Released June 12, 2001; Produced by Jerry Finn
Cliques are an interesting thing, no? When I was in elementary school, I think I fell into a clique that was unidentifiable. Kevin and Cody were the troublemakers, Jeremy and Joey were the preps, Mark and Eric were the jocks, Willie and Nicole were the hoods. I got along with the troublemakers but made very little trouble, myself … My family wasn’t rich enough to buy my way in with the preps … I played sports but wasn’t good enough to associate with the jocks … And my family lived in a neighborhood that was a little too nice to allow me to be a hood. I wore band shirts and hand-me-downs from my older cousins most of the time and was rather happy with my very unique, though very small, group of friends.
In middle school I was introduced to a more fierce version of the jocks and preps but was also introduced to the skaters, the metalheads and the rednecks. I was immediately attracted to the skaters and metalheads because I, too, was a skater at the time and I had been listening to metal most of my life. They also seemed to be a safe place to exist if you were a kid who felt like they were a little too far “outside” the social norm. I was shunned by both groups, however, because I wore Airwalk shoes (apparently too “preppy” for real skaters who preferred DCs and Etnies) and owned t-shirts with AC/DC and Van Halen logos on them (two bands who were a little too “soft” for the metalheads who were at the time WAY this new-at-the-time band called Korn). With no other place to turn, I tried to force my way into the world of jocks and preps.
For the next few years I spent plenty of my parents’ money on Abercrombie t-shirts, Aeropostale jeans, FUBU jerseys and Dennis Rodman’s signature Chuck Taylors. I played football, basketball and ran track. I participated in 3-on-3 intramural basketball and spent my days woefully pining for the attention of the popular girls who saw through my facade and never gave me any attention. Day in and day out I was miserable because I was so obsessed with what everyone thought of me and despite my best efforts, I was never quite full-on “cool.”
I was in high school when I found my home. There was never a punk scene in Kingsport but there were some kids who were lucky enough to have experienced a life on the fringes where punk rock exists and they brought it to school with them — the music, the attitude and the style. Turns out I already had the punk-rock mentality and immediately fell in love with every punk band I listened to … I just didn’t quite have the look yet. My parents were sticklers when teaching me how to make a good first impression and being careful to not offend anyone with my words or my appearance. Deep down, though, I knew that walking on eggshells for the rest of my life was not in the cards for me.
When I was a sophomore, I dove deep into the world of punk — I was already a fan of the Ramones and Green Day but the high school experience turned me onto the Misfits, the Dead Kennedys, NOFX and the Dropkick Murphys just to name a few. I was also a big fan of pop-punk outfit Blink-182 who was kinda killing it on TRL and on the rock charts with their 1999 record Enema of the State. I bought that record, like so many others, after seeing the music videos for All the Small Things, What’s My Age Again? and Adam’s Song. I then took a much deeper dive into their music and picked up 1997’s Dude Ranch, 1995’s Cheshire Cat and 1994’s Buddha. My gray Blink-182 shirt that simply depicted the band’s “pill’ logo made famous by Enema of the State was my first “punk rock” band t-shirt and I wore it proudly to school every week.
Until I walked out of biology and a then-foe (not faux) punker named Dustin began yelling at me with a voice that sounded like a tape recorder on half speed. “HEYYYYYYYY … You’re not a punk…” he said as he began frantically tapping the Blink-182 logo on my shirt with a right hand that was wearing a grizzly bear glove. I muttered “… what?” before he ran away down the hall.
“What” was all I could get out. I was dejected and heartbroken. He was right. I wasn’t in the punk scene, I just knew some punk kids and liked the music. I immediately went into a multi-day panic that this guy was going to expose my poseur-ness in front of all the classmates I didn’t like much anyway when I realized that very fact — I didn’t like these kids anyway so who cares what they thought of me?
I ended up sitting next to Dustin the entire second semester and we became really good friends. After several in-depth conversations, I realized that I had finally been accepted. Not because my clothes fit the part, but because both he and I realized in those days that being a punker had little to do with your clothes and everything to do with your mindset and attitude.
