Album versus album: Blink-182

Blink-182’s self-titled oldie against their most recent release

Written by: Eva Zhu

Blink-182 (2003)

For Blink-182’s self-titled album, Mark Hoppus (vocals and bass), Tom DeLonge (vocals and guitar), and Travis Barker (drums extraordinaire) took the opportunity to deviate from their usual pioneering pop-punk sound to create a deeply personal experience that perfectly encapsulates the sadness, anger, angst, and volatility of teenagerdom. Most people might remember it by the timeless bops “Feeling This” (the music video looks like a horny teenager’s wet dream) and “I Miss You” (every emo kid’s anthem in the mid-2000s), but truth be told, every song on the album is an amazing listen.

     The album opens with jangly guitars, tight drums, and anthemic lyrics on “Feeling This” before slamming into the angry distortion of “Obvious.” “I Miss You” introduces the slower, sadder tones on the album, while “Violence” is an avant-garde punk march that leads into a reading of a letter Hoppus’s grandfather sent to his wife during his service in WWII. While I could write for hours about each song (especially the dying astronaut who is the central subject of “Asthenia”), I’ll spare you by simply saying that every one of them has a story coupled with catchy instrumentation and raw emotion. The result? A tapestry of songs that come together to form nothing short of an artistic masterpiece.

     Don’t fast-forward through any of them. A few are utterly fantastic, and some must-listen tracks include “Go,” “Down,” and “Here’s Your Letter.”

California (2016)

When Tom DeLonge left the band for the second time in 2015 to focus on UFO research and play in his other band Angels & Airwaves, diehard Blink-182 fans went rogue on Twitter, proclaiming the incident blasphemous. In response to DeLonge’s departure, Barker and Hoppus inducted Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio into their inner circle. The three of them made a baby called California.

     The album showcases some of the weakest lyricism to date. A couple of examples are the pre-chorus on “She’s Out of Her Mind” of only the line “she’s a-a-a-antisocial, a-a-a-antisocial a-a-and she’s an angel, yeah” and the endless refrains of “na-na-na-na” on “Sober” and “No Future.” This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering John Feldmann, the king of “wo-ah” and “na-na”, produced the album. They even included a 16-second song — if you can even call it that — called “Built This Pool” smack-dab in the middle of the album.

     It’s not that California is a bad album, it’s that there isn’t anything that I haven’t heard a million times before on other pop punk albums. I expected a veteran to the game to come out with an album that doesn’t sound like background music at an emo kid’s house party.

     Despite all its shortcomings, the one thing that you can’t deny is that the band sounds like it’s having fun again. Really, they haven’t sounded so excited, happy, and immature since Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. That at least makes me hopeful for their future.

     Highlights include “Home is Such a Lonely Place,” “Bored to Death,” and “Rabbit Hole.”

Verdict

Blink-182’s Blink-182 beats California by a mile. Everything — the lyricism, the instrumentals, the stories behind the songs — is better. If you’re going to listen to only one of their albums in your lifetime (huge mistake, but you do you), pick Blink-182. It is hands-down their greatest album.