Blink-182 is on tour again, this time with My Chemical Romance, and they made their customary Chicago land stop at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on August 20. I attended, along with my 23-year-old sister and my 12-year-old brother.
Blink-182, is, of course, that band that somehow transcended the 1990s, defining what it was like to grow up through toilet humor. Everyone remembers hiding “Enema of the State” or “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” from their parents; the image of the music video for “All The Small Things” has the three skinny, snot-nosed band members running down the street naked. I look at Blink-182 now and wonder, “Why does every 12-year old kid love this?”
Better yet, I ask myself, “Why do I still like this?” I thought long and hard about this. Why does something so inane and immature still hang in the back of my head, pervading my subconscious like some punkish elevator music? Anyone who knows Blink-182 knows that the most talented member of the band is Travis Barker; his drumming is literally the only aspect of Blink’s music that gives it musical credence.
The man can drum better than any modern artist, and, at live concerts, he does it while hanging upside down and spinning in three dimensions. Conversely, the lyrics of Mark Hoppus and TomDeLonge combine to come out less poetic than the word scrambles on the back of a cereal box and the band relies heavily on power chords to drive its music.
For anyone who has never played guitar, power chords are basically the training wheels of learning guitar. The band is not that talented. Still, Blink-182 has maintained success for about 20 years and they sell out all of their shows. Why?
They must mean something to a large group of people. For me, and I think for that large group of people, Blink-182 condensed the different phases of growing up into one, 40 minute album at a time. In the decade of the nineties, when there was no real draining conflict that America had gotten lost in, when there was actually (get this) a surplus in the national budget under President Clinton and when there were superhuman baseball players such as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire destroying record books, the process of growing up still hurt, despite the relative lack of problems our generation had to deal with.
I guarantee, whether everyone cares to admit it, that every single one of you readers have sat in your room, listening to Blink’s fake suicide ballad “Adam’s Song”, singing “I can’t wait ‘til I get home/ to spend the time in my room alone.” If not, you found some similarly dated substitute. We, as a generation, may not have struggled against all odds growing up, but we were still utterly confused by the world.
That answers the question of why we liked it. Why do we still? I believe that our nostalgia not just for Blink-182 but for all trends nineties cannot be categorized in the same way our parents feel for artists such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who. While their generation had several defining moments, spreading from the assassination of JFK to the moon landing to Vietnam protests, our generation has one.
The day that shaped the perspective I view everything was September 11th, 2001. America became embroiled in two wars. Baseball players that made us all watch in concentrated awe turned out to be bigger cheaters than Bernie Madhoff. Now we sit and watch as Congress and President Obama insult one another over how to keep the budget deficit from swallowing our country.
We know that it is our generation that will continue to live with the scar of four planes hitting three buildings and a field in Pennsylvania at a time when we were still young enough to be struggle with long division but old enough to understand that something had changed drastically. I know that my experience dealing with September 11th has defined my life in every way. If it never happened, I would probably have ended up as an English teacher in Chicago instead of moving to Washington, D.C., to work for the federal government. Our generation was handed a big problem nearly ten years ago.
We still do not know how to fix it. Bands like Blink-182 represent a time where the best of days were filled with “your mom” jokes and music about being awkward around girls. To be clear, times were simpler. Whatever trend in music or movies you loved, they do not apply any more. Instead of singing, dancing and dreaming of becoming the next Spice Girl, girls are exposed tooversexualized idols such as Miley Cyrus that contribute nothing to their psyche.
They want to become women way too early and they want to lose the innocence that the fans of Spice Girls were seemingly required to have. Times are strange, and being a kid nowadays is different. So, as I was watching Travis Barker do his elevated drum solo (seriously, look it up on YouTube), I looked at my 12-year-old brother and realized I could never understand what it would have been like to have been born ten years later.
I realized that I can never understand what its like to grow up always having the Internet in your pocket. I cannot understand what its like having the September 11th attacks, the largest such attack on American soil, consistently spoken of in a matter-of-fact tone. While we would all like to go back to the days of listening to bands like Blink-182, we cannot. But we can still hold on as hard as we can. And we should. But we have to look to changing the future as well.
We will just do so while listening to Blink-182’s “Dammit” on our iPods, forever ignoring the irony in being 21-years-old, adults by all measures, and singing the lyrics, “Well, I guess this is growing up.”