Review Summary: Blink-182's final independent label released album provides solid songs for summer and hanging out.
Blink-182 is and was a pop punk band from San Diego, California. Starting out in 1992, they released a couple of EPs and demo tapes, and then the full length Cheshire Cat in 1994. Three years later, they put out Dude Ranch, their second album and the last "underground" record from them, prior to their popularity explosion in 1999. Dude Ranch brought the band more attention after they released the single "Dammit". Based on knowing that song, the rest of the album lives up to expectations: it is filled with hooky guitar licks, speedy songs, potty humor, nostalgia, and dual vocalist trade-offs.
Musically, Blink-182 isn't extremely technical. Tom Delonge plays a lot of songs that have extremely simple guitar licks, and occasionally the "guitar solo" will just be him wailing on power chords. Mark Hoppus is an extremely solid bass player, propelling the songs with pumping basslines. He is definitely the more musically talented of the two. The drummer on this album, Scott Raynor, is skilled on the kit. He plays typical punk beats on most of the album. This was also his last recording with them, as Tom and Mark weren't comfortable with his drinking, and he was getting uncomfortable with the increasing fame. So there we have it, music-wise: rock-solid bass, lots of bright, shining power chords, and pounding punk drums.
As far as the vocals and lyrics go, Tom and Mark are pretty different. Tom Delonge has a rather high pitched voice, which contrasts the deeper, clean singing style of Mark Hoppus. One thing I find interesting is how their voices go with their respective instruments. The songs where Tom takes lead vocals tend to have more potty humor in the lyrics, like Voyeur, which is about watching a girl change clothes from a tree, or Degenerate, in which the protagonist consistently gets prison raped after being a massive dick and nude in public. The Mark Hoppus led songs are typically about girls and growing older. He really stands out on Emo, A New Hope, and Lemmings, the last one being about growing apart from childhood friends. Besides the songs where each of them lead, there are a few where they do vocal trade offs, for example Josie; a Hoppus led ode to the perfect girlfriend, while Tom Delonge sings the end of chorus hook. While the lyrics tend to be goofy, Tom and Mark make up for it by singing passionately and cohesively as a team.
In addition to the songs, there are a few skits scattered throughout the album. The longest one is the hidden track at the end of I'm Sorry. It appears to be the sound of Mark Hoppus calling his dog over to help him masturbate, due to the licking sounds and moaning from Hoppus. The existence of that track really highlights the Blink-182 love of toilet humor. This is the type of skit is something they have become notorious for. That particular one basically ties the album together, adding one last touch of goofball humor after two tracks with nostalgic lyrics.
While Blink-182 has gone through a band split and a few side projects with mixed results, this album is their strongest, in my opinion, because it showcases what made them a good pop-punk band: sunny melodies, speed, vocal trade offs, and a general sense of fun. I recommend listening to Josie, New Hope, Pathetic, Enthused, Dammit, and Lemmings to get a good grip of the sound.