Tom Delonge sure does like a good side project. In between the release of the last two Blink-182 albums, Tom put out an album with his band Boxcar Racer. The band consisted of David Kennedy, Anthony Celestino, and Travis Barker. Those of you who are familiar with Tom’s latest project, Angels and Airwaves, might be surprised to hear that this album is excellent. Basically, this is probably what Tom intended Angels and Airwaves to sound like. It’s obvious that what Tom did on this album influenced Blink-182’s self-titled album greatly. It’s very mature; quite the turnaround from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
, which Blink released before this album dropped. Tom wanted to take his music in a new direction, and he did just that on this album. Although the music is certainly great, if the making of this record had something to do with Blink’s breakup, I don’t think it was worth it. Tom should have used the same formula for Angels and Airwaves that he used for this album (i.e., no ego and no pointless experimental stuff). It’s a shame that he got too cocky, because it’s obvious that he can make some good music on his own.
Listening to Tom’s side projects (both this and Angels and Airwaves) makes it obvious just how big of an impact Mark Hoppus had on Blink-182’s music. On his own, Tom certainly does make some mature music, but it lacks the element that was present in all of Blink-182’s records: fun. This could certainly be called a good thing, because it would be pointless for Tom to make a record that sounded exactly like or similar to Blink-182. But sometimes it seems that Tom tried a little too
hard to make a serious album. A side project will always be judged by the quality of the original band, but it wouldn’t have hurt to put at least one fun and immature song on here. There is one song that’s immature, but not fun in any sense. My First Punk Song
is one minute of pure annoyance. Tom yells out some incredibly terrible lyrics over some incredibly terrible music, excluding Travis’ drums, which are always good. The song is somewhat similar to Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
’s “Happy Holidays, You Bastard,” in that it is a short song meant as a brief respite from the other songs on the album. Whereas “Happy Holidays” was one of the stronger songs on TOYPAJ, “My First Punk Song” is just unbearable to listen to. Fortunately, it’s only one of two outright bad song on the album.
The “experimental” side of Tom hadn’t fully kicked in yet when this album was made, so we don’t have to sit through pointless ambient intros like on We Don’t Need to Whisper
, but you can tell that the first seeds of experimentation were planted during the making of this album. Tom tried some different stuff with a piano, meandering guitar intros, and even an instrumental song (aptly titled Instrumental
) complete with a xylophone. One thing I noticed about this album is that none of the bridges have lyrics. It’s evident that Tom decided to focus more on the musical side than the lyrical side. Blink-182’s music was mostly powered by their fun lyrics, not what they could do with their instruments, and in that sense, the two bands are very different. This album is built around guitar riffs and powerful drums, as opposed to Blink’s music being built around the lyrics. The music is very energetic, as are Tom’s vocals. I’ve always loved Tom’s voice, and although he doesn’t have much variation, this album shows off his vocal skills perfectly. My love for Tom’s voice made it that much worse when I heard Cat Like Thief
. Tom invited Tim Armstrong into the studio to do some of the vocals for this song. I hate Armstrong’s voice, and his performance is awful. In stark contrast, Mark Hoppus’ guest vocal appearance on Elevator
was a pleasant surprise.
Tom and the band definitely focused more on the instruments, but that does not mean that the lyrics are poorly written in any sense. When this album was released in 2002, the trend in the musical world was (and still is, to a degree) writing political songs. For the most part, Tom stayed away from the subject of politics, except for the song All Systems Go
. Although there’s only one outright political line in the song (The government is lying, the youth they won’t believe them
), the rest of the lyrics could very easily be interpreted in a political fashion. Political songs are a hit or miss thing. When they’re done the right way, they are usually excellent. When they aren’t done the right way, they end up being cliché and terrible. “All Systems Go” is the former. One thing that I was very pleased with on this album was that Tom broadened his lyrical horizons. He touched on subjects such as politics, the death of his grandmother (Letters to God
), and even the end of the world (The End With You
). Lyrically, this is far more advanced than anything Blink-182 did before their self-titled album.
Overall, Boxcar Racer
is much better than Angels and Airwaves, but not quite up to the standard of Blink-182. Tom shows that he can make some great music without the help of Blink, but apparently he didn’t have enough in him to make two good side project records. The influence that this album had on Blink’s self-titled album makes it that much better, seeing as how their self-titled was their best record. It’s a pity that Tom got too big for his britches, thinking that he could do it all on his own. Aside from two missteps with “Cat Like Thief” and “My First Punk Song,” this album is excellent, and worthy of a place on your shelf beside your Blink-182 discography.