Out of all of those initial punk bands I got into in late middle school/ early high school around 1995, the guys in Blink—182 seemed the most like me. Sure, they were a bit older (Hoppus was 22 when Cheshirecame out, DeLonge 19, and Raynor close at 16), but they seemed, well, nice. Blink were normal, suburban kids from outside San Diego. They seemed well—adjusted enough. No hard drugs here or violent tendencies, just break ups, make ups, and goofin' around. Cheshire Cat introduced me and the rest of the punk world to Blink, and while they would not blow up in the mainstream until their follow up on MCA Records, Dude Ranch, they had set the blueprint for their style of poppy, goofy skate punk that they would later bring to the masses.
After recording and self—releasing a demo album titled Buddah (later rereleased by Kung Fu), small San Diego label Cargo Records took notice and sent the band to record their first proper album. Cheshire Cat was recorded quickly, but increases the production value of that found on Buddah while still allowing for the guys to goof off quite a bit.
Many songs off Buddah were rerecorded, and they had good reason to; opener "Carousel" was one of them. Starting with a multi—part intro that features a great bass part by Hoppus, the vocals don't come in until almost a minute—and—a—half. It sets the tone for the serious songs on the record: DeLonge pining for a girl. "I guess it's just another / I guess it's just another / I guess it's just another night alone". "M+M's" was the hit and the video cemented early on their style on that end; no matter how serious the song's content was, the video would be silly. In this case, it depicted the guys stealing from their sleeping girlfriends who later take them down in a blaze of glory while the guys are loading in for a gig. This original version was later deemed too violent or something and those portions were replaced with additional footage of the trio galavanting in the theme park.
"Strings" is another strong track, lead by Hoppus and great drumming by Raynor, who take the chorus to a tom—filled breakdown. "Wasting Time" is one of my favorites, a mid—tempo longing song with Hoppus at the helm again. It's got one of that catchiest choruses and just a pinch of that silliness ("She'd teach me about modern art / And I'd show her it's ok to fart"). "Cacophony" show the band's emo side, with its gentle verses and building choruses, though the tempo does take off near the back half. "Toast and Bananas" is their take on the classic "Let It Be" progression, starting in ballad mode but of course taking off. It's one of DeLonge's strongest tracks of the set.
Cheshire also introduced us to Blink's lovably immature sense of humor. "Does My Breath Smell" starts with a soulful intro by DeLonge with a twist at the end: Why do they / Why do they / Always kick me in the groin when I come near?" They throw in jokey wordplay into nearly every song, as simple as "Your words are kind / ...The kind that repeatedly say no" in "Romeo and Rebecca." The end of the album is full of shenanigans, from the incestous tale of "Ben Wah Balls" to adult bladder control problems in "Depends" to Airplane quotes and "throwing the dick down the stairs".
Blink—182 would reach their peak with 1997's Dude Ranch, helped by a major label recording budget and a more focused set of songs. But Cheshire Cat will always hold that special place for me as one of the first small—label bands I discovered, as well as the first band I shunned when all the jocks started liking them around Enema of the State. Good times.