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Week 13: Reviews

23 Mar


Cakes’s Pick: Enema Of The State

23 Mar

When I was 11 years old, I purchased Blink-182’s Enema Of The State. But I did so secretly because of its cover, which contained a parental advisory warning and the colossal breasts of porn star Janine Lindemulder.

At the time, I was a little overwhelmed by this photo. It seemed as if this blonde had enough cleavage to catch a football with no hands. And I had no idea why she was wearing that glove. I was in the fifth grade. I didn’t know what an “enema” was, and I had never heard the word “sodomy.” But, thanks to Blink-182, I quickly became familiar with these very important concepts.

And I was not alone. In 1999, millions of kids across the country fell in love with the potty-mouth antics of Blink-182. Millions of kids tuned into TRL to watch three dudes run around naked and parody The Backstreet Boys in their music videos.

For those of you who were not one of the millions, I feel bad for you. You missed out. But here’s a quick overview to fill you in:

Mark Hoppus plays bass and sings vocals. He has spiky hair.
Tom DeLonge plays guitar and sings nasally vocals. His hair is longer and does that swoopy thing to the side.
Travis Barker plays drums. His hair is usually in a two-foot mohawk. I would estimate he has almost as many tattoos as Lil Wayne (though I presume his are about vastly different subjects).

– The band’s music can be defined as POP PUNK. This means that you can sing along and start a mosh pit at the same time. It also means that they played on the Warped Tour and generally wore a lot of skateboarder gear.

– The band released five albums between 1994 and 2003. They broke up in 2005 but reunited in 2009. They will release their sixth album this summer.

Ok. Now that we’ve put the band in context, let’s review this album.

Enema Of The State is many things.

It is probably the first album I fell in love with that I can still say I honestly love today. It is an album with three hit singles: “All The Small Things,” “What’s My Age Again?” and “Adam’s Song” (that latter being arguably the greatest song the band ever made). It is an album that features Travis Barker hitting the snare drum approximately 35,000 times in 35 minutes. It is an album that is almost exclusively about being rejected by girls. It is an album in which at least two songs make reference to having sex with a dog and one song alludes to a person receiving anal pleasure from a seatless bike. It is an album that seems to assert–without any metaphorical implications–that aliens exist. It is an album that uses the same four chords in half of its songs… but still sounds awesome. It is an album that makes you want to kick the air with extreme vigor.

But, perhaps most notably, Enema Of The State is the 2nd-best-selling punk album of all time (2nd only to Dookie). This is a big deal. Its commercial success propelled pop-punk into the mainstream like never before. In the three years after its release, countless bands were following in Blink’s footsteps–Sum 41, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, The All-American Rejects, American Hi-Fi, Sugarcult (for a complete list, please attend this). In 2001, the success of Sum 41’s All Killer No Filler and Green Day’s International Superhits! cemented the genre as the new favorite for kids between the ages of 10 and 17.  Suddenly, pop punk was everywhere. And, a few years after that, pop punk gave way to emo (see: Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Dashboard Confessional) and that was everywhere. It was a musical revolution for people in the midst of puberty. And in the humble opinion of this author, Enema Of The State was the immediate reason that these bands–and these genres–became so huge.

Now, certain connoisseurs will call bullshit on a statement like this, and argue that Green Day’s Dookie and Weezer’s Blue Album–both of which came out in 1994–were far more influential in founding pop punk. But let’s not confuse influence with impetus. Yes, Blink-182 was hugely influenced by Green Day. But Green Day was also hugely influenced by The Clash, and The Clash was influenced by The Ramones, and The Ramones were influenced by The Stooges, and The Stooges were probably from outer space and influenced by martians. The point is: regardless of where the punk influence started musically, commercially it was never bigger than immediately after Enema Of The State. London Calling may be the best punk album ever, but Enema has sold 3x as many copies.

Still, that has almost nothing to do with why I love this album. The reason I love this album is because it is an unabashed celebration of youth. It’s a timeless tribute to being a child–or acting like a child and thoroughly enjoying that lifestyle.

It’s an immature album, but it’s intentionally immature–because (either consciously or subconsciously) Blink-182 understood the importance of never taking yourself too seriously.

In the song “What’s My Age Again,” Mark Hoppus says that “nobody likes you when you’re 23 and you still act like you’re in freshmen year.” What’s crazy about this is that 99% of the people originally listening to this album were not even close to being 23; in fact, most of them weren’t even in freshmen year of high school. The notion of acting young for your age was completely foreign to the majority of Blink’s listeners.

Also, Mark was 28 when he wrote this.

So why did he say 23? Was it that he no longer acted immature at the age of 28? (Answer: No). Was it that he was afraid kids wouldn’t be able to relate to him if they knew he was almost 30? (Answer: Possibly). Or was it simply that he particularly cherished the memory of his escapades from an earlier time? (Answer: I’d like to think so).*

*As I write this, I’m in the midst of being 23 years old. I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be an adult and what it was like to be a kid. I actually don’t listen to Blink-182 that much anymore. But when it comes up on shuffle, it serves as a time portal to days of yore. I recall the 11-year-old me imagining what his life would be like when he was 23. Which is funny because I never thought the 23-year-old would be looking back at the 11-year-old. I guess maybe the older you get, the more you think about being young. If this is true, I can understand why Blink-182 made music for kids–music about being a kid. After all, it’s a great thing to be. (Even if you’re an adult.)

