Sunday, September 20, 2009

#102. 'We'll have Hallowe'en on Christmas'

Blink-182 "I Miss You"

Blink-182 matured.

It still feels way too fucking weird to type that sentence, even six years after it happened, but it's the truth. The band who made their mark with crude jokes, scatological humour and base-level pop-punk with undeniable hooks finally grew up. Sure, they hinted at it a few times before their self-titled swan song, but it never seemed like more than kids playing dress up even if the songs were good - and they were invariably the bands best singles if you care to think about that sort of thing. Even if the pall cast by the band's more juvenile aspects made it hard to accept the more mature material it was hard for me deny that they were damn good songs at their core.

It's also worth noting that these better moments were almost always anchored by bassist Mark Hoppus' vocals. Hoppus wasn't the distinct voice in the band, he was pretty much an average, somewhat boring vocalist all told, but look at the singles he was at the lead of: the borderline touching ode to a suicide victim "Adam's Song," the truly blistering divorce tune "Stay Together for the Kids," even going back to their breakthrough Dude Ranch he was the one behind both "Dammit" and the immortal "Josie." Somehow Hoppus just drove the band on their less annoying material; even the worst single he helmed ("Man Overboard") was moderately tolerable while Delonge's worst was downright unlistenable. while having the two driving forces in the band might have given them an edge of diversity compared to their peers the disparity in average quality between the two was somewhat jarring.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that their best single was the one that showcased the two vocalists in pretty much equal measure, but "I Miss You" is undeniably in that position. You could argue that it's just as much a Hoppus song as "Stay Together..." or any others that gave Delonge the chorus, but more than those others this one seems to have a collaborative feel between the two of them. It also acts as one of the better documents for examining the differences between Hoppus and Delonge since their vocal lines are both in similar settings. It's clear from other blink ongs that the two have vastly different vocal styles, but that stems as much from the types of songs they sing as from their own styles. It's easy to tell that Hoppus is the more restrained and melodic one while Delonge is the emotional one, but the contrast is clearest during the chorus here, where Hoppus offers a low key repetition of the song's title while Delonge fills the space between with a more wailing repetition of 'Don't waste you're time on me, you're already the voice inside my head' - and if you've heard any song where Delonge sings it son't surprise you to know that every second syllable is drawn out beyond necessity. The contrast is part of what makes the song work so well though; take either part out and the chorus isn't quite as good (witness the first chorus without Delonge for proof of that), and even if it finds one in their most over the top mode it's done to serve the song.

There's also the fact that sonically it's about as far removed from most blink-182 songs as you can get. Really, until Delonge comes in it could pass for some random lite-goth balladry - sounds a bit insulting but it's really good lite-goth balladry - that made its way through the gauntlet of mainstream radio on feeling alone. It always strikes me just how damn creepy the whole vibe to the song is. The guitar and bass reverberate almost endlessly as they move through a simple set of riffs and drummer Travis Barker gives the piece a shuffly, brush-drummed pattern that's miles outside his usual style. The word I keep coming back to for the song as a whole is 'restrained.' The instruments are subtle in their machinations, and the echoes of their riffs add more to the song than the riffs themselves, Hoppus barely registers any emotion in his voice as befits the rather sterile environs he's working in and Delonge basically says the same things his vocal foil does but does his thing where he sounds like he really means them to better effect than it'd ever have again. When I say it's the best blink-182 song I meant that it's the one where tehy work best as a unit, where the presence of their bandmates makes every person i nthe band shine brighter. If they'd managed that in a more typical blink song I'd have given it consideration, but part of me thinks that they needed to go so far off format to get the results they got here.

Coming up tomorrow: An argument against suicide, OH!

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