20 years ago, Blink-182 released of Enema of the State and became every 13-year old’s favorite band. (Why yes, I did turn 13 in 1999.) Last week the band played Enema in its entirety at Chicago’s Riot Fest and tomorrow the band will release a new album, NINE. To celebrate the last 20 years of wanton immaturity in this, the Year of Our Blink 2019, let’s take a look at the 20 best deep cuts from Blink’s surprisingly expansive catalog. These songs might not have been hits, but dammit if they don’t give this pathetic voyeur a new hope.
20. “Asthenia” from Blink-182
Blink’s self-titled full-length remains the band’s most mature release to date—a distinction it holds over its peers by an order of magnitude—and “Asthenia” is one of that album’s most mature tracks. A near-minute-long introduction leads into a cleverly arranged transition that effectively utilizes handclaps. (On a Blink song? I know, right!) Eventually, “Asthenia” kicks into high gear but the song never escapes the haunting doubt that undergirds Tom DeLonge’s surprisingly resonant lyrics, especially when DeLonge’s fascination with using outer space as a metaphor becomes unexpectedly tender and he wonders, “Where are you Houston? Is somebody out there? Will somebody listen?”
19. “What Went Wrong” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Another instance of DeLonge turning his alien-obsessed gaze inward and finding something remarkably potent. “What Went Wrong” is the barest song in Blink-182’s oeuvre and one of the most tangibly emotional. The song, which was buried as a bonus track on the “Pants” bonus edition of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, features some terribly produced orchestration but that doesn’t take away from DeLonge’s arrangement and lyrics which effectively convey the reality that it’s often the known that is more frightening that the unknown.
18. “Parking Lot” from California (Deluxe Edition)
When DeLonge finally left Blink for good, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker tapped longtime Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba as his replacement. The band’s first release with its new lineup was 2016’s California which featured a solid single and a host of middling fair that’s enjoyable enough in small spurts but doesn’t demand much devotion. And yet the band released a deluxe version of California a year later which essentially added an entire album’s worth of material, with 12 new tracks. The opener and high point of that second disc is the energetic “Parking Lot”, which is little more than an excuse for Barker to unleash blast beats and fills while Skiba and Hoppus trade classic skate punk vocals, and yet, somehow, that’s enough.
17. “Carousel” from Chesire Cat
For listeners of a certain age—and, at 33, I certainly qualify—it seems crazy to think of “Carousel” as a deep cut. But it is. The song was never released as a single and despite being ritualistically played by every bass player you knew in high school, it remains well outside Blink’s popular canon. It’s also … kind of painful to listen to in 2019. Chesire Cat—and, God help me, Buddha—have that uniquely mid-’90s combination of terrible production and shoddy musicianship that once passed as “authenticity.” But at this point, “Carousel” and “M+M’s”—a single that was ritualistically ruined by every guitar player you knew in high school—are just about the only listenable songs from this phase of Blink’s career. (Don’t feel too bad about being left out, Chesire Cat enthusiasts. It could have been worse: Despite a respectable effort by “Ghost on the Dance Floor”, Neighborhoods didn’t manage to land a single entry on this list.)
16. “Untitled” from Dude Ranch
“Untitled” opens with some of DeLonge’s most boring guitar work and most nasally vocals before kicking into gear and becoming one of the band’s best early tracks. Layered harmonies and an uncharacteristically fun drum beat from the long-departed Scott Raynor build towards the song’s climactic moment as DeLonge sings, “When I needed you most, when I needed a friend, you let me down now like I let you down then.” It’s a powerful moment, so naturally it’s immediately followed by a skit about infectious diseases.
15. “Here’s Your Letter” from Blink-182
DeLonge may have had the better knack for moody, angsty teen-rock but at Blink’s peak it was Hoppus who wrote the band’s best hooks. “Here’s Your Letter”, one of the self-titled’s fastest and catchiest songs, bops with an absolutely killer chorus: It’s practially impossible not to sing along as Hoppus riffs, “Fuck, I can’t let this kill me. Let go!” Plus, “Here’s Your Letter” provided yet another opportunity for Barker to go completely unhinged with machine gun fills, and who doesn’t love that?
14. “Shut Up” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “I’m going fuckin’ deaf. You’re always too loud, everything’s too loud. Now that all my friends left, this place is fucking dead. I want to move out. When can we move out? This shit has gotta stop.”
Goddamn. That incredibly profane verse is how “Shut Up” begins and, honestly, that the song is so fucking catchy while delivering such a brutally bitter message is really fucking remarkable. Dammit, now I can’t stop fucking swearing.
