I can say without any hesitation that there is no better embodiment of my teenage years than the 2001 blink 182 release of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. From rambunctious rebellion, tales of first love to utter despair and depression, this is an album that so accurately depicts the emotional roller coaster that I was an unwilling passenger on for such a large period of my high schooling life.
I’m hard pressed to find another example of an album that can so effortlessly hop between immaturity and sorrow, but blink 182 pulls it off in a way that has kept my attention for over a decade. No matter where you are or how far between listens you may be, this is an album whose lyrics effortlessly lay at the heart of your subconscious. Even as I penned this piece, and refreshed my memory with a front to back listen, not one song had been lost on me.
As soon as Anthem Part Two exploded into a ballad of teenage angst upon my first listen, I knew I was hooked.
“Young and hostile, but not stupid”
“If we’re fucked up, you’re to blame”
The opening track is a song solely about sticking it to the man, and letting the younger generations be heard; those who so often sit voiceless while their parents decide their fate. In an album of mixed messages, this one is extremely poignant. What teenager couldn’t get on board with that?
As my ears digested the album for the first time, I slowly learnt to take blink 182 with a grain of salt. For every sombre Adam’s Song that the band has produced, there’s a disgusting and profanity-riddled track like Happy Holidays, You Bastard that counteracts any seriousness that the band could possibly hope to portray:
“I’ll never talk to you again, unless your dad will suck me off,
I’ll never talk to you again, unless your mum will touch my cock,
I’ll never talk to you again, ejaculate into a sock.”
Heck, the album title itself is a sexually charged double entendre; “Take off your pants and jack-it” (I have to admit, it took an absurdly long time until someone pointed this out to me ). I quickly fell in love with the band, and felt that as an awkward teenager, I could relate to their daily struggles; do I feel depressed today or in the mood to swear and tell dick jokes? Whether we like it or not, that immature teenager still lies dormant in all of us, and blink 182 are the masters of prying it out.
As the album rolls on, we are treated to a cringe-worthy collection of pubescent perils. We all have our own awkward teenage tales; we have all been gripped by anxiety as we struggle with even the simplest decisions as our first date draws nearer. Hell, it doesn’t even need to be from your teens, I have particularly fond memories of panicking over which porcupine-esque hairstyle and hawaiian shirt I should don for my Year 6 disco.
“Do you like my stupid hair? Would you guess that I didn’t know what to wear?”
First Date is a musical rendition of awkwardness, plain and simple. The lyrics are a far too accurate depiction of my past fashion sense (why oh why did I straighten my hair?!) The subject matter is simple, but therein lies the strength of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket; a timeless piece of teenage relatability.
As 18 rolled around for me, I began to frequent more and more concerts and clubs that blasted out the pop punk tracks I had pounded my eardrums with for as long as I could remember. I’m ashamed to recount the amount of times I have seemingly fallen head over heels for a girl that stood in the same mosh as me, or on the same crowded dance floor, my awkwardness paralysing me from making any form of human interaction. The Rock Show is my own reassurance that perhaps I wasn’t alone in my failed endeavours to court the opposite sex.
Awkwardness and insecurity aside, there are still moments on this album that tug at the heartstrings.
I’m not ashamed to say how many times Stay Together For the Kids has been the backing track to many late night crying sessions. I couldn’t personally relate to the struggles of a child whose parents are going through a divorce, but there were certainly countless times where I wish the words I put to paper could suddenly spring to life and be the sudden fix to life’s problems that I so often craved.
“What stupid poem could fix this home? I’d read it every day.”
Shut Up just about reflects every relationship that littered my teenage years; petty arguments, screaming and shouting, and a blatant misunderstanding of the world around me. I think that’s what sums up teenage life; we simply don’t have a grip on the world yet. Everything is an experiment, everything is an exploration, and we are just along for the ride. Any band that can provide a soundtrack to such an unpredictable and tumultuous time clearly asserts themselves as an instant classic.
To me, the ability to craft such beautiful songs really garnered my respect and admiration for the band. Yes, there was plenty of time for mischievous lyrics and goofing off, but at the heart of everything, the band could so effortlessly translate my heartache and hardship into music.
As they took to the stage in Sydney in 2013, (for what would be the final time that Australia would witness Tom Delonge as part of the band), that immaturity was projected out amongst the crowd, and I witnessed the playful, witty youths who had so beautifully crafted this album, even as they fast approached 40 years of age. Even though things may not have been peachy behind the scenes, the back and forth banter and cheeky crowd interaction satisfied every 90’s baby in attendance.
At the end of the day I think that’s what has prolonged the world’s love affair with blink; they were just a bunch of rambunctious, rebellious teenagers who had no problem running naked down the street or penning a song about anal sex with a pirate. We could live vicariously through the vitriolic and vile nature of some of their songs, but if we were ever gripped by sadness or sorrow we could easily find a serious and introspective record to sooth our souls.