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The M-Word

 

Blink-182: Blink-182

Geffen, 2003

Rating: 3.7

 

 

Posted: December 12, 2003

By Kevin Forest Moreau

Maturity. Its specter haunts Blink-182's self-titled release, a moody song cycle about love and codependence. Blink-182 will come as something of a shock to fans of the trio's punk-pop spitballs: Gone are the frat-boy-friendly wallows in sexual innuendo, as well as boyish power-pop cannonballs like "First Date" and "All the Small Things." Instead, the band puts its considerable radio-friendly muscle behind decidedly more serious enterprises, many of them lacking obvious hooks (the melodies are decidedly lower-key and understated) but still retaining a trademark serrated accessibility.

"Feeling This" is the closest the record gets to the Blink-182 familiar to TRL fans, but even its catchy chorus is counterbalanced by a sense of restless experimentation: Studio tricks and production effects pop up intermittently, underscoring the album's overwhelming sense of sonic diffusion. If all of this sounds off-putting, it's not, especially after a few spins: Abrupt rockers like "Go" and "Easy Target" help to anchor intriguing downbeat numbers like "Down," "Violence" and "Stockholm Syndrome." And if those titles aren't enough to clue you in, suffice it to say that the lyrical scope of these songs stretches far beyond puppy love and the Afterschool Special seriousness of previous numbers like the suicide lament "Adam's Song." The record seems to track the progress of a dissolving relationship, and if the emotional level hovers around the "Don't go I need you oh please God no" range, well, no one said the maturation process was easy.

Surprisingly enough, two of the best tracks are atmospheric ballads -- the affecting "I Miss You" (whose chorus makes superb use of Tom Delonge's love-it-or-hate-it nasal delivery) and the elegiac "All of This" (with a cameo vocal by, of all people, The Cure's Robert Smith). That move alone makes an unmistakable statement: Blink-182 is the band's attempt to define (or perhaps redefine) itself. This is a bit ironic, given that the album uses Boxcar Racer, 2002's side project by Delonge and nimble drummer Travis Barker (increasingly proving he's the punk-pop Neil Peart), rather than the last couple of Blink records, as its template.

Blink-182 is a challenging listen, although not for the reasons one usually associates with Blink-182 -- it'll be interesting to see whether the album's respectable early sales will continue as hardcore fans weigh in on its very different approach. Regardless, it's a commendable effort, all the more so for its musical, lyrical and commercial risks. If Delonge, Barker and singer-bassist Mark Hoppus are able to successfully build on its promise while retaining their patented knack for crunchy, singalong hooks, they'll stand a better than reasonable chance of expanding their fan base exponentially to include aging Gen-Xers and even Baby Boomers predisposed to a blend of melody and substance. To quote the band's first hit, 1997's "Dammit": "I guess this is growing up."

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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