Albums / EPs, Reviews

Throwback Thursday: Blink 182 – Enema of the State

Last month, Radius revisited its 10 Worst Coming-of-Age Songs. The list followed a Sunday afternoon spent sifting through…

 

Last month, Radius revisited its 10 Worst Coming-of-Age Songs. The list followed a Sunday afternoon spent sifting through Now Thats What I Call Music! compilations and recalling what song might have been playing when our generation threw up after two Smirnoff Spins at U-PARTYs in 2008. 

Californian pop-punk legends Blink-182 escaped the ridicule of our adult wisdom that afternoon. This was anything but an oversight. Denying the genuine importance of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker’s debaucherous commercial-punk legacy would be committing cultural treason to any teenager alive at the time, not to mention a real slap in the face to any middle-class white kids with tattoos their parents didn’t know about. And at the centre of it all, everything so iconically Blink 182 — the streaking, lip-rings and middle fingers — is Enema of the State (1999). 

A throwback could champion Cheshire Cat (1994) or explain why ‘My Pet Sally’ from Buddha (1994) is the only song that Blink-182 ever wrote for themselves. But Enema is their chef d’oeuvre. Having severed ties with founding drummer Scott Raynor, Hoppus and DeLonge enlisted Barker from fellow tourers The Aquabats and Enema became the first album to feature the full Blink 182. The trio would remain as is throughout three more studio releases and countless tours until their hiatus in 2005. Enema also laid the foundation for Blink-182’s commercial trajectory after signing with Universal-subsumed MCA Records. ‘What’s My Age Again’ and ‘Aliens Exist’ are glossy pop numbers in comparison to DeLonge and Raynor’s early Descendents covers and the crass, industrial riffs on ‘M+Ms’ and ‘Carousel.’ No surprises, then, when Dude Ranch (1997) supporters cried ‘hypocrisy’ after the punk-preachers started epitomising the celebrities they parodied in the unforgettable ‘All the Small Things’ music video. Already then Blink-182 had to walk the tightrope between commercial appeal and left-field allegiances shared by artists like Grimes and Beyonce nowadays — albeit with less elegance and more irreverence. This is something contemporaries Green Day wouldn’t have to master until the decade between Dookie (1994) and American Idiot (2004). 

As it transpired, the nurse on Enema’s iconic cover art was porn star Janine Lindemulder. It’s things like this that make Blink-182’s existence the closest real-life incarnation of the American Pie series: an obnoxiously glamorous concoction of sex-out impulses, underage drinking and parent problems. These timeless blue comedy traits have never left Blink-182’s music, not even with an average age of 35 at the release of Neighborhoods (2011). It’s bewildering how the border-line cliché teenage anecdotes that comprise Enema retain such potent relevance, immune to the post-puberty cynicism that dismisses the likes of Limp Bizkit and and The Chemical Brothers as dated. “White lies, bloodshot eyes / breath of alcohol, stole it from the mall” tells DeLonge with those trademark accented baritone vocals on the aptly named ‘Anthem’ as an explanation for it all: the lives they lived as buzzed-up teenagers, and the lives we lived through them, were timelessly captured in the nights repeating ‘All the Small Things’ and ‘Anthem’ and all ten Enema of the State tracks in between.

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