Reviews Through a Friend: Blink-182’s “Enema of the State”

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the second entry in Mid-American Culture’s first ever Reviews Through a Friend, in which we review albums handpicked for us by our contributors. Today, I’m gonna be reviewing Blink-182’s massively successful album, Enema of the State.

Before we get to the actual review, I just thought I’d share some of my initial reactions to having to review this record. While I was certainly familiar with some of the hits from this album (namely, “What’s My Age Again” and “All the Small Things”), my knowledge of Blink-182 is pretty limited. I know they’re supposed to be one of the landmark “pop-punk” groups, and, while I’m familiar with previous punk groups that dabbled in pop sensibilities – namely, Descendents and Hüsker Dü – I really have no experience with the actual genre itself. But hey, let’s give the record a shot.

Oh, the late nineties!

Enema of the State was Blink-182’s third album, and was released in 1999. This album is often referred to as a landmark album in the development of pop-punk as a genre, putting them right next to contemporaries like Green Day. The band is a trio composed of bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus, guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, and drummer Travis Barker.

I’ll go ahead and say it: I was not too big a fan of this album. My complaints mostly stem from the bland guitar playing and whiny voice of Tom DeLonge. I’ll be the first person to tell you: you do not have to be a great singer to make great music. People like Mike Watt and Joe Strummer have made absolutely terrific music while not being the greatest singers in the world. DeLonge, however, possesses a voice with the perfect pitch as to inflict annoyance, and this was ever-present on tracks such as “Dumpweed,” “Aliens Exist,” and “Dysentery Gary.”

Mark Hoppus, on the other hand, has a pretty good voice, although it’s really nothing special. Songs like “What’s My Age Again?,” “Don’t Leave Me,” and “Going Away to College” work more so than DeLonge’s tunes simply because his voice is better. While he may have the better voice, however, that doesn’t necessarily redeem his songs from average status.

Songs from this album fell into three categories: better than I expected, what I expected, and worse than I expected. Songs like What’s My Age Again?, for instance, fall in the first category. This song is quite nostalgic for me, due to its presence on a Now That’s What I Call Music CD (I don’t remember which one). This song still holds up because of Hoppus’s solid vocal performance and a nice dynamic quality to the instrumentals. Also, it’s no wonder why Travis Barker became such a famous drummer: he does some solid work on this album.

Another pleasant surprise was “Adam’s Song,” which was, apparently, a hit, but I’d never heard it before. Again, Hoppus makes this song, and I respect this band for tackling heavy subject matter in the same album as songs with titles like “Aliens Exist” and “Dumpweed.” The lyrics, while pretty basic, still get the job done, and the song has a very nice instrumental break in the latter half. The song reminds me of “Jean is Dead” by Descendents, but that song carries a bit more emotional weight. Still, “Adam’s Song” was a nice surprise.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have songs like “Aliens Exist.” Now I’m not gonna sit here and say that songs about aliens, space, and the like can’t be good. In fact, one of my favorites from Hüsker Dü, “Books About UFOs,” does it splendidly. It’s just that DeLonge’s voice combined with this silly subject matter just makes the song come off as annoying and tacky. It’s like something someone would come up with in a parody, not a 5x platinum supposed pop-punk “masterpiece.” The same is true of “Anthem,” the album’s closer. The lyrics in this song make reference to humping dogs and being considered a slave because of being grounded. Badass, guys. This is what people would come up with when making fun of punk music. “Anthem” may be the worst song on the album. These songs don’t even come across as tongue-in-cheek, making them all the more puzzling. Needless to say, most of DeLonge’s songs fall in the worse than I expected category.

Except for “All the Small Things.” Everyone’s heard this song, haven’t they? This song is exactly what I expected, probably because I’ve heard it like 1000 times. And, I can definitely see why it’s one of their biggest hits. The song is really catchy, which alleviates some of the annoyance with DeLonge’s vocals.

Overall, I’d say that the hits suffice for this album. Songs like “What’s My Age Again?,” “All the Small Things,” and “Adam’s Song” really are the only things worth listening to. The other songs just suffer from bland instrumentals (except for Barker’s solid drumming), DeLonge’s annoying vocals, or just all sounding too similar. This album seems like it tries to solidify itself as a badass punk album, with having a pornstar on the album cover, having a “funny?” album title, and bemoaning the all-too-tragic phenomenon of being grounded. But, it just lacks the abrasiveness, and, for lack of a better term, likability, of other punk bands. For a punk album that delves into pop, I’d recommend the Descendents’ Milo Goes to College. It’s not even that this album, as a whole, is bad, it’s just average, and while there is certainly a lot to appreciate, such as Hoppus’s tracks and Barker’s drumming, everything else is just run of the mill. If you love the hits and want to give this band more of a shot, go ahead and check it out, but, for me, I’m just gonna continue listening to the hits, because they’re honestly the best this album has to offer. I give Blink-182’s Enema of the State a 4.5/10.

Thank you all so much for reading this review, and make sure you check out the other Reviews Through A Friend we’ll be doing this week. Our Weekly Waves Playlist for the week is a compilation of our favorite tracks from the albums we reviewed, so check that out as well!

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