I was nine when Blink-182's album Enema of the State came out on June 1, 1999. I was much younger than the adolescent (stunted or otherwise) subjects of songs like "What's My Age Again?" or "The Party Song," but the songs still resonated with me. Maybe it was the way the songs worked the same way as a can of Mountain Dew, blasting sugary, overly caffeinated energy through my body, or the juvenile sense of humor, which had an obsession with balls and farts and stuff that was hilarious to me as a nine-year-old, and still is now, let's be real. I liked how the guitar on "What's My Age Again?" sounded like a piano, and I liked the way Tom DeLonge yelled "he's a fuckin' weasel" at the beginning of "Dysentery Gary." The singles from Enema of the State ruled my summer of '99, and I loved that album for a couple more years.
By the time I was 14, Blink-182 had pretty much broken up after their "grown up" self-titled album, and I had outgrown them. I was too cool. I had discovered classic rock and hardcore punk, "real" music, and Blink-182 seemed so childish and dorky. Blink-182 was about lame stuff like fun and teenage angst and fucking pirates in the ass. Liking Blink-182 would have made me a poser, the worst thing a Hot Topic-shopping high school punk could be. When I got my first iPod, I left Blink-182 off, and they didn't make it back on until I was in college.
What changed? First, I realized how much fun these songs were to sing along to, and how many people knew all the words and had formative, positive memories associated with them. It was music that made middle school not suck so bad. Second, I came to appreciate the craft required to have such a distinctive sound. Even when there were a thousand pop-punk bands with numbers in their names, Blink-182 was unmistakable. Tom DeLonge's whine and Mark Hoppus' lack of affect, DeLonge's buzzing, Ramones-via-SoCal guitar sound, and Travis Barker's flashy, hyperprecise drumming combined to give Blink-182 a distinctiveness that all of their contemporaries lacked.
Third, I realized I wasn't cool.
Even when Blink-182 was cool, they weren't cool. They were mischievous and goofy and sang about kid stuff. They were alternative but not alienating, reckless but still home for dinner. They were nice boys who were punks only in that they had baggy shorts and said "fuck" a lot. They were just like me.
Once I was comfortable admitting that I liked spending time with my parents, I was comfortable admitting that Blink-182 had infectiously catchy songs, and that I still know all the words to "The Party Song." My friends all came to this realization at around the same time, too, like my buddy Coors Light who basically plays chopped-and-screwed versions of "Adam's Song." We learned that it's okay to like stuff even if it doesn't help our street cred, because we have none.
Blink-182 is the most influential punk band in America. I didn't come up with that idea, John Carimanica from the New York Times did. Acts from Fall Out Boy to Best Coast to even the Mumfords cite them as an influence. Critical reevaluation is in full swing. Mark Hoppus is an elder statesman who is the foremost celebrity advocate for Weird Twitter. And when I turned 24, I was relieved, because Blink-182 taught me that "nobody likes you when you're 23."
Image via MCA Records.