Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Visiting old Neighborhoods

We each have a band or movie or game that has been iconic of a time or place in our lives. As we grow and move and hit hard times we go back to them and see what it has to say in light of our newfound perspective. They seem timeless, eternal, like they are speaking directly to us.

Well, for me, that most influential band has been Blink-182 (maybe you've heard of them). It may seem a little unlikely that a pop-punk band could impact a life in such vivid ways, but the story of their growth, success, breakup, and reuinion has mirrored many things in my own life. And at very crucial times.

I was first exposed to them in their Dude Ranch era, thanks to a few older kids in my Boy Scout troup. They were obsessed with their music, naked stunts, immature and irreverant lyrics... and soon, I was too.

As they blew up with the release of Enema Of The State, we felt proud that we already knew of them and that others were enjoying their music, lyrics, and antics. At the time, their sound and topics mirrored a lot of the things I was obsessed with: fun, girls, school, hanging out, depression... they were just a group of guys being guys.

Their next album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, didn't change much on that front, but it did have a few soul-barring topics come up, such as divorce, breakup, and the need to fit-in. Listening to some of those songs with friends brought up topics I'm not sure we ever would have had without Blink-182 saying it first. We didn't know how to breach those topics on our own. They seemed too big and too deep to bring up. What teenager isn't afraid of sharing what they really feel, after all?

And, as I was staring off at college and the future, they released their amazing self-titled album that felt like a brand new group. With that albums songs looping through my head I graduated high school and left for college and all the unsurities that come with that first step into adulthood. I can still remember leaving the house with all my things in the parents cars, hugging my grandpa goodbye, both of us trying not to cry outright, and immediately putting on my headphones to listen to that album while we drove to my home, workplace, and college of four years.

News of their break-up hit around the time my girlfriend of several years and I went seperate ways. With that relationship over, I lost and subsequintly burned the bridge of a lot of friends; I changed my major, I abandoned my faith, I replanned my life. As their solo efforts started being released, the change and absence of past things in their work seemed weirdly appropriate. The friends I had listened to previous albums with, singing different parts in the car while banging the drum beats on car seats with, were gone. The girls I had chased with Blink looping through my head, were nowhere to be seen. The family life I had bemoaned, was no long forced upon me.

But I kept going back to those albums, walking through those old neighborhoods and sorting through those snapshots of a time in my life, and wandering what they would have to say now...

And then, during one of the hardest times of my life (surrounding my own health issues and my brothers depression resulting in multiple suicide attempts), Blink-182 reformed, started playing shows together, and promised a new album.

It's been a while now since Blink-182 released their newest album, Neighborhoods, but I keep going back to it and every time I do, I am amazed at how much I like it... despite how different it is from every earlier Blink-182 effort. They didn't try to jump back into their blink history to record a new thing, they just recorded something together based on where they were right then and there.

Because of that, it still feels like them, it still fills that same place in my life, and it still manages to capture a snapshot of the here and now in my life. Hopefully that next snapshot doesn't take another 8 years to happen.

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