Blink-182 have always been the poster-child for pop-punk. They’ve always represented a stereotype for bands that have gone mainstream with a certain sound that is either too pop for die-hard punk fans, or too punk for pop fans. Yet there are millions of fans worldwide that they’ve managed to speak to despite the stereotype of being “immature dude-rock”.
It’s not the most incorrect assumption to make, especially if you take the early albums they wrote when they were literally teenagers. Chesire Cat and Dude Ranch nestled into the songs about teenage problems that spoke to a generation. Breakthrough album Enema of the State fully latched onto the early-twenties-reflecting-back nature that appealed to a generation of teenagers. But as they grew older and ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘What’s My Age Again’ kept being played, they gained a reputation of never growing up.
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Thus their 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, with its not-so-subtle masturbation pun of a title, can easily be written off as an extension of this immaturity. But a couple of years further removed from the age their songs are aimed at, they can be written off as a group that could do with growing up. They would eventually grow up with 2003’s untitled album but here they would still have that image. But Take Off Your Pants and Jacket feels like a misleading album, one that has aged surprisingly well.
Yes, there’s ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’ in the tracklisting amongst songs about first dates and talking to people on AIM or MSN Messenger, but around that the songs are surprisingly mature. This is something that you may not realise until you revisit this album years later. Blink-182 have always had a knack for being serious and poignant. ‘Adam’s Song’ from the previous album showcases their ability to be sad. Their next album is completely serious, and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is an album that suggests that the change in tone was not as instant as first seen.
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What we have in this album, is one in which three young men are beginning to reach that age where they need to take things seriously. With opener ‘Anthem Part Two’ following from the closer of the previous album, they establish a slightly more mature look at the life they’ve had so far. They question what’s happened to them and their authority figures, which inadvertently creates an arc of maturity for the band. So by the time you get to ‘Please Take Me Home’, you have the verge of maturity where you click on that what’s just happened was “the best time we ever ‘ad”. Also making sure you’re prepared for Tom Delonge’s ‘abit of missing off the letter ‘h’ in songs.
But what of the songs in between? The first few songs are still in the days of youth, with ‘Online Songs’ being a bittersweet story of unrequited love, leading to the nervousness of the first date in a song called… ‘First Date’. They dip into the melodramatic with ‘Story of a Lonely Guy’ but then as the album hits the halfway point with ‘Stay Together For The Kids’ it gets more serious.
It’s easy to write off the second half of the album as full of teenage issues, but the songs feel as if they’re written with distance. With a more insightful eye over events that have happened in the past, songs like ‘Reckless Abandon’ feel more poignant. Again, the surface level of the song makes it feel like a more mature version of the pop-punk of Enema, but the story of the song is amplified by the fact it is reflecting on teenage years with greater distance than before. Yet also leaving passing advice for the next wave of pop-punk kids by “using this song to lead you on”.
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There’s a darker sound to these songs that feels less sugary than the albums before, leading up to the more alternative rock sound of the untitled album. With songs like ‘Shut Up’, there’s the layer of immaturity, but it leads to a more serious theme of disillusionment being played out. It continues this unifying theme of subverting the expectation of what’s come before.
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is a transitional album for blink-182. It has stood the test of time, with now-older fans revisiting it to find it to still feel relatable and more serious than they had remembered. It bridges the gap of where the band would go on the next album before their long hiatus years later. It takes what you think the stereotype of blink-182 are and unhinges it, if not completely, then just enough to enjoy it all over again two decades on from when it was released.