The ‘90s and early 2000’s may have been dominated by angsty punk bands with a love of big pop hooks but few were better at it than Blink-182. The band not only turned dick jokes into a fine art and mocked celebrity culture at every turn, but their catchy coming-of-age anthems tackled loss, depression and rejection with a heartfelt sincerity.
It was a potent combination that saw them become one of the most influential modern rock bands with a turbulent history to match. The classic lineup of Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker first went on hiatus in 2005 before reuniting four years later, following the death of long-term producer Jerry Finn and Barker’s death-defying survival of a plane crash that claimed the lives of four others. DeLonge left again in 2014 to focus on his various other projects, with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba brought in to replace him. A period of estrangement would follow.
After much speculation and Hoppus’ battle with cancer, that classic lineup reunited once more in 2023 to record what DeLonge would describe as “the best album of our career,” before promising something “more progressive” than what had come before. They’re grand statements considering the brilliance and breadth of Blink’s back catalogue. This rundown should show you exactly how high that bar is currently set.
8‘Cheshire Cat’ (1995)
Blink-182’s debut album is the sound of a young punk band whose ambition is greater than their actual talent. With seven tracks re-recorded from their 1994 demo tape ‘Buddha’, this scrappy collection of tracks captured a youthful urgency as Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge tried to play as fast as possible while the frantic drumming of original sticksman Scott Raynor gave the whole thing a chaotic energy. Still, there are moments of genuine brilliance (‘M+M’s’) and even at this very early point in their career, the combination of DeLonge and Hoppus felt magical.
There was a lot riding on ‘California’, the first Blink album not to feature founding member Tom DeLonge. And it started off strong, with new member Matt Skiba refusing to apologise on opening track ‘Cynical’ while ‘Bored To Death’ is probably one of the best songs Blink have ever released, bringing together unadulterated angst, a punishing breakdown and one hell of a hook. But most of the album felt like a watered down version of what people think a Blink album should be, thanks to cringe-inducing skits (‘I Built This Pool’, ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’) and the pop-punk songs written about being maturing pop-punkers (‘Kings Of The Weekend’, ‘California’). Through it all though, Blink played things far too safe.
6‘Dude Ranch’ (1997)
Tighter than ‘Cheshire Cat’ but without losing that scrappy, excitable energy, ‘Dude Ranch’ saw Blink-182 first realise their strengths. The storytelling of ‘Emo’ was oddly empathetic and sincere considering a bulk of their peers were dealing in anger and fury while ‘Dammit’ remains one of the most perfect pop-punk songs ever written. Elsewhere the album title and tracks like ‘A New Hope’ or ‘Degenerate’ saw the band refuse to take themselves too seriously, despite the world tours they already had under their belt and a growing buzz that was impossible to ignore.
Despite both DeLonge and Barker calling this first reunion “dysfunctional”, ‘Neighborhoods’ carried on down the experimental road first laid out by 2003’s ‘Untitled’. Blending together DeLonge’s newfound love of stadium rock (honed across his Angels & Airwaves project), Hoppus’ optimistically bleak lyrics and Barker’s world class skill as a drummer, ‘Neighborhoods’ allowed each member to shine. ‘After Midnight’ felt like a celebration of being a flawed adult while ‘MH 4.18.2011’ offered positivity in the face of violence and oppression. With each member given space in the spotlight, though, their famed chemistry never truly clicked. Follow-up EP ‘Dogs Eating Dogs’ proved it was possible but by that point, the reunion was already over and fans would have to wait over a decade for DeLonge to rejoin the band.
4‘Enema Of The State’ (1999)
Undeniably one of the greatest pure pop-punk albums ever written, Blink-182’s major label debut helped the genre achieve mainstream notoriety and success following the more snarling efforts of Green Day (‘Dookie’) and The Offspring (‘Smash’). Showcasing the angst-ridden growing pains that had given an entire generation a sense of community but with a fearless abundance of radio-friendly hooks, ‘Enema Of The State’ was perfectly balanced. The inclusion of Travis Barker holding things together certainly helped as well.
Over twenty years later, the likes of ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘All The Small Things’ remain youthful anthems of rebellion even if the songs themselves are now old enough to know better. Elsewhere the buoyant ‘Mutt’, the heart-on-the-sleeve honesty of ‘Going Away To College’ and the frustration of ‘Dysentery Gary’ made the everyday feel interesting.
3‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’ (2001)
How do you follow-up one of the biggest rock albums of the ‘90s? Blink simply made everything bigger. Across ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’, the band polished their pop sensibilities until they sparkled while the moments of punk fury were driven by a newfound venom. Even the humour felt more daring, considering their status as MTV darlings. Opening with protest song ‘Anthem Part Two’, Blink started by challenging every generation that had come before them (“If we’re fucked up, you’re too blame” sings DeLonge).
The album then went on to tackle everything from the effects of divorce (‘Stay Together For The Kids’) to being more direct about what you want (‘Story Of A Lonely Guy’), as Blink took their role as generational figureheads seriously. Well, as seriously as you can with an album that featured a bonus track about bestiality (‘Fuck A Song’). Elsewhere tracks like ‘The Rock Show’ and ‘Reckless Abandon’ perfectly captured how celebratory punk music can feel, inspiring the next generation to follow in their footsteps.
Following the positive reaction to Skiba joining Blink-182 and after proving they did have a future as a band with ‘California’, his second record with Blink was far more joyful and daring. ‘Darkside’ (alongside its social-media friendly video) felt like an updated version of those ‘00s pop-punk anthems while the feelings of paranoia, disillusion and frustration that were threaded throughout the record mirrored the times perfectly. Rather than pretending they were still teenagers, this version of Blink-182 dealt with the disappointment of growing up while still offering escapism through giddy punk rock.
It’s mature, without being boring and familiar without feeling predictable. With plenty of world tours to their name, the chemistry between Skiba, Hoppus and Barker was painfully obvious and this record really celebrated that. Throughout ‘Nine’, the trio seemed comfortable that things were different than before, and explored those new possibilities with a fearless confidence. Because of that, tracks like ‘Happy Days’, ‘Blame It On My Youth’ and ‘I Really Wish I Hated You’ feel like classic Blink.
After releasing two globally celebrated pop-punk albums, Blink really shook things up with their untitled record. Following the intense, emotional path that was hinted at on ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’, the band pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and explored gothic pop (‘I Miss You’), grandstanding punk (‘Feeling This’) and swaggering rock & roll (‘Always’). They even got The Cure’s Robert Smith to guest on the brooding ‘All Of This’ and it never felt jarring.
At a time where most of their peers were simply doing the same thing with steadily diminishing results, it was still a huge gamble but it paid off, with Blink laying the foundation for scene bands like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and My Chemical Romance to change up their own sound between eras. If there’s a reason people are still excited by new music from the classic lineup of Blink-182 in 2022, it’s because of this album, as ‘Untitled’ proved that Blink were so much more than a toilet-humour obsessed pop-punk band.