10 of 10 pt I: TOYPAJ
This is my opinion, and it's 100% correct, and if you disagree then that's, like, you're opinion, man.
As I cook my bacon and eggs after a super gnarly workout, I've learned that I have been chosen at random (read: been sucked into this new old trend on Facebook, and my friend Tim can rot in hell for this❤️) to describe to you my top 10 most influential albums. What the hell does influential mean, anyway? I'm not a professional musician, so they don't influence any sort of style of playing or songwriting. So I guess a list of 10 albums that have influenced my life. I’ll start with something very obvious. Sigh...1 of 10 of my most influential albums.
blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket (TOYPAJ from here on). I’ve gotten into arguments about why this album is perfect (by the way, for today’s 10 of 10 I nominate Justyn Gomez), and I've actually been scolded for being so passionate about this topic by some dick that I don't talk to anymore, but that's a WHOLE other story, but since when is passion a bad thing? I believe, quite firmly and with great gusto, that this is the absolute best album blink has ever done. And as usual...thoughts ran long, so I moved it from Facebook to my blog, because I have no control over myself.
1) It’s faster, louder, harder, a little more hilarious and a lot more poignant than Enema of the State. It’s got new depth that blink had never shown before while retaining their signature humor. Untitled and Enema got drunk on Boone's Farm, had a wild night in the back of an '82 Cutlass if that's a thing, I don't know cars for shit, and this album was the baby. This is the sweet spot of blink-182's career, because it did show immense growth. People will say Dude Ranch is their best, and sure, it's a superb pop-punk record, but there was lacking in imagination. Don't get me wrong, I love that punk beat to the ends of the earth, but I also enjoy variation in my punk songs. Enema HAD to be made. They finally had a recording budget, could afford Jerry Finn (RIP), and Travis Barker became the new drummer. He brought a new dynamic, changed the pace of some songs, and allegedly All The Small Things had a similar beat as most songs on Dude Ranch, and it was Barker's suggestion to slow it down a bit. And look at what happened with that. Then TOYPAJ in 2001. Then Untitled came out in 2003, and it's a much darker record than anything they'd done till that point. Their primary reasoning, stated in multiple interviews, is that they all became fathers before and during the recording process. They matured as people along the way. Totally fine, I get that. But they still had their sense of humor in the same interviews and in their banter on stage. Yet there's nothing to really laugh about on Untitled, and that's fine. There's nothing to laugh about on probably 97% of the albums ever released. But it sort of felt like (to me, someone who has never once met them in person) they were almost betraying their true nature. I want to make it perfectly clear...PERFECTLY CLEAR...that I love the Untitled album. The band's reasoning behind it sort of bummed me out, almost kind of like a scape goat or a cop out or something. Life's not all burritos and strippers, I get that, but it's also not gloom and Dr Doom either. TOYPAJ had that perfect balance of darkness (divorce, earth falling apart, nightmares about their significant others, breaking up with someone, lost love, not fitting in), but they also had the fun shit (falling in love with a girl at a rock show, in the car unable to wait to pick her up on their very first date, only wrapping two fucking presents on Christmas Eve, dreams about their significant others, punk rebellion, and general Reckless Abandon). The album portrays the duality of life with such perfection (and if there's a more pretentious way to say that, please let me know), and it basically sums up the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Mark Hoppus once referred to the album as a "permanent record of a band in transition ... our confused, contentious, brilliant, painful, cathartic leap into the unknown." I think he's right. But there's also honesty in the record that stays true to the child inside all of us.
The great thing about reading a blog entry is how seamless it is. In between number one and number two (ha!) you never would have known that I finished cooking and eating my bacon and eggs, took a shower, got dressed, made my hair perfect in, like, 30 seconds, drove to work and clocked in late if I hadn't just explicitly told you. But why would I not tell you? I like including people in my life. My shower was nice and steamy, thanks for asking.
2) The collection of songs, as a whole, is an insanely strong offering. The strongest of blink’s catalogue. My all time favorite songs the band has ever done, Going Away To College, Not Now, Every Time I Look For You, and Left Alone, are on Enema of that State, the deluxe version of Untitled, TOYPAJ, and California respectively. Only one of my favorites comes from this album, but I still consider it to be the best album. The aforementioned songs always take me to very special places that I either can't explain, or don't want to spend the emotional/brain power discussing. However, taken as a whole entity instead of *just* one song after another, TOYPAJ feels more connected and thought out than other albums. Entertainment Weekly described it as a concept album based on a dying relationship, a "self-meditation on romantic decay." I think Travis Barker even stated the record was a concept album, stating that each song flows into the next, telling a cohesive story. I can't find his exact quote or even proof that he said that, but I'm gonna take my word on it and state it as fact. I don't necessarily consider it to be a concept album myself, because while there's a thematic thread of that "romantic decay", the story seems to revolve around several different love stories. I'm also not the composer, so I have no idea. But what TOYPAJ does is sort of capture the bi-polarity of life. Sometimes it's shitty, sometimes it's amazing. This is a pure "eye of the beholder" situation. I see Untitled to take place in separate vignettes, each as a little stage play telling it's own story. The front seat of a car in "Down", a girl's bedroom while her parents are out of town in "Feeling This", a broken home in "Go", a dive bar in "Violence". And for some reason I always picture a knight returning home from an arduous task, taking off his armor after a long ride home, sitting in the corner of the bedroom, watching his significant other sleep, counting his blessings and feeling so in love in "I'm Lost Without You". It's always the stone walls of a castle. That song rips me apart. But I think that's where that album succeeds. Several stories mingling together to ponder love, loss, and maturity. TOYPAJ (the whole reason we're here, let's not forget) is more a pontification on life in general. And that's why I prefer it. No matter how you feel, what's going on in your life, who you're with, who you've broken up with, where you are, or what your struggling with, Take Of Your Pants And Jacket not only runs the whole spectrum of what life is all about, but it also highlights the import parts about what it means to be alive. If I ever need guidance or have to clear my head, I put on this album and sink into it. No matter what or how I'm feeling, this album always has what I need. Like heroin, except it's not illegal, a dumb decision, and I can fear needles from a great and healthy distance. (Don't do drugs, by the way)
