In May 1999, I was about to be a freshman in high school. It was during my high school years — which coincided with the heyday of “nu-metal” and all that entailed, musically — when I fell, hard, into the music that would take up the next decade-plus (and beyond) of my life. On June 1, 1999, mere weeks after I graduated from middle school, a band of three snotty bros calling themselves Blink-182 released a record titled Enema of the State, a record that is inexplicably 20 years old today.
Enema was not Blink’s first album (it was their third!), but it might as well have been. While 1997’s Dude Ranch put the band on the map in the punk/rock world with its breakout hit “Dammit,” it wasn’t until Enema that Blink-182 became A Big Deal. I’m talking, appearing on Total Request Live on a regular basis level, which was the highlight of anyone’s career back then.
Enema of the State was a glossy, hook-filled, pop-oriented expansion of the band’s early roots in more standard “punk” songs, delivered by guitarist/vocalist Tom Delonge, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker. Produced by the late Jerry Finn, the album had a shimmer to it that was instantly accessible and digestible by the masses. It was tailor-made for maximum success.
Looking back, I now realize some of the songs on the record are problematic — “I want a girl I can train,” for example, which Delonge shouts in the dynamic opening track “Dumpweed,” a song about submissiveness and teenage emotions, and the entirety of “The Party Song” — and the vulgarity and crassness exhibited by Blink-182 during this era no dobut drove parents crazy. But it was precisely what drew me and millions of other fans to the noises they were making.
On a personal level, I resonated with the songs on this album deeply, despite not living any of the experiences the band sang about. I didn’t really go to parties during high school, and I certainly didn’t get up to any of the dating-related shenanigans that made up so much of their lyrics.
And yet, I look back on this album with nothing but a nostalgic affinity for the time. This record was a gateway for me, as I fell full-on into pop/punk. 20 years later, I’m still catching New Found Glory — whom I discovered during the height of my Blink affinity — on tour, for example. I’d already been listening to Green Day, of course, mainly because they’d been around for a while already — but Blink-182’s songs from Enema are the ones I hear in my head when I think back to high school.
Hell, I listened to “Going Away to College” as I drove to college to move in for my freshman year, however cliche and silly that sounds.
But the point I’m trying to make with all of this is … How in the world did this album come out two decades ago? The flow of time is truly unforgiving.
Self-appointed judges and musical analysts can listen to this album in a capsule and point outs its issues, from Blink-182’s “selling out” to appeal to a more mainstream audience (which certainly worked) to the aforementioned problematic lyrical content. But, we’re talking about an era in which Fred Durst shouting “You can stick that cookie/right up your YEAHH” was a key lyric on one of Limp Bizkit’s biggest songs didn’t raise any eyebrows, so … the cultural mood was different. Many of those lyrical themes wouldn’t fly these days, that’s for sure, and rightly so.
But back then, this all hit a bullseye on its target, which was me and millions of other kids like me. Blink’s follow-up album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (another sophomoric pun, which of course I thought was just hilarious), helped them retain their place in the top-tier of the mainstream alt/punk scene, but Enema of the State was THE record that got it all started, despite not being their debut.
And now it’s two decades old.
I wish I was only two decades old.
Nobody likes you when you’re 34.