Dustin and I shared a mutual love of hardcore punkers like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and the like, but we both also loved the pop punk that was growing more popular by the second in those days. Green Day and Good Charlotte were all over MTV but more importantly … so was Blink-182. The band who caused our initial rift became what we bonded over the most. We’d ride around town together singing songs from the existing Blink albums, splitting the vocal parts (I was Tom, of course, and he was Mark) and we even shared vocal duties on a karaoke rendition of All the Small Things during a school assembly.
And while Dustin and I were having a great time singing songs about being desperate to get laid, having mature relationships ruined by our own personal immaturity, vague references to beastiality, mocking the boyfriend of the girl you want to be with, feeling depressed and suicidal because of life’s pressures and being stuck in the middle class of a small town — all themes present on Enema of the State — At the end of the day, we were starting to grow up.
Fortunately for us, Blink-182 was also growing up (slightly) with their 2001 release.
7 — Blink-182 — Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
I’m going to go ahead and admit that contrary to the “growing up” I was just mentioning, the title of this album is a bit immature. Earlier this week while I was doing research for this post, I was made aware — for the first time ever — of the album’s title being a play on words (take off your pants and jack it). I’d been listening to this album for TWENTY YEARS and have said the album title probably hundreds of times and never once caught that. Maybe I grew up before Blink-182 did? Who knows.
Regardless of the album’s title, this record definitely shows Blink going in a much more mature direction than their previous efforts. The pop-punk sounds they helped put into full-time radio are still there but there’s more of a hint of hardcore and elements of harder emo. Lyrical subjects include kids being more aware of the “systems” of society than they get credit for, breaking up in the early internet age, being the kid with divorced parents and leading an anti-authoritarian lifestyle.
More mature though it may be, they sprinkle in the pee-pee, poo-poo elements that made Blink-182 what they were. Happy Holidays, You Bastard is so filthy that on edited versions of the record, the track is merely instrumental. Depending on the version of the album you got (Take Off, Pants or Jacket versions) hidden tracks include songs about beastialitarian desires and grandfatherly incest. They’re growing up but at the end of the day, Blink-182 is still Blink-182. The great thing about this is at the age 16, I too, was growing up but was still an inappropriate child with a potty mouth and a taste for toilet humor.
Anthem Part Two kicks off the record and picks up where Enema of the State left off (the final song on that record is simply Anthem). The thundering intro is reminiscent of a military march for an army of teenagers. Travis Barker’s drumming carries this record and it immediately shines through as it literally rolls through each verse.
Story of a Lonely Guy is a ballad that most teenage guys would identify with — hell, maybe even some adults I know! Being young and in love is both one of the greatest and most painful things we can ever experience and Tom’s crooning about the metaphorical storms in one’s heart caused by teenage romance is not only relatable but you also can’t help but believe it’s coming from someone who’s been there and done that.
Roller Coaster is a song about a relationship’s ups and downs, a concept that as a teenager, I HATED but as an adult, I admire in a weird way. The highs of a teenage relationship are beautiful but the lows are usually calls for dramatic response, threats of self-harm and unnerving attempts to stir up a reaction from your BF/GF. As an adult, the highs are even more beautiful and the lows are a great test of the strength of your longevity as a couple. When Katie and I were first telling everyone we were getting married, SO MANY people responded by asking us if we’d ever gotten into a fight! While this was very strange for us, it was also understandable because everyone who asked us had already been through some righteous fights of their own, many of which were detrimental to their relationships. Katie and I have certainly experienced a few lows but we deal with them in such a great way and it makes our relationship much stronger as a result. In this way, I identify with Mark saying “Roller coaster, favorite ride; Let me kiss you one last time.”
