Before Blink-182 returned in 2015 with Matt Skiba filling a Tom DeLonge-shaped void, it looked like they were done for good. No amount of hiatuses and reunions seemed to be able to resolve the conflicts within the band; recording sessions for 2011’s Neighborhoods, the last album to feature the classic line-up of Tom, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, were reportedly dogged by arguments as the band disagreed on how it should sound.
So while Blink-182 in 2016 is an altogether serious proposition, they were shaped by their unruly skate-punk beginnings; they the perfect combination of mucking about, adolescent angst and that guy in your science class who managed to make everything the teacher said into a filthy innuendo.
So, for nostalgia’s sake, here are their 10 best tracks from that period.
Degenerate (Buddha, 1994)
Before Blink added the 182 to their name, they recorded Buddha in a local studio and sold cassette tapes at their early shows. Degenerate doesn’t appear on the 1998 reissue, but it’s a solid indicator that the band had nailed their brand of humour early on: the protagonist wanders the streets naked, gets his todger trapped in a police car door, tips cows and makes bombs, all to the sound of bouncy skater riffs.
Time (Buddha, 1994)
The laid-back, ska groove of Time is fitting for a song about laziness. Mark Hoppus provides a surprisingly sharp take on consumerist culture with the line “The difference between east and west, money means so much less, and objects aren’t so important to buy”. Was he getting philosophical about capitalism, or just thinking about how he’d rather kick back in his pants with some cans and a pizza? Probably a bit of both.
M+M’s (Cheshire Cat, 1994)
The simple, relatable lovesickness of Blink’s first ever single earned it a place on their 2005 greatest hits compilation. There’s no mention of dicks or poop; this ballad is almost uncharacteristically sweet for early Blink, and is a pretty accurate description of an all-consuming first love.
Cacophony (Cheshire Cat, 1994)
In a similar vein to M+M’s, Cacophony shows a rare glimpse of genuine emotion, as Mark muses over big, scary concepts like long-term relationships, commitment and break-ups. Like most of Blink’s early material, it centres on its no-frills approach to the shit we all have to go through at some point in life. Ever dumped someone and felt bad afterwards? Listen to Mark’s dulcet tones on Cacophony, and know you’re not alone.
Pathetic (Dude Ranch, 1997)
A more polished, radio-ready sound was beginning to creep in on Dude Ranch, as demonstrated by the simple but killer opening riff of Pathetic. The low-key, thrown-together sound of Cheshire Cat got an update, and Dude Ranch was the result. The lyrical themes stayed in familiar territory, though: according to the band, Pathetic is about “abject self-pity in the face of collapsed relationship.”
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Waggy (Dude Ranch 1997)
Some people were surprised when Blink seemed to go all serious on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, but their dark side has always been there. Waggy might have a title apparently inspired by the sound of Mark Hoppus’s burps and a line about masturbation, but the frustration of unreciprocated love is very real.
Emo (Dude Ranch 1997)
A New Hope (Dude Ranch 1997)
Seriously, what’s not to like about a Star Wars-themed love song? It’s a known fact that Tom really likes aliens – he’s even gone UFO spotting at Area 51 – but it was actually Mark who wrote this sci-fi inspired tune. “Princess Leia, where are you tonight?” he asks, in what could be a horny bloke’s ode to Carrie Fisher, or a romantic metaphor. You decide.
Going Away To College (Enema of the State, 1999)
Mark Hoppus was the only member of Blink-182 to go to college, but this sugary singalong isn’t about his short-lived attempt at teacher training (he dropped out before finishing the course). The story goes that he wrote it after watching the graduation party film Can’t Hardly Wait. Given Tom’s love of aliens, we’re surprised he didn’t insist on a lyrical reference to the alien abduction that takes place at the end of the film.
The Party Song (Enema of the State, 1999)
This one’s for everyone who’s ever felt out of place among the popular kids. Lurid descriptions of a frat party full of intoxicated posers is enough to make anyone feel they’d rather be “dateless than stay here and hate this”. Blink-182 may have started out with more in common with the nerds than the cool kids, but in the end, they were the ones whose music was one of the defining sounds of a generation.