At their recent show at New York City's Roseland Ballroom, Blink 182's tag-team of dopey frontmen, Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge, delivered the following wisecracks:
"Jesus Christ, I'm so tired. I need an orgasm."
"Titties! Those are nice!"
"Take it from me because I learned the hard way: circumcisions are best
left to professionals."
"Do you get boners all the time?"
"I'm developing breasts."
"I'll kick everyone's ass in this room."
"Tomorrow we're playing Ass-bury Park. Get it? Get ass?"
"Every single one of us came out of our moms' uteruses. That's disgusting."
"... but I never got caught and she never pressed charges."
As you can gather, Blink 182 are not paragons of maturity. To be fair, their audience is a young one; the San Diego trio has built a multi-platinum career on speaking to suburban adolescence. But this evening's performance was so half-hearted and inane that it made one wonder if Blink 182 are only insulting their fans by feeding them this simple-minded cheeseball mess.
The band sounded just awful. Granted, much of that was not their fault -- feedback was a major problem and the vocals were almost completely washed away by the atrocious sound design. But Hoppus (bass and vocals) and Delonge (guitar and vocals) gave lazy, sloppy performances, putting in all the effort of a pair of blotto skate rats crashing the X-Games. Who knows what possessed them to switch keys in the middle of "What's My Age Again?" or to stumble through "Don't Leave Me" and "Pathetic" like desperate Ramones imitators on amateur night? Only drummer Travis Barker gave the righteous 120%, grounding the songs in their necessary machine gun rhythm.
Hoppus did try mixing up the typical punk stage leaps with some sweaty Springsteen-esque passion poses, but it was his and Delonge's dum-dum dickhead attitude that left an indelible stamp on the stumbling set.
The saddest fact is that Blink 182 are so much better than that. Listen to their current album, Enema of the State
, a caustic, concise set of songs that question, with blistering appeal, the specific insecurities of growing up and growing older. It stands with Nevermind
as one the most compelling Nineties punk albums, not so much in spite of, but because of its juvenile silliness. Call it a symptom of a vapid society, but the fact is that these days, scatological humor and porn star ogling are part of being young, and Blink 182 speak that idiom fluently, via their tightly-wound punk-pop. So what was most frustrating about this show was that Blink refused to listen to that gifted-geek muse on stage. Their songs are simple, sure, but performing them convincingly requires more than a simplistic effort, which Blink 182 couldn't be bothered with this night.
Tellingly, the few highlights of the show were the songs that obviously key into attitudes a little closer to the band's twentysomething hearts. While still not on the ball performance-wise, "Going Away to College" -- a few years off for much of the crowd -- was heartfelt enough to express some of the recorded work's passion. "Adam's Song," the musical suicide note of a washed-up punk superstar, also came across with a bit more sincerity, as did "Dammit," the exciting, freewheeling anthem of betrayal that rightly lifted Blink 182 out of cult status in 1997. These songs are some of the band's best written, and apparently best-loved, which helped give some direction to the clumsy chaos on stage.
Blink 182 should stay sincere to the angst-pop that obviously motivates them and trust that their audience will understand it without a sugarcoating of crotch-grabbing and date-rape jokes. Heed your own words: nobody likes you when you're 23 and you still act like you're in freshman year. What's their age again?
Written by NOAH TARNOW for RollingStone.com News