3) Of all blink-182's records, this has to be when each member was at their peak. Mark's voice is punchy and almost at a scream, and his lyrics are almost perfect. Tom's lyrical introspection is a change from Enema and is never seen at this level again in the course of his on-again-off-again relationship with the band. His guitar playing is a level previously unseen, and nothing he ever repeats. And Travis...I mean, listen to the patterns thrown together in "Anthem Pt II", "Shut Up", "Every Time I Look For You" or even the little garnishes he does on the high speed "Happy Holidays, You Bastard", and tell me he doesn't deliver his best drumming of his career, up to and even after this point. There was a great care taken in the crafting of this album. I would assume that the pressure to follow up the success of Enema Of The State was looming over their heads, and I'm pretty sure I recall Mark talking about how there was an unspoken competition between him and Tom over who could write the most clever lyric or instrument part. To an extent, I think that's healthy. It pushes you to become better at something at which you're already great. So I think there was a pressured excitement in the writing of TOYPAJ that pushed everyone to be at their absolute best. Lyrically, and I know I've already mentioned this, it's leaps and bounds over Dude Ranch and Enema Of The State, it narrowly beats Untitled out as a more magnificent sonic experience, and creatively as a whole it blows Neighborhoods, Dogs Eating Dogs, and California out of the water. The album in general is a humongous punk rock soundscape that never gets trapped in itself nor does it get in its own way or try to be something it's not. It's a very honest album.
4) Speaking of honesty, it's a true blink-182 collaboration as far as trading off lead vocalists go. On every album up to TOYPAJ, one member always sang more songs than the other, or there were a couple tracks in a row where Mark would sing, and they'd make up the difference by having two songs led by Tom. On Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, they alternate each song, save for "Stay Together For The Kids" and "Every Time I Look For You", but if you consider choruses (a point that I will later contradict later in this same bulletpoint), Stay Together is very much a Tom song, and Every Time is a Mark song. I only suggest that because Tom's chorus is the primary voice of someone who's family has fallen apart. Sure you can be sad, timid and quiet, but it seems to me that a kid in the middle of divorcing parents would prefer to wail out in grief and anger like Delonge does in the chorus. After all, it's an autobiographical song written by Tom, specifically about the day he learned what was going on with his folks. Even though Mark has the verses, it's a part of the song that only his lower register would be able to effectively handle and make believable. But what really takes it up a notch is Tom's choruses. Thus...a Tom song. "Every Time I Look For You" is a Mark song even though he and Delonge trade lines in the pre-chorus section. But the primary verses, choruses and bridge are sung by Hoppus. So considering everything I've laid out in torturous detail so far, they technically alternate every song. It's the only blink album that does this. When they made the shift to the darker experimentation, Mark doesn't have a song until track 8's "Go". Even "Feeling This" is a Tom song, regardless that Hoppus takes the chorus and bridge. This track is about sex, the verses being the lustful side, the choruses being the more romantic, and the lust comes out on top with Delonge's frantic speak-sing delivery, and his harmonies over powering Hoppus' vocals on the last chorus when the wall of guitar slaps you upside the head. Now that I've typed all that out, maybe it's more of a blink-182 song than a Mark of Tom song, but even then, there's a struggle for power. Alright, look, shut up. Okay? TOYPAJ plays more fairly to the two singers than any other album they've done is the point I'm trying to make here.
I could obviously go on and on and on about why this album is the best blink-182 album of all time ever until the end of time becomes the beginning once more and dissect each song one after the other, because I know enough about it to make my word processor run out of ink. Yes, I know, "a technological impossiblity" you shout from the back of the house, which a) why are you all the way back there, this show isn't even close to sold out, and there are seats right up here in the front, and b) that's the point. It's a...what is it? Hyperbole I think? An over exaggeration to imply that I know more about this band and this album than any math course from the private school my parents busted their asses to send me to. Yes. This is what I'm doing with their money.
Anyway, the very first album of my 10 for 10 is blink-182's Take Off Your Pants And Jacket because I feel that as a collective trio, this was the band's greatest work. Whether it was the camaraderie they had formed from years past or the pressure building up in the group that eventually led to their break up in 2005, this is the shining light in blink's discography. Cheshire Cat and Dude Ranch were learning experiences, Enema Of The State was the road to perfection, TOYPAJ is, like, if Infinity War was a punk rock album, and everything after was dark, Tom oriented, and I feel like they tried too hard to experiment and sound different. The key to this album was the truth they fought for at this point in their careers. The angst, the struggle, the maturity and simultaneous lack thereof...it's all them. Exposed, balanced and honest.
Now let this be a lesson to you to not ever tag me in these Facebook trends ever again. TIM. You dick.
*I'd like to make it clear that I love every blink album, and they're still, to this very day, my favorite band of all time. Just because I think this album is perfect doesn't mean I think the others suck. I shouldn't have to explain that, but...here we are.
Editor's Note: I don't have an editor. This is not proofread. It only is what it will ever be. The message remains the same. Fight me, Justyn.