This feature originally ran in February 2015. We’re revisiting it in anticipation of Blink-182’s upcoming album, California.
“What is it about 20-somethings?” asks the title of a New York Times Magazine article published in 2010. The subtext to that question is another question: “Why are people in their 20s finding it so hard to grow up?” The answers range from changing social mores to an uncertain job market, but maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe a new generation of so-called “millennials” is finally starting to understand a line they heard in a song back in 1999: “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.”
If you’re a sociologist searching for Ground Zero — that time when the 20s shifted from a life stage of “emerging adulthood” to one of “prolonged adolescence” — an album called Enema of the State isn’t the worst place to start. Gleefully irreverent and self-consciously juvenile, that record was most people’s introduction to Blink-182, a Southern Californian pop-punk band whose members refused to act their own age. At the prime of their career, Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker — who replaced original drummer Scott Raynor in 1998 — were twentysomethings stuck in a strange dream of high school that never quite ended. It’s a story that’s all too familiar these days and one that most people would even find sort of pathetic. But Blink beat the odds and found a way to make it cool, largely by appealing to a younger generation of music fans who simply didn’t know any better. Talk to those fans today, and they’ll recall with misty eyes the roller rink they were at when they first heard “What’s My Age Again?” or the hours they spent plunking out the opening riff of “Dammit” on guitar.
The boys of Blink-182 never seemed to care much about their place in music history, their minds preoccupied with botched relationships and brainstorming sexual puns for their next album title. But they found one anyway. Nearly two decades on, many of Blink’s biggest fans are stumbling into their own versions of adulthood and realizing the appeal of extended adolescence. Perhaps it’s fitting that, at the same time, Blink is struggling to move forward and might even be over as a band. Last week, Hoppus and Barker abruptly announced that they were parting ways with DeLonge, and a messy public battle ensued. It justified suspicions that 2011’s Neighborhoods was a halfhearted comeback and that the band had truly run its course years ago when they broke up the first time in 2005. It’s hard growing up; it’s even harder to admit it when you’re finally there.
But before music history finally turns the page on Blink-182, we’ve decided to compile the very best songs from the band’s 20-plus-year career. They might make you cringe, or they might make you cry, but in any case, they’ll take you back to a time when growing up felt more like an option than a rite of passage.
– Collin Brennan