15 Years Ago: Blink-182 Shift Sound With ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’
When people talk about Blink-182’s “return to form” on California, they mean the trio have toned down on grandiosity and gone back to high-speed punk antics. But there’s always been more to Blink than meets the eye, like former guitarist/singer Tom DeLonge’s extraterrestrial obsession or drummer Travis Barker’s intricate rhythms. And though 1999’s Enema of the State was the quadruple-platinum behemoth of Blink’s catalog, it was Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, which was released on June 13, 2001, that best blended their past and future.
On the surface, the 13 tracks read like DeLonge’s and bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus’ shared journal. “First Date” bounced with the nervous energy of a geek finally wooing his adolescent love. “Online Songs” seethed over the end of that relationship. “Story of a Lonely Guy” wasn't a case of false advertising. The songs were heart-on-sleeve anthems for those stuck between the teen years and adulthood.
“After Enema of the State, when ‘All the Small Things’ became a hit, they really tried to market us as a bunch of guys that will do almost everything for kicks,” Hoppus told NY Rock in 2001. “Sure, we love to laugh and for a while it was funny, but we kinda got branded with that image and that's not all that we're about.”
Yes, there was the requisite gross-out romp “Happy Holiday, You Bastard” and the sly album title. But there was also a slow-burning maturation to Jacket that listeners only heard previously in “Adam’s Song,” Enema’s weeper about suicide. The threesome had reached their late 20s at the turn of the century, and it had become gauche to whine, “Nobody likes you when you’re 23,” as they did on “What’s My Age Again?” For Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Hoppus and DeLonge capitalized on Millennial befuddlement under George W. Bush’s nascent presidency.
Though the album preceded 9/11, so much of its subject matter could now been seen as part of its youth-culture zeitgeist. “Everything has fallen to pieces / Earth is dying, help me Jesus,” DeLonge pleaded in the opener, “Anthem, Pt. 2.” Barker machine-gunned through the tumult, while Hoppus’ bass triggered a groundswell of dissidence. And then came DeLonge’s accusation against his parents’ generation: “If we’re f---ed up, you’re to blame.”
The sentiment got amplified in the towering single “Stay Together for the Kids.” Blink-182’s equivalent of a power ballad, the song told of DeLonge’s anguish over his folks’ divorce. He was 18 when they split, but that didn’t diminish his sadness.
“Rather than fix the problems, they never solve them / It makes no sense at all,” Hoppus commiserated in the verse. With around 50 percent of American marriages ending in divorce at the time, “Stay Together” struck a chord.
Watch the Video to "Stay Together for the Kids"
This was around the time the dot-com bubble burst and shortly after Y2K came in with not a bang but a whimper. The band had tapped into the unspoken impotence and longing of the generation. The pall was a mix of Gen X apathy and the future’s uncertainty. The world had become a “Roller Coaster,” to quote another Jacket track.
If there were a glimmer of hope on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, it was another radio hit, “The Rock Show.” Packed with nostalgic lyrics about “summer and the Warped Tour,” manic palm-muted riffs and childhood reveries, the song was Blink’s final salute to juvenilia. Its story about meeting a true love and eloping to Vegas at age 17 was full of pith and determination. “We don’t owe anyone a f---ing explanation,” Hoppus spat. In a way, the number reflects a dogged Millennial trait, in which 18- to 34-year-olds are traveling in droves, starting their own companies, eliminating gender roles and embracing technology like never before.
Watch the Video for "The Rock Show"
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was a pivotal moment on the Blink-182 and the punk-pop timelines. It left behind the carefree antics of Enema of the State and foretold the ambitious, game-changing self-titled 2003 release— and even informed the now-legendary American Idiot by contemporaries Green Day. Jacket was comical and smart.
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