It’s February 2023, 3:08 PM. Phone buzzes. Unknown number. Local area code.
”Tate, this still you?”
I’m thinking, “I can ignore this, right?” I almost always ignore these. But there’s something in the familiarity of the phrasing that picks at a scab in my brain. A small circle of people in my life have ever called me Tate. Most of them were from my childhood neighborhood. None of whom I’ve spoken to in over a decade. The silence between us is not due to any real falling out but a byproduct of the stretching of time that turns brothers into strangers.
It’s September 1997, 6:45 AM. I’m 14 years old and panicking. I’m about to start my first year of high school, and I am fucking terrified. Middle school was rough. And standing there alone in my parent’s basement has my skin feeling like a hand-me-down Halloween costume. Who am I? Who the ever-living-fuck am I? I walk to the bus stop. It’s raining. I have no music in my ears. Up to this point in my life, music has been something that happened around me. My parents played music in the background, friends showed me some grunge and metal records; I heard pop music on the radio. But I was a passive passenger to the sounds that washed over me. A hook searching for bait in a world rapidly changing before my childhood eyes.
Second stop, a few kids I know jump on.
”Hey, Tate, have you met Ryan?”
Friendships formed through the collective trauma that is high school tend to have a weightier feel as we get older. Reminiscing on them is like the smell of pencil shavings, graphite and wood clipping the air, pulling us back to a simpler time. A nostalgic breeze where youth was the possibility of forever; that’s why we chase its intoxicating scent.
Over the next few months, Ryan and I will bond over girls, late-night phone calls, and navigating this torturous linoleum hell. He has an effortless cool that I admire and a confidence I try to fake. Our personalities play off each other well. We become fast friends while our neighborhood group reconnects. Most days after school, we are in the park trading insults and arguing over pop culture, or downstairs, alternating between shooting pool and fighting over the video game controllers. Our pubescent faces stuffed with everything my teenage metabolism would race to process. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had during those days. (Jesus, does anyone?)
One afternoon, Ryan will leave his CD binder at my house. That night, I’ll slide a grey album cosplaying as a six shooter’s cylinder out from a sleeve backed by a bull’s giant testicles and hit play. Never again will I walk to the bus without music. That’s the night I discovered Blink-182. And nothing’s been quite the same ever since.
To explain the impact Blink-182 had on a generation, one needs to understand that I didn’t just want to listen to Blink-182. I wanted to be Blink-182. I was a kid in search of an identity, and what I found was as much music as it was a lifestyle. Songs that I could turn to in the throes of teenage heartbreak. T-shirt brands and a style that reflected Southern California vogue. Music to inch ever louder after a fight with my parents. A bratty immature sense of humor to deflect the insecurities bubbling within. Songs that helped me find confidence in an understanding that I wasn’t alone. A punk rock scene that gave me a glimpse of who I was. Or, at least, I now had a vision in my head of who I wanted to be. It wasn’t just music. But, it didn’t hurt that the music bridged this incredible space between punk and pop, energy and emotion, humor and heartbreak. A song for every mood, and god damn did they look like they were having fun playing it.
Decoding this fandom is to deconