I heard about not one, but two rather distressing attempts to ruin my adolescence this week, but rather than a film director who literally doesn’t know when to stop (as he keeps changing his mind), we’ll get into something about punk rock music instead.
When I heard that Tom DeLonge had quit Blink 182, I’d honestly forgotten that they were at some point in the recent past still together anyway. What I thought were just a bunch of reunion gigs in 2009-10ish actually turned out to be the promotion behind an album. Thinking back, I struck upon the last time this kind of creative and personal conflict came up between the three punk kids done good.
Box Car Racer
I was 17 when Box Car Racer released their only album in 2002; DeLonge wanted to do something that “didn’t feel locked in to what Blink was”. Having found Blink at precisely the same moment as everyone my age – after ‘Dammit’ but before ‘What’s My Age Again?’ – you could see how much of a departure this album was for DeLonge, but apparently not so much of one that fellow 182ers couldn’t be involved. (Travis Barker was the band’s drummer just so DeLonge didn’t have to stump up for a session musician, while Mark Hoppus sings on one of the tracks.)
When Blink returned in 2003 with their self-titled fifth album, there was certainly a mix of both early Blink and Box Car on there, you could see how the side project had to take place for these fresher songs to emerge.
Hoppus was understandably rather offended that he wasn’t invited to fully contribute, but I guess the record company and management wanted the next Blink record to be strictly Blink – the likes of ‘I Feel So’ and ‘All Systems Go’ wouldn’t have been acceptable for a band world-famous for dick jokes and spiky pop-punk riffs.
Hiatus and the death of Jerry Finn
Blink took another hiatus in 2005 while artistic and personal differences reared their ugly heads. This time, Hoppus snagged Barker for a new band, +44, while DeLonge spread his wings into Angels + Airwaves. Both did alright, but neither were Blink.
The sad death of producer Jerry Finn – if you like any band from California in the 90s (and I did), chances are he was at the console – got the three bandmates talking again, and soon they were back in the studio, differences resolved and alternate artistic outlets suitably chased down, ready for another go.
Reading some news stories today I discovered that their sixth album Neighbourhoods was recorded in different cities: DeLonge in San Diego, Hoppus and Barker in LA. It’d be one thing if they were on different coasts, but even in a state as large as California I don’t see the need for this distance unless there were still some wrinkles to iron out. Unsurprisingly, they were unhappy with the results of recording, as were their label with its sales.
So when it came time to record for their new one earlier this year, DeLonge said that, with A+A back on the road and several film and book projects in the pipeline, he found it “hard as hell to commit”. Hoppus responded by alleging that DeLonge was “holding Blink 182 back” from carrying on, and have since played a live show as Blink 182 with a new guitarist/vocalist. But we’ve covered that already.
Why did Blink 182 split up?
Look back along the timeline and you may see a key event which led to something of a breakdown in communications between two lifelong friends: Box Car Racer. You can understand DeLonge’s frustration at, as he’s called it, not being allowed to use any more than one colour on the canvas Blink were painting, but in choosing to release a new album with one bandmate and not the other, you can also see why Hoppus felt some resentment about the whole arrangement, especially as he didn’t see the need to nip out for a sandwich between meals like the others.
A ten-year ripple effect of personal and professional problems has led to DeLonge’s departure from one of my teenhood’s most influential bands – itself very much predicated on an ‘us vs them’ attitude which punk rock gives us – which leads me to wonder why, short of fulfilling some distinctly non-punk legal obligations to tours and an album, Blink 182 can’t just call it a day for the third and final time.