired. As a biographical piece, Box Car Racer is quite effective. Maybe he’s your favorite blink member or maybe you hate his guts, either way if you want to get to know him I’d say this is a great way to start. What an introduction.
Through crystalline production Box Car Racer avows an immense wrath of despair and distant poetry, songs that were probably never recognized by the people they’re about. Songs about the distracted, the ridiculed, the forgotten and the bored. The album is like a sudden storm; very calm but keen to explode into havoc when the time calls for it. Each time the electric guitar is played in distortion it supports a strong lyrical theme, an interim measure to make a rural song more powerful. At first sight, or listen, the instrumentation of Box Car Racer may not seem like much to write home about but it’s all just as emotionally involved as the vocals. That kind of songwriting is easier for a musician who can’t burn up the fret-board like Van Halen, it’s like their only release, and everything is always so passionate. Sometimes this way of writing turns habitual and becomes generic but every now and then you’ll hear a gem that’ll make you forget about your life and be immersed in another.
There are parts of this record that would have killed me if emotion was deadly. Letters To God
, Cat Like Thief
, all such strong music. Back when Tom didn’t think he was the second coming of Bono, just a punk guitarist with severe back pain, he was an artist by nature and a teenager’s entertainer second. Screw a tour with Weezer and Fall Out Boy, I want Box Car Racer.