In 1997, Mark was in love with a girl named Josie. She was the best girlfriend he could have ever asked for — not getting jealous when he hangs out with the guys, laughing at his dumb jokes, etc. But in Online Songs, a sequel to Josie, the relationship hasn’t quite survived the lows of the aforementioned roller coaster. I love Mark’s bass solo during the opening verse and the creative count-in that follows. Travis’ drums hit that classic punk-rock pattern while Mark’s bassline permeates the rest of the song. I love the chorus So don’t remind me, put your past behind me, it shines so bright it blinds me, I wish that this would end; And I am not fine, last night I saw you online, your screen name used to be mine, why can’t we just pretend? Dated references now, maybe, but at the time it was a great illustration of the relatively new world of breaking up with someone you’d still see online. A great timely reference and I dig it.
The Rock Show was the first single off the album (I think it got an early release on MTV) and is one of my favorite Blink-182 songs of all time. The topic of falling in love with someone at a show and sticking it out with them despite getting no support from anyone at home has a fairy-tale element that Blink-182 isn’t exactly known for but pulls off fairly well. The back-and-forth between Mark and Tom in the chorus adds to the high energy of the song and can we talk about the music video for a second? The guys cash a check given to them by the record label for their video and spend every last penny on the most obnoxious and wasteful things … while shooting all of it for a PRICELESS music video!
Stay Together for the Kids is the aforementioned song about being a kid during a divorce. As a child with divorced parents, I identified with nearly every emotion expressed on this banger. The intro and verse structure is heartfelt and low-key, not unlike Adam’s Song. But unlike Adam’s Song, when the chorus hits, it hits HARD. In what was probably the hardest instrumental in Blink’s catalogue up until that point, the chorus’ emotionally charged vocals and raucous sound is a stark contrast to the saddened tone of Mark’s verses. The music video adds a rumble effect to each of the choruses while teenagers rage out in an abandoned home — a visual that was quite obvious to me even before seeing the video. A very powerful song and totally unexpected from a band like Blink-182.
Like I mentioned before, each version of the record came with a unique pair of hidden tracks. Take Off consisted of Time to Break Up (DeLonge) and Mother’s Day (Hoppus); Jacket had Don’t Tell Me It’s Over (DeLonge) and When You F*cked Grandpa (Hoppus); and Pants had F*ck a Dog (Hoppus/DeLonge) and one of my personal favorites, the somber What Went Wrong (DeLonge). Tom said the band usually writes all their songs on acoustic guitars before turning them into electric punk rock songs, yet What Went Wrong was much stronger as an acoustic song. I have to agree! Tom felt the need to push his songwriting skills to a different level after listening to another band I loved from that era — Alkaline Trio. What Went Wrong gives me hardcore Alkaline Trio vibes only instead of “I’m in love with you so much I want to be buried alive” the theme is “I hate my life without you in it.”
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket only sold half as many copies as their previous effort Enema of the State (2-million vs. 4.5-million in the USA). Regardless, Enema peaked in the US at number 9 on the charts while Take Off Your Pants went all the way to number 1 in the USA, Canada and Germany.
So far on this list, the record I’m covering remains my favorite album by that band. That’s not the case here — my favorite Blink-182 album was Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’s followup, the eponymous Blink-182 (peaked at #2, selling 2.2-million domestically) and is one of my favorite records of all time. This record didn’t get released until I was in college, so it doesn’t qualify for this list — it was definitely the soundtrack to my college experience, however.
After the self-titled record, Blink-182 didn’t experience the same kind of success, with 2011’s Neighborhoods selling only 353,000 copies, 2016’s California (with Matt Skiba in place of Tom) selling 500,000 and 2019’s Nine selling 77,000.
While this record is phenomenal and still holds up 20 years later, it’s notorious for being a turning point for the band. Darkness was beginning to descend on the guys as Tom’s continued abuse of painkillers was becoming problematic as was Mark’s unwillingness to evolve the band’s sound. The next record was the best thing they ever put out and their hiatus led to the building of the just-okay +44 (Mark and Travis’ side project) and Tom’s Angels and Airwaves (whom I cannot stand).
It did, however, lead to the formation of Tom and Travis’ side project Boxcar Racer — a band with only a single release that I’ll be talking about on this very list in a couple of weeks.
Until then, ever onward.