I. Blink 182 and the Music Video Art Form as a Declaration of Self
Here’s something I think people tend to forget now as ‘music video’ is an archaic term: videos played a key role not just in promoting music but in helping streamline how we, the listeners, viewed [literally] a band, singer, etc. As such, it is also easy to forget that a relationship with a band could be, at one point in time, almost entirely based on what a video made us think a song actually meant. Off the top of my head, I remember videos, at least vaguely, for “What’s My Age Again,” All the Small Things,” “Dammit,” “First Date,” “Adam’s Song,” “Feeling This,” and “Down.” I know there are more. Oh, “I Miss You.” Out of these videos, 2 would be considered ‘serious’: “Adam’s Song” and “I Miss You.”
II. A Brief Interjection to Highlight a Blink 182 “History”
Blink 182: pop punk band. Makes videos. Tries to make a ‘mature album.’ Takes hiatus. Now they’re sort of back together?
Angels & Airwaves: ethereal (?) band, as in, big and long, sort of like drone music with actual instruments. Blink 182 Member: Tom DeLonge
+44: um, a band. Blink 182 Member(s): Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. Travis is also in, by a rough count, 4,988,092 bands and a plane crash. And I think a brief reality show?
The easy summary here is Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown.” The long summary is, in order to understand Blink 182, one has to accept the following premise: by making videos that were intended to make fun of themselves or others or both, Blink successfully created a formula that allowed them to write whatever they wanted to without ever having to actually answer what they were writing about. This allowed them to sell albums with titles like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket [a terrible pun that I’m sure some newspaper editor somewhere wished he had thought of] and bask in the glow of not being able to be criticized. In the same logic of Juggalos, if you don’t like it, you just don’t get it; you’re not part of it. Up until the self-titled album, Blink’s entire musical output appeared to be as shallow as their music videos showcased. Shallow here not being a critical word in either way, but used as an expression to underscore the inherent “Blink-ness” of songs with lyrics like “I want to fuck a dog in the ass.”
III. The Focus Here
…will be on the albums Dude Ranch, Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and blink-182.
IV. A Complete and Utter Decimation of the Heretofore Organization of This Post
Yesterday, in the kitchen of mine and G.’s home, while G. made soup, I had a total meltdown. And I’ve decided this meltdown is exactly what I’m trying to get at here, eventually, through the use of Roman Numerals and a lack of coherence or movement forward: I have no idea who I am or who I’m supposed to be and this forms the crux of who I think I am, or, at the very least, who I think I should be / act like; as such, a persona is created, one that may or may not be natural, but the idea of ‘natural’ is, in and of itself, a point without a sharp end because ‘natural’ now, today, has less to do with personal understanding and more to do with understanding the cultural in which one has grown up. But that’s quite what I mean. I think. Or at least, the meaning of it has to do with sincerity, sarcasm, facades, and what it means to believe in advertising.
V. Wherein I Attempt to Write a Section Longer Than a Few Sentences
Let’s have a moment of honesty: how does one (me) stop making self-references within self-referential writing (see headline for this fifth section)? The constant self-awareness within self-awareness no longer feels meta but anti, as if the spiraling-inward-process creates more questions than reveals anything worthwhile.
Fuck it. Being mature and being grown-up are two different things. Being grown-up is an age thing; being mature is the act of making correct, logical, right, and/or hard decisions because those decisions are what need to be made. Anyone can be mature; only grown-ups can be grown-up. What Blink-182 wants you to think with their serious side is that they have matured; what they have actually done is grown up. They have elected, ironically I guess, is to act their age, and their age comes with fears, new understandings, beliefs, etc. Being grown-up can (and should) lead to maturity, but it doesn’t have to. The problem is the way we intertwine the two things so that they become synonymous with each other. To me, this isn’t just wrong but also dangerous–not like a crazy dude with a multitude of guns dangerous, but dangerous in that because we see one in a person we expect the other. And these expectations are not always fair. Case in point: people lamenting the Blink-182 they had come to enjoy when the self-titled album was released; they were crushed for trying to sound like a ‘real’ band (whatever that means) and because what they were doing didn’t seem natural to who they were prior to its release. However, when you then consider the side projects of the two main songwriters, in all likelihood, that album was probably the realest interpretation of the emotional standing of Mark and Tom as Blink-182 members. This is not say prior albums weren’t in some context natural; it is to say that the easiest thing a band can do is find a way to sell records; the hardest thing a band can do is find a way to sell records of themselves.
Should you destroy who you are in an attempt to revitalize yourself? Sometimes, a song needs headphones, not speakers.
The heart of all of this is authenticity. I believe we are obsessed with A. simply because on some interior level we are all aware that A. is nothing more than a psychological construct we come up with to feel better about ourselves and the things we like. We dismiss A. when it suits our needs; embrace it when it supports us; and lament its disappearance when we wail against the terrors of the things we ‘don’t like.’ Essentially, A. acts as the basis for how we understand ourselves, and, yet, there is nothing authentic about A. Consider: the very idea of Blink-182 existing has to do with a long history of humankind making music, developing / expanding / progressing / digressing / etc. further and further until present day. They are authentic in that they play instruments, write notes and lyrics, perform said notes and lyrics. However, no matter what one says or thinks or does, there will always a be a historical precedence for any musical sound, which means, a band builds itself upon the past. A.’s existence inside this vacuum then has nothing to do with the band but the band’s perception by us, the listener. We put the sound and the story of the band up against music’s past and the band’s contemporaries and create for us an algebraic formula: A. = Our Judgement + Our Previous Knowledge + Our Current Thought of Ourselves. This is both inevitable and unavoidable. And there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem, for lack of a better word, is the fluidity of the right half of that equation. Because nothing about those three items is static, A.’s definition constantly evolves to the point that A. doesn’t ever mean anything other than what each individual person decides at that exact moment. This means music means nothing, except at the moment it’s being listened to.
Now consider this on a human level. The formula still works. The fluidity allows us to change, mature, grow-up; but it never allows for anything to ever actually be authentic for any period longer than when that very thing is considered. Self-understanding has the violence associated with roiling waters or high tide. I build up the defences of sarcasm and self-deprecation as way to battle insecurities over sincerity, over wondering how much of who I think I am has been determined by commercials, by family and friends, by strangers, over a barrage of cultural expectations of being a Man, of being White, of being Educated. And as I continue to parse through each of those things, instead of feeling more and more comfortable with myself, I feel uncomfortable, as though what I’m finding is that I’m even emptier than I had feared, that I’ve built myself out of constructs of others. It is the nature of growing up in a community, a culture. What I want to be is sincere; I’m tired of irony and defences, but I’m not sure how to operate in this world as such. Here’s a beginning: I love my wife. I love my family. I love my dog and cats. Not just snow falling, but the idea of snow falling, causes such great anxiety in me that I battle panic attacks. I love movies, pretty much any kind. And I don’t think Blink-182 is that bad, but I’d rather listen to Angels & Airwaves.