I’m still not sure what I want to do with this blog in 2019. While I miss the experience of blogging and enjoy the excuse to listen to a plethora of new albums, managing this thing is a lot of work with no tangible benefit other than the fresh tunes bumping in my stereo.
All three of my readers might be saying “Jason, just listen to the albums without the pressure of the blog.” To which I respond: “the pressure of the blog is the motivation I need to keep digging.”
Last year I listened to over 300 albums in an effort to get the blog off the ground. This year I’ve listened to maybe 100. Which is still a lot better than my non-blogger peers, but I’m not convinced it’s enough.
So while I’m haranguing about the direction of my creative endeavors, I thought I’d waste some time by ranking blink-182’s albums.
8. California (2016)
This is the band’s most recent, least Tom album to date. And while this album was fun and a return to the Enema / Take Off era of blink’s golden age, I’m not sure the return does the band any favors. For one, Matt Skiba is no Tom DeLonge. I love Skiba’s work with Alkaline Trio, but he doesn’t have the melodic sense or interesting (if simple) riffs that made golden-era blink so memorable. Tom’s departure really helped delineate the differences in Mark and Tom’s song writing (especially when California is compared to Neighborhoods), and the difference is staying power and the ability to age gracefully. I still love much of this album, but something had to come last.
7. Cheshire Cat (1995)
At the other end of their chronology we have their “debut” album (for whatever reason people seem to skip Buddha), Cheshire Cat. And while this is roughly 1/3 cuts from the aforementioned Buddha, the “advancements” in production the band played with didn’t do any of the songs any favors. I love every song on this album, but aside from standouts like “Carousel” and “M&M’s”, much of the album is pretty same-y. When re-listening to this I thought “how does it get better than this?” but when putting it head to head against almost any other blink-182 album it was the clearly inferior album.
6. Neighborhoods (2011)
Nobody but me seems to like this album. And I mostly understand why–there’s not a lot to be excited about on this project. It lacks any songs with the ability to grab your attention the way “Anthem Part 2” or “Damnit” or “Always” does, but what makes this stand out above their other post-hiatus effort (California) is the simple fact that this album looks forward, rather than backwards. Where California is a nostalgic look at blink-182’s past, Neighborhoods largely picks up where their self-titled album left off. These songs are airy and melodic but lack a lot of the drive that makes blink-182 any shade of punk. It wasn’t the comeback many wanted, but I think this album ages better than most of their discography.
5. Buddha (1994)
This album is everything that’s great about Cheshire Cat but with a little less polish, which works with the bands skate-punk/pop-punk aesthetic at the time. There’s a reason Cheshire Cat lifts a good number of these songs, and that’s because they got them right the first time. My preference of this version of “Carousel” and the inclusion of the Screeching Weasel cover (“The Girl Next Door”) greatly inflate my opinion of this album, but if you ever found yourself clarifying that you liked the Old Blink 182 before that Travis guy came in and ruined everything, than this is the album to go back to.
4. Enema of the State (1999)
Enema of the State changed everything. The first of the roster-swaps also had the biggest impact on the band as it transitioned from it’s skate-punk roots into it’s own flavor of pop-punk, emphasis on the pop. This is peak dick-jokes, the pinnacle of irreverence, and also the start of the band’s evolution that reached it’s experimental zenith with their self-titled record. The hit “All the Small Things” drags this record down a bit as a notable spot that didn’t age particularly well, but “Going Away to College” and “Dumpweed” remain sleeper staples in any fan’s repertoire.
3. blink-182 (2003)
The odd duck album of the bunch, this album is all over the place. Listening to any three tracks from this non-consecutively will yield in a disorienting experience as they move from the soft melodies of “Always” to the gloomy “Miss You” and to whatever is going on in “Stockholm Syndrome”, but when listened to in sequence the album holds together with some sort of magic that I haven’t ever been able to fully explain. There’s an alternate timeline where this album is my favorite, but it’s inconsistency and boldness of direction sometimes counts against it, rather than for it.
2. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
This album might as well be Enema Part 2, as it does almost nothing to push the band’s sound forward. But where this album edges out it’s predecessor and successor is in it’s polish and consistency: this is Enema without the lulls and a couple of tracks that stand just a hair above those on that which came before. If you’re only here for the Golden Age of Pop-Punk, this is the album that I would turn to. But popularity isn’t always a measure of quality, because the best blink-182 album is obviously…
1. Dude Ranch (1997)
Dude Ranch planted the seeds for the success that blink would see in their next two albums but didn’t compromise their skate-punk and pop-punk roots for anything. This album goes harder and faster than the next few albums but still retains those melodies and riffs that made Tom a standout guitarist in a genre that isn’t really known for it’s noodling. There’s not a lot to say about this album that doesn’t lead to me waxing nostalgic about a “better time in music” and the glory years of my favorite genre of music before MTV strangled the life out of it (thanks blink-182), so I’ll just end with a reminder that “Apple Shampoo” is criminally underrated, “Dick Lips” might be the band’s best song, and every album needs a serenade to Princess Leia.