– Cakes

* * * * *

P.S. I know I’m already way over the word limit, but if you’re interested, here are a two quick and funny anecdotes about my experiences with Blink-182.

Pete’s Pick: The Garden of Earthly Delights

23 Mar

I first saw Hieronymous Bosch’s El Jardin de las Delicias (The Garden of Earthly Delights) at el Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.  It was quite literally unlike any painting I’d ever seen.  It had “parts.”  These parts, I learned, were actually called panels, and the two side panels could open and close like cabinet doors to cover the larger, center one.  The twelve-by-seven wood framed structure stood open as I entered the gallery.

Immediately, it overwhelmed(NB:  That blue link means “click!”  Make sure you zoom in.)

Colorful.  Complex.  Crazy.  This thing looked like the fantastical forefather of “Where’s Waldo?”  Who the hell was Hieronymous, and what were the Dutch tripping on at the turn of the Sixteenth Century when he made this?

I started where I thought I should start, on the left side.  My nose nearly grazed the artwork in my effort to catch every detail. When I finished my east-to-west scan of El Jardin, my watch told me that seventy minutes had passed. It would be another thirty until my eyes, delightfully reddened from strain, could blink normally again.

Afterwards, I pushed myself to digest the placard which explained Bosch’s magnum opus. I learned that:

  • The left panel shows God blessing Eve before presenting her to Adam.
  • The center depicts a sort of hedonistic utopia, with naked humans, birds, fish, fruit, and fun.
  • The right and final panel presents a surreal image of hell, complete with burning buildings, frozen-over ponds, and the squatting, perturbing “Tree Man,” whose cavernous ass harbors sinners sitting around a kitchen table.

Tree Man

I overheard a tour guide saying that the painting “represented Man’s fall into temptation and the consequent, penalizing hell” (versus, I guess, a more pleasant, non-penalizing hell).

Though I was glad to have the background info, I hadn’t spent the previous hour plus analyzing Bosch’s piece.  I had lost track of time, not to mention my study abroad group, because I was working through colossal indecision.

Enamored with the center panel, I couldn’t choose which blissful activity seemed most fun. Would I rather gnaw into a yoga-ball-sized strawberry, or check out the swingers party in the scarlet teepee mid-frame? Riding a gigantic mallard across the lake looked like a blast, but the cuties skinny dipping in the shallow waterhole were calling my name (Daniél, in Español). In my imaginings, I resolved to do it all. For an encore, I’d fly griffinback to the top of one of the skyscraping fountains, and high-dive into the warm waters below.

With all due respect to Bosch’s final panel—the Hadean doom, the hellfire, and the undeniably foreboding ass of Tree-Man—I was not deterred. I wanted to hang out with the freaks and fairies in the middle. I wanted to indulge in the Garden of Earthly Delights.  With a print of El Jardin now hanging in my room, once in a while I do.

-Pete the Peasant

Another chance to see the painting in its entirety: click here.

Adonal’s Pick: Ender’s Game

23 Mar

Until five minutes ago, I thought you could only use the term “review” when looking at empty bank statements or talking about reruns of shows featuring Barbara Walters and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But as with most things I don’t know much about – the ingredients in a chalupa, how to properly use synecdoche, taxidermy – I Googled it and it turns out I was wrong about its specificity. Wikipedia even told me this: “A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit.”

Beef. Cheese. Yeah, I'm lost.

Well, eff you, Wikipedia. Call me crazy, but I think a book should be judged solely on the emotion it cultivates deep inside your being. If that has something to do with “content, style, and merit,” so be it. Do you read a book and say, “Here here, Foucault simultaneously enlightened and deconstructed my postmodern, heteronormative perspective of Nietzschean gender identities”? Or do you finish a book and say, “Wow, that main guy was a BAMF”? I happen to prefer the latter. If you feel the same way, read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Now. Okay, you’re done? Great, let’s keep moving.

Foucault means "big old douche" in French.

I first devoured Ender’s Game when I was 15. This fact conflicts me to no end. Part of me wants to sever friendships with anyone who knew about the existence of Ender’s Game and never recommended it to me. By the time I was 15, I had been reading non-picture books for at least two years, yet no one, not one single person, told me about it. But I’m also glad I didn’t get my hands on this masterpiece at an earlier age. I would have been devastated that I was not recruited to enter…

BATTLE SCHOOL. This is the single greatest place ever. More fun than Disney World. More ballin’ and real than Hogwarts. Even better than a pool filled with declawed chinchillas. What’s so great about Battle School, an incredulous and no-longer-my-friend reader might ask. Everything. You get to be part of a squad with a cool name like Dragon Army. You get to play video games that test your logic. But the best part of Battle School is the Battle Room, a zero gravity chamber where you play a game similar to paintball, if paintball involved wearing a suit that froze if you got shot, and ever-evolving obstacles to complicate strategy. Did I mention it’s in a ZERO GRAVITY CHAMBER?

"You had me at Battle School."

There’s a lot of other awesome stuff about the book too. Like the badassery of Ender, the manipulation of governments, and the philosophy behind persecution. But mostly it’s Battle School.

I could babble for hours about this novel and why I’m incredibly qualified as a candidate for Battle School, but it’ll just get me too worked up to sleep. Again. Plus, I need to re-read this book stat.

Take a look. It’s in a book. A reading rainbow.

– Adonal

Don't do it for me. Do it for LeVar.

Vote On Your Favorite Entry

23 Mar


Thanks for reading.

Next week: Pete’s first Extended Feature