Dusting ‘Em Off: Blink-182 – Cheshire Cat

CheshireCat

I would consider myself a fan of punk rock. I certainly went through my punk stage in high school, and the music played a major factor in that. I got hooked on older albums by Pennywise, Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, Millencolin, and so many others. Punk music has always been rebellious, and it will always be written that way. These bands mentioned were only created because they were influenced by the bands before them: the Kinks, the Stooges, and the Ramones. These were the pioneers of the genre, which has come very far, despite sounding relatively similar. Punk can only change so much.

Now in 2013, you cannot help but place Blink-182 into the category of punk pioneers. Sure, now they write just pop music with a hint of punk, but give credit where credit is due. Up until about 1999, this band was bringing punk music exactly where it didn’t want to be, and that was the mainstream. This was no fault of their own; they were simply a punk band whom the public could not ignore anymore.

Before their mainstream success with 1997’s Dude Ranch, and their breakout album, 1999’s Enema of the State, there was the lesser known 1994 effort, Cheshire Cat. To this day, it’s still not as well known as other Blink albums, most likely because it’s hardly mainstream enough. There are certainly some great songs, but there are no real “hits.”

You wouldn’t hear any of the songs on this album on radio today, except for maybe “Carousel”, but even then that’s doubtful. This was an album written by immature kids about immature subjects, and they could’ve cared less. It’s raw, and the music plays so fast it’s hard to keep up, but it’s also catchy as hell and a must-hear for any Blink-182 fan. This is where this fun-loving band started, and you can hear firsthand how they reached where they now; they bled some of this sound into later albums, but never with such ferocity.

The album begins with the long intro of “Carousel”, which is arguably one of their best songs to date. I always play this song when I’m on a road trip; it just has that feeling to it. It tells the story of going around and around through life without having much to show for it. “M&M’s”, the band’s first single released, never charted, and its video was banned by MTV because of its use of guns towards the end.

A guilty pleasure of mine on the album is the lonely guy story of not getting the girls in “Does My Breath Smell?” DeLonge sings it for all the nerds, when he yelps: “Why do they always kick me in the groin when I come near/I’m not complaining/it just hurts after a bit.” You can handpick half a dozen lyrics, but this line does justice in summarizing the group’s overall humor, as well as most of the album’s themes, which include not getting the girl, masturbation, wasting time on girls, and jokes about their testicles. Normally, that would be a bad thing, and pretty unoriginal, but they were so clever about doing it that it ended up being both funny and charming.

They pulled it off by taking their masks off every once and awhile. Take “Romeo and Rebecca”, for instance. Until “Adam’s Song”, this track would be one of the slowest songs Blink had written (well, at least for the first two minutes), yet it’s one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s punchy but it’s sincere, something that juxtaposes itself among other ridiculous songs like “Toast and Bananas” or “Fentoozler”.

Is this the best Blink-182 album? No. They have better songs and better produced albums. They grew into really great songwriters, and although their vocals are usually horrendous in concert, you can’t help but be entertained by them. Cheshire Cat paved the way for them to do what they do best, which was harnessing punk rock and making it a household name. Now, this band will never sound like it did in 1994, but it’s fun to remember their roots – even if they aren’t as timeless as we want them to be. Nostalgia, ain’t it a bitch. What’s my age, again?

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