13. “Anthem” from Enema of the State
Viewing Enema of the State from a distance, “Dumpweed” feels like the more appropriate selection here, mainly because of that generationally recognizable opening riff. But under closer review, it becomes clear that it’s the album’s closer rather than its opener that deserves special mention. The first half of “Anthem” has all of the obnoxiously horny lyrics that’d you’d expect from an ode to trying to get laid as a high schooler but then, around its halfway mark, the song finally transitions into a blasting chorus and the oft-imagined oppression of adolescent life is laid bare: “Don’t need a mom/dad slave drive song.” And in case that doesn’t make the point clearly enough, the song closes with a line that further emphasizes the emotional combustibility of being a teenager, saying simply, “I time bomb.”
12. “Dick Lips” from Dude Ranch
There’s an argument to be made that “Dick Lips” is one of Blink’s most basic songs, at least structurally. The song does little beyond alternate between an electric passage and an acoustic one, the backing beat barely changing for either. Technically there’s a bridge, but that offers little more than an instrumental rehash of what’s already been on display. And yet, there’s an odd melodic sophistication to this immaturely named track. Despite its structural simplicity, “Dick Lips” is one of the few Blink songs to feature an acoustic guitar and the melody that DeLonge drapes over the song’s primitive construction is endearing. That fragmented combination of limited sophistication and somewhat brilliant execution is pretty much the definition of boyhood and maybe that’s the truth of it: “Dick Lips” isn’t just about growing up, it also sounds like growing up.
11. “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
The incredibly childish comedy bit has been a staple of Blink-182 albums as long as the band has been making music, from “Depends” to the non-musical bit at the end of “Untitled” to a selection of sub-minute joke songs on California. As such, no list of Blink’s best deep cuts would be complete without mentioning these bits and “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” is the best of the lot, narrowly edging out the 17-second stupidity of “Built This Pool.” For all its idiocy, “Happy Holidays” legitimately rips, even—or maybe especially—as the song discusses an octogenarian suffering from untimely gastric distress.
10. “Reckless Abandon” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
A fitting euonym, “Reckless Abandon” is a burst of frenetic energy from start to finish. The song’s main riff doesn’t shred exactly but it does drive a constantly churning song on from one sing-along blast beat to the next. The result is a song that raises your pulse, that vaguely chases debauchery and that makes you feel like you’re a teenager ready to take on the world, even if you’re not (in one way or another). When DeLonge delivers an iconic, chorus-ending line of “He left a scar, size extra large,” yeah, it’s kind of dumb but that’s not the point. The point is that it feels right and it sure does.
9. “Going Away to College” from Enema of the State
Because I love this anecdote so much, I’m not going to fact check it and risk ruining the story: Per the lovely contributors at the indispensable Genius, “Mark Hoppus allegedly wrote this song in about ten minutes after watching Can’t Hardly Wait while feeling homesick on Valentine’s Day, 1999.” Look, “Going Away to College”, with its precisely measured chorus, airtight harmonies and satisfying riff is basically the perfect pop-punk song already, then you go and add Can’t Hardly Wait and a frantic, lonely writing session to the mix? On Valentine’s Day? Get out of my high school diary, Mark.
8. “Pathetic” from Dude Ranch
Before Spotify and playlists made full albums and their highly structured song orders optional, the opening song on an album was incredibly important because it was, almost invariably, the song you heard the most on any given record. The peak era of Blink didn’t begin until Enema of the State but Dude Ranch kicked off a sort of proto-popularity for the band and the opening riff of “Pathetic”, which was blasted so many times through so many CD players that it was fully internalized by a generation of teenage goons such as myself, became a hugely memorable part of the band’s catalog. With Hoppus and DeLonge trading lines, the song also functions as a sort of microcosm of the band, a perfect shorthand for all that Blink was and would become.
7. “The Fallen Interlude” from Blink-182
Co-written by Barker and hip hop artist Sick Jacken, “The Fallen Interlude” is, as Barker put it, “a cool chill song to listen to and just think.” He’s not wrong, either, because there’s something entrancing about the song that makes you want to listen to it on repeat. Even considering the sonic change that Blink underwent for 2003’s self-titled album, going darker, heavier and more mature than they’d ever been in the past, “The Fallen Interlude” feels outside of the band’s scope—a chill, mostly instrumental track with elements of electronica and a vaguely Latinx feel is not the kind of thing you expect from Blink-182—but it works. It’s hard not to wish that Blink had taken more sonic chances like this one, even accepting that they might not has been as successful as this standout track.
