Blink-182 - Enema of the State (retro review) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Enema of the State (retro review) (1999)


Punks had a lot of negative things to say about Blink-182 after Enema of the State. They’ve been called sell outs and accused of ruining punk rock. Is there some truth to that? Sure. But even at the height of their popularity, I don’t think Blink ever wielded enough power and influence to ruin all of punk rock. But the band’s harshest detractors tend to lack nuance in their critiques. Certainly Blink-182 embraced their role as MTV punks and sought a crossover audience with pop fans who knew little to nothing about punk, but does that mean that they weren’t still producing quality pop-punk songs? There was some unevenness in their songwriting skills at this point in their career. Blink-182 had two singer/songwriters. One was really growing as a songwriter and maturing far beyond the lyricist he had been back when the band started, and the other one was Tom. Somehow DeLonge still managed to produce the biggest hit single of the album, and of the band’s career, but in every instance Mark Hoppus always produced the superior lyrics, and that unevenness would continue on until around 2011’s Neighborhoods where DeLonge finally caught up with Hoppus as a songwriter.

While Enema did show Blink’s craft improving, the responsibility for much of their sudden mainstream success with this album goes to the replacement of their old drummer, Scott Raynor, with Aquabats drummer Travis Barker. Barker is considered probably the greatest punk drummer of all time, or at least one of the best. According to Raynor, the band had given him an ultimatum to quit drinking or go into rehab or he would be booted from the band and, despite him meeting their demands and deadlines, he was kicked out of the band anyway. The band denies this, but the story makes sense since the band could probably see that his more complex drumming style could help them achieve the success they were clearly already on their way to.

Of all the faults people ascribe to Blink-182, it’s shocking that nobody points out how sophomorically sexist they were at this point in their career, with a touch of homophobia and transphobia thrown in for good measure. It’s absolutely dumbfounding how this album won them so many female fans when, on the opening track, Tom DeLonge declares, quite clearly, “I need a girl that I can train.” “Dysentery Gary” is a straight up incel anthem complaining about a girl not picking the “nice guy” (literally the same guy who said a few tracks back that he needs a girl he can train). That’s not to say that all of the problematic material comes from DeLonge, as Hoppus’s “The Party Song” is a slut shaming anthem that operates under the mistaken assumption that all women’s clothing choices are made with men in mind.

But I can’t just drag this album for its faults. Much like with the equally problematic Milo Goes to College that I reviewed back for Descendents week, Enema of the State captures that youthful energy of your teenage years, even if Blink didn’t have The Descendents excuse of still being teenagers to explain away their behavior. “What’s My Age Again?” is one of the most perfectly written pop-punk songs ever written, with a perfect balance of power and melody and a lighthearted yet earnest message of joy in the lyrics. “Adam’s Song” always annoys me with its bizarre non-sequitor line about apple juice that sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of what is supposed to be a suicide note, but for the first foray into serious subject matter from a band whose previous album ended with the sound of a dog drinking a man’s urine, it’s a pretty successful song. “All the Small Things” is limited by DeLonge’s poor lyrical skills at the time, but what he lacked in lyrics he more than made up for in gorgeous pop-punk melodies, and it’s no surprise that Blink has still failed to put out a more successful single even 20 years later.

Blink-182 would go on to expand on the more serious work that they began with “Adam’s Song.” But the band would continue to be hampered by the fact that DeLonge and Hoppus were growing as songwriters at very different speeds and in very different directions. While Hoppus’s move into serious material felt like a natural evolution, DeLonge seemed to be desperately trying to keep up with Hoppus’s evolution leading DeLonge into a sort of maturity that sounded forced and artificial, leading to him to leave Blink to start the hopelessly pretentious Angels and Airwaves. In many ways, Enema marked the beginning of the end for the Hoppus/DeLonge partnership and, even though they would put out three more LPs and one more EP together, it would be a bumpy road that would ultimately end in DeLonge being replaced with a better songwriter. But for the brief, shining moment after the Mark, Tom, and Travis show was on top of the world.