Between their birthday-suit videos and kindergarten-naughty lyrics, blink-182 are shocking only to a 13-year-old. Yet that’s been precisely the point — to a young audience searching for alternatives to choreographed dance tunes, blink’s sunny power-punk is danger incarnate. But all fun things must come to an end, and that moment arrives with their fifth album. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket has an even more eye-rolling title than its studio predecessor, ”Enema of the State.” But the bulk of the humor ends there. With a new wave of clean-cut rude boys (Sum 41, Fenix*TX) hovering nearby, blink present themselves as the spiky-haired Voices of Their Generation.
As with everything else, blink approach this task with all the subtlety of a squad of security guards at one of their shows. Keeping a keen eye on their audience, which is now a decade or more younger than the band members, blink stuff the album with serious songs about victimized high schoolers, feuding parents, the shy, socially awkward nerd, the geek with bad hair on his first date, overbearing parental units and jocks, and the usual boy-meets-girl, girl-leaves-boy, girl-takes-boy’s-computer-moniker.
The carefree blink reemerge periodically, as in the cutesy single ”The Rock Show,” in which love arrives via the Warped tour. But the album is angrier and more teeth-gnashing than what you’d expect. The band work so hard at it, and the music is such processed-sounding mainstream rock played fast, that the album becomes a paradox: adolescent energy and rebellion made joyless. Little is as universally appealing as Enema’s ”What’s My Age Again?” which spoke to everyone who feels a distinct gap between the year on their birth certificate and the way they feel inside. ”We’ll use this song to lead you on,” they sing in ”Reckless Abandon.” But blink have forgotten that proclaiming themselves spokesmen isn’t nearly as effective as leading by example.