Review Summary: great pop-punk = diversity((energy + hooks)³ + honesty² + seamless experimentation)
Easily the most common criticism of pop-punk is that it is formulaic
, and it's impossible to deny that the accusation carries a hell of a lot of weight, since merely copying the bands that came before you can never really be deemed 'progress' or 'greatness' however catchy you make those hooks. But it's funny when those heckles do come because blink-182
, the self-titled 2003 album from the Californian trailblazers, could be argued as formulaic as well, but it's not, because it created
that formula. Other, lesser bands plug their own numbers into it and the results come up short, but blink-182
is the perfect template for the perfection of the genre, and that's not something I say lightly; the band's last pre-hiatus album is simply an unrivalled example of mastering the genre you play.
And what that entails isn't simply a collection of your influences condensed and spread out across fourteen tracks; it's clear that to be great in pop-punk, you have to be incredible, and there's a reason I instated blink-182 as pioneers in that first paragraph. Things like the piano outro to 'Down', the brevity of something so emotional as 'Go', and the downright weirdness
of 'The Fallen Interlude' - none of these things quite
from being a pop-punk album, but almost all of them nearly
do. The reason the record is still grounded in the same genre as Take Off Your Pants And Jacket
- despite being markedly different - is the foundation of the band's sound, the dominance of powerchords, the fusing of hooks with real energy. And the well-meaning basis of so much of the style, that honesty and direct approach, is an undercurrent flowing through their lyrics and latching itself onto the all-important energy.
That real energy is most obvious on 'Go' but never goes into hiding over the course of 43 minutes. It's difficult to argue that blink-182
is a raw or gritty album - it's more pristine than the group's earlier efforts, definitely - so it's left to the musicianship and songwriting to carry that momentum in the absence of gimmicks. Here it's important to mention how drummer Barker controls the flow of every song with a triumphant performance, but it's easy to overlook how the structures of these tracks contribute to the overall non-stop action. Even the slower or mid-tempo tracks are by no means drawn-out or tedious, the well-known 'I Miss You' being one of a number of songs which thrives off a darker atmosphere, and the vocalist-swap in the song's second verse is a welcome surprise too. All of this leaves those two singers to direct proceedings with a pair of truly stunning displays, showcasing a variety hardly hinted even in 2001, mirroring the musical diversity exhibited. They shout on 'Feeling This', whisper on 'Down', adopt the genre's usual vocal styling on 'Here's Your Letter', and there's even a Robert Smith guest spot on the fantastically downbeat 'All Of This'.
The album proper closes with the sorrowful balladry of 'I'm Lost Without You', once again demonstrating lyrical prowess above and beyond what blink and a vast majority of bands had shown in the past. It's a grandiose and ambitious way to end a record which itself carries those two traits in abundance; it's still a pop-punk band behind the melodies, but they're armed with an array of impassioned new ideas and a grander sense of what makes music great
rather than good. blink-182
is an immersive listen which goes down very sweetly but is in no way a predictable experience, and the fact is that 00s mainstream pop-punk has practically revolved around this album since it was released; it's a comprehensive tour-de-force of a maligned genre's strongest points, and it's honest to a fault at the same time; granted, you might despair of their imitators, but you cannot deny that blink-182 themselves simply towered over pop-punk, and to this date nothing has been said about the genre that cannot be better explained by playing this album.