Blink-182's 'Enema of the State' at 15: Classic Track-by-Track Album Review
Five years after Green Day's "Dookie," punk purists had another platinum-selling trio to yell "Sellout!" at. But for everyone not taking themselves so seriously, there was another reason to rock out to teenaged angst (real or remembered), with three dudes in their late twenties who cracked jokes about humping dogs and phone sex.
When "Enema of the State" dropped via MCA in 1999, Blink-182 were nothing new. They'd been kicking around the San Diego punk scene since the early 90s and had already released two full-lengths, the most recent being 1997's major label debut "Dude Ranch." Although the Mark Trombino-produced album featured the band's first hit single ("Dammit"), its gritty sound wasn't too far removed from the indie releases of their early years. Enter producer Jerry Finn, known for his work with Green Day, whose expert touch brought a glistening pop sheen to the production of "Enema of the State." The fact that guitarist Tom DeLonge and bassist Mark Hoppus both sounded like they'd received considerable vocal training since "Dude Ranch" didn't hurt, either.
And then there was the arrival of drummer Travis Barker, truly making the band a power trio. The former Aquabats drummer makes his presence felt considerably on "Enema," with his breakneck-paced precision driving the catchiest batch of songs the band had ever written.
It's funny to think that today -- with a clothing line, reality show, and countless genre-hopping collaborations -- Blink's drummer might just be the band's biggest celebrity. But these days, the competition that existed after the band's 2005 hiatus has largely been put to rest. After reforming in 2009, Blink-182 released one more major label album (2011's "Neighborhoods") and then embarked on a self-releasing journey with 2012's "Dogs Eating Dogs" EP. Though they're not quite chasing mainstream success anymore, they're keeping their considerably large fan base happy. Undersell club gigs like last year's stop at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg have kept fans curious about their next move.
"Enema of the State" remains Blink's biggest seller to date, having sold 4.54 million units to date in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. As June 1, 2014 marks the 15th anniversary of Mark, Tom and Travis' breakthrough album, Billboard takes a look back:
1. "Dumpweed": One of the best things about "Enema of the State" is how it doesn't begin by blowing through all its best songs. The album opens surely and steadily, with a couple introductory bursts of what's to come. Before we can get to "What's My Age Again?" and "All the Small Things," "Dumpweed" serves as scintillating sample of the bubblegum angst to come -- yelped hooks, pogo riffs and drums from Travis Barker that go off like popcorn in the microwave.
2. "Don't Leave Me": This one isn't Mark Hoppus' strongest song on the album, but it doesn't need to be. "Don't Leave Me" is the bassist's answer to DeLonge's "Dumpweed," keeping the momentum going into track three with a two-and-a-half minute pick-me-up breakup song, with catchy little post-chorus breakdowns and the sort of straight-ahead bass solo that happens when you let the bassist write the song.
3. "Aliens Exist": A lot of pop-punk bands could use a primer on writing songs that aren't about girls or hating authority. Blink-182 did plenty of both on this album, but they managed to break the mold of pop-punk lyrical tropes with this peppy song about aliens that sounds like it was written after watching a History Channel marathon on Roswell.
4. "Going Away to College": By 1999, few 27-year olds could relate to the emotions of an 18-year-old like Blink. This one has late-teens written all over it: a guy trying to keep things going with his high school girlfriend after leaving for college, with its chugging, stop-start verses and hooky chorus ("long time" and "valentine" just rhyme together so smoothly). The track captures the glory days of Blink, and its fadeout into the opening notes of "What's My Age Again?" is seamless.
5. "What's My Age Again?": For the pop audience, this was the Blink song that started it all. "Dammit," released two years prior, might've been a better introduction to the band, but "Enema's" first single is the quintessential Blink manifesto -- the story of a twenty-something who still acts like a child. There's a crudeness to it that one might regret when older and wiser (like the use of the word "bitch"), but alas, this is what happens when people look back on their younger, dumber selves. The Mark, Tom and Travis show seems reasonably well-adjusted now, and with the careers they forged since this song, they must look back on it fondly.
6. "Dysentery Gary": Speaking of crudeness, here's a song that clowns on a guy for "trying on his father's tights," calls his mom a whore and then makes a bestiality joke. At least its title probably gave medical lessons to kids who didn't play "Oregon Trail" growing up.
7. "Adam's Song": Just when you thought the Blink dudes couldn't even act 20 with 30 creeping up, here's a song -- and a hit single at that-- that hints at the emotional maturity they'd show on later releases, especially 2003's self-titled album. "Adam's Song" was inspired by a boy's suicide note and features some real downer lyrics, although the speaker ultimately decides to keep on living in the song's triumphant, driving chorus. Stylistically, it's also a Blink breakthrough: rather than putting their heads down and plowing through at breakneck speed, the band dials back the verses and interludes to let them breathe a bit. The resulting chorus achieves an arena-worthy feel not achieved anywhere else on "Enema of the State."
8. "All the Small Things": Blink-182's biggest chart success started as an ode to Tom DeLonge's girlfriend (and future wife) Jennifer Jenkins and the Ramones, whom the guitarist paid tribute to through with the infectious "na na nas." They clowned on boy bands in the music video, though in reality, they too were in the midst of a massive pop moment. The single peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, got regular "TRL" rotation and appeared on the fourth "Now That's What I Call Music!" compilation.
9. "The Party Song": Barker revs up his percussion to warp speed here, as 27-year-old Hoppus plays a protagonist who reluctantly visits a frat party (we can only hope he was reflecting on an experience several years prior). You probably had to read along to the lyrics in order to follow his rapid-fire narrative, although when it ends with the refrain of "some girls try too hard," it's clear the bassist had a pretty typical college experience.
10. "Mutt": A little bit of voyeuristic angst from our narrator Tom DeLonge: there's a loathsome couple who act like they're in constant audition for a porn flick, and he's sick of it. If the guy from "Dysentery Gary" and the girl from "The Party Song" got together, this would probably be them. "Mutt" is one of "Enema's" less memorable tracks, but it made it onto the soundtrack of the original "American Pie," which also included a cameo from the band watching Jason Biggs' sexual misfortunes over a webcam.
11. "Wendy Clear": "Wendy Clear" is one of Blink's most underrated songs. DeLonge's lead riff is pop-punk gold, Jerry Finn's production shimmers and Hoppus' vocal hook finishes the job. On a lesser pop-punk band's record, this could have been a lead single; on an album as deep as this, it's relegated to "deep cut" status.
12. "Anthem": Connecting to 16-year-olds angry about their curfews and lack of booze, Blink-182 nails it, and even justify themselves in calling this one "Anthem." In fact, they nailed it so well that they opened their next album, 2001's "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket," with a song called "Anthem Part Two."