Blink-182 Clean Up Their Act On New LP

With third album, Enema of the State, pop-punk trio move from masturbation to maturation.

SAN DIEGO — Blink-182 singer/bassist Mark Hoppus may have neglected to include any references to masturbation on his band's latest album, Enema of the State, but it probably wasn't a complete oversight.

"Sh--! I didn't realize that," Hoppus exclaimed when informed of the lack of self-pleasure references. "There should've been at least one, for sure."

Despite the cheeky title and cover photo featuring porn star Janine donning a latex glove, Enema of the State is actually a showcase for Blink-182's maturity. Gone are the toilet-humor skits and songs about voyeurism, adult diapers and ben-wa balls that highlighted the pop-punk trio's sophomoric side on their two previous albums. Enema of the State, released June 1, is the first Blink-182 album devoid of masturbatory humor.

"There is a sodomy reference, though," pointed out singer/guitarist and co-songwriter Tom DeLonge, referring to the band's current hit, "What's My Age Again?" (RealAudio excerpt).

But even then, the reference comes within the fairly serious context

of a guy facing the fact he's getting older while insisting he doesn't

have to grow up.

Nearly every song on Enema deals with serious issues — from romantic relationships to dealing with parents. The group explores new ground on "Adam's Song," setting aside their normal pop-punk punch for a more emo-influenced approach. The song begins as a spare,

melancholy soliloquy by a teen contemplating suicide and gradually

builds to a powerful, piano-laden crescendo.

But an even greater testament to the band's maturity is that one of the more lighthearted songs, "Aliens Exist," manages to go on for more than three minutes about extraterrestrial beings without once mentioning an anal probe.

"I think that the songs have matured, and we've become better

songwriters," Hoppus, 27, said backstage before playing to a hometown

crowd at San Diego State University's Open Air Theatre on June 12.

"But we haven't matured as people."

DeLonge, 23, agreed, but said the dearth of over-the-top juvenile humor

on Enema wasn't for lack of trying.

"We actually had a song called 'I Wanna Fuck a Dog in the Ass,' " DeLonge said.

"It was the funniest song ... [But] a lot of record stores wouldn't

carry [the album] if it was on there, like Wal-Mart and stuff.

The whole reason we went to a major label was to get rad distribution,

and we'd be cutting ourselves short if we included the song.

So we took it off."

Which is not to say that self-censorship had more to do with the

album's tone than the group's progression did. Blink-182 have come a

long way since Hoppus and DeLonge formed the band in 1993 with drummer

Scott Raynor — later replaced by ex-Aquabats skinsman Travis Barker

— in the San Diego suburb of Poway, an unlikely hotbed of aspiring

punk-rock bands.

The following year Blink-182 (then known simply as Blink) released

Cheshire Cat through Cargo Records' Grilled Cheese imprint and

began what would be years of steady touring. The constant playing has

helped the band grow, DeLonge said.

"We feel [Enema is] our best album yet," he said. "Now, the

first thing everyone says to us — I swear to God — is, 'You guys just

sound better. You're growing.' And that's exactly what we wanted to

do."

Part of the band's determination stems from the success of "Dammit"

(RealAudio excerpt),

from their major-label debut, Dude Ranch (1997). That single's

infectious riff and catchy chorus — "Well, I guess this is growing

up" — kept it in rotation on rock radio in late 1997 and throughout

1998. It also helped propel Dude Ranch to gold-record status.

"[When 'Dammit' took off], we were freaking," DeLonge said. "We

couldn't believe what was happening to us. So this time we said to

ourselves, 'OK, let's not freak. Let's really try to put out a better

album. Let's try to stay up here.'"

The effort appears to have paid off. Enema of the State entered

the Billboard 200 albums chart at #9, selling more than 100,000

copies in its first week. Yet the band humbly insists it doesn't

deserve such attention.

"I have no idea why people like our band. Maybe bad taste is in,"

Hoppus said.

"What's My Age Again?" is at #5 on the Billboard Modern Rock

Tracks chart, and Hoppus has a theory for the poppy, melodic rock tune's success

as well.

"I think a lot of people can relate to our lyrics, and it's a catchy

little sing-along song," he said.

The two hit singles on Dude Ranch were based on fictional

material. DeLonge said Hoppus wrote "Dammit" in five minutes about a

breakup that never happened, and "Josie" was written about an ideal

girlfriend who didn't exist.

But on Enema, the band took a more autobiographical approach

with most of the material.

"The song 'All the Small Things' (RealAudio excerpt)

is totally about my girlfriend," DeLonge said. "There's a line that

says 'She left me roses by the stairs/ Surprises let me know she cares.'

I came home from the studio late one night and I was really bummed

because I hadn't seen her for a long time, because we were busy

recording, and she had left me roses."

The song "Dumpweed," however, repeats the line "I need a girl that I

can train." "That's not about her," DeLonge insisted. "I got a lot of

sh-- from her for that one."