6. “Anthem Part Two” from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Literally and figuratively building on Enema’s “Anthem”, “Anthem Part Two” is, well, anthemic. Despite being bona fide adults at the time, Blink were still very much writing songs for teenagers and “Anthem Part Two” looks at the challenges of being a kid and decides, not without reason, that adults need to take some goddamn responsibility for how kids these days are turning out. As a millennial who has heard his fare share of “millennials all want participation trophies”-style comments from members of the very generation that gave out all those participation trophies, well, it rings true. After some ripping harmonies, DeLonge cuts to the chase at the end of the chorus: “If we’re fucked up, you’re to blame.”
5. “Lemmings” from Dude Ranch
If it feels like damn near every song on Dude Ranch is about the pains of growing up that’s probably because damn near every song on Dude Ranch is about the pains of growing up. (Shout-out to “A New Hope” being nothing but a collection of Star Wars jokes, though.) From that selection of angsty adolescent anthems,, “Dammit” was the hit, “Apple Shampoo” was the single that didn’t get the love that it deserved and “Lemmings” was the track that turned a prescient eye to how many of our friendships fade in intensity as we grow up, often enough because there’s a toxic element to them that’s no longer appealing as we mature. Plus, there was that time I made a Mark Eaton joke on Instagram.
4. “Don’t Leave Me” from Enema of the State
Second songs often get overlooked. After the introductory excitement of an opening track, the second song on an album often feels like a comedown before rest of the album gets going. But that’s not the case with “Don’t Leave Me” which slaps from beginning to end and makes a case for being one of the band’s best songs, deep cut or not. A rapid fire intro and singsong verse leads into one of Hoppus’ tighest choruses and one of the band’s best breakup lines as Hoppus sings, “I said don’t let your future be destroyed by my past. She said, ‘Don’t let my door hit your ass.'”
3. “When I Was Young” from Dogs Eating Dogs
Dogs Eating Dogs is an obscure but great EP released independently by Blink after they found themselves disappointed by the isolated recording experience for Neighborhoods. It was also DeLonge’s last release with the band and I’ll argue here that “When I Was Young” was the last great song he wrote. Despite his predilection for a sci-fi future of space exploration, DeLonge’s lyrics have often been backwards-looking, focused on the hazards and trials of childhood. “When I Was Young” takes that rear view approach and bridges it to the present, comparing a past when “the cities were vast, the buildings were taller, I felt really strong, my parents seemed stronger” to a present that is “nervous”, “anxious” and “surrounded by blackness.” Because of its independent release and the fact that it wasn’t available on streaming platforms for a while, Dogs Eating Dogs is often overlooked but songs like its title track and “When I Was Young” make it required listening for any Blink fan.
2. “Stockholm Syndrome” from Blink-182
This song. Rocks. So. Hard. Especially considering that its thunderous opening comes after love letters written by Hoppus’ grandfather during World War II are warmly read by Val Kilmer’s ex-wife. (Seriously.) A decade and a half after its release, I can still vividly recall the shock I had as “Stockholm Syndrome” blasted through my car’s speakers for the first time—an experience that, as it was 2003, occurred on the way back from Best Buy where I had just bought Blink-182. Another song on that record is titled “Violence” but that’s the word that comes most often to mind for “Stockholm Syndrome”. The song punches forward above Barker’s typically exceptional percussion through the power of some of DeLonge’s most aggressive guitar work and, with DeLonge shouting his chorus vocals and Hoppus’ bridge vocals mildly distorted, all efforts are made to further increase the intensity of the onslaught. No one will confuse Blink with a hard rock band but “Stockholm Syndrome”, with its crunchy sonic profile and WWII-inspired existential despair, is heavy.
1. “Wendy Clear” from Enema of the State
A hot take: “Wendy Clear” is not only Blink’s best deep cut, it may be their best song, period. It’s essentially the platonic ideal of what made Blink great at the height of their powers: a bright pop-punk song that both rocks and demands singing along. “Wendy Clear” moves from a memorable opening riff into a bouncy verse and an addictive chorus; its distinct bridge layers sturdy harmonies before the song closes out with a modified chorus that amps up all of that passage’s best elements. The song’s lyrics are equally relatable (“Is it something I’ll regret? Why do I want what I can’t get? I wish it didn’t have to be so bad.”) and ridiculous (“I’d play with a nuclear device.”) in a way that expertly encapsulates what it feels like to be a teenager whose emotions are the most important and extreme things you’ve ever felt in your life. In short, “Wendy Clear” is a perfect distillation of what makes Blink-182 one of the most beloved bands of their era.