With Enema of the State, Blink-182's third album, the SoCal
trio have created the musical equivalent of a Miller Lite twelve-pack.
Tastes great? Sure. Less filling? Absolutely.
Each song, just like the last one, is a three-minute blast of frothy
punk-pop, as listenable as it is disposable.
Whether it's bass player Mark Hoppus singing about teen suicide or
guitar player Tom DeLonge singing about stupid girls and diarrhea,
Blink-182's brisk bubblecore and bratty harmonies make every effort
sound like the leading candidate for the totally-out-of-control-party
scene in the next Jennifer Love Hewitt movie.
In other words, it's punk for people who think the Offspring are way
too political and noisy, punk that's as deep as a tattoo and as
dangerous as a Mountain Dew ad.
But if Blink-182's unerring pop instincts and poop-joke-as-rebellion
sensibilities doom them to commercial success and cultural
inconsequence, does that mean one can't enjoy Enema of the State
on its own simple, meretricious terms? If the guys in Blink-182 were
less telegenic and business-minded (their next project is www.loserkids.com,
an Internet clothing store), or from somewhere semi-exotic like New
Zealand, they would probably get a lot more credit for their craft.
Indeed, their work is filled with economic melody and pithy one-liners,
and when they bother to tie those one-liners into discernible
narratives or themes, as on "Going Away to College," or "What's My Age Again?" (RealAudio excerpt),
they're actually kind of witty. Nothing on Enema of the State
quite achieves the sly dumbness of Joey Ramone in his prime, but
couplets like "I'd ditch my lecture to watch the girls play soccer/ Is
my picture still hanging in her locker?" certainly suggest the
potential for doing so.
On many of Enema's 12 songs, in fact, there are great throwaway
lines. Unfortunately, Hoppus and DeLonge seem a little too content to
simply throw them away, to bury them among other phrases that aren't
quite as good or songs that don't add up to much.
For the most part, genericism, both musical and thematic, serves
Blink-182 well they even named two of the tracks "Anthem" and
"The Party Song," as if they understand that all a song really needs
is a bassline, some familiar guitar chords and the vaguest suggestion
about what sort of emotional response it's supposed to provoke. Which
is true, of course, but it would be interesting to see what Hoppus and
DeLonge might produce if they let themselves off the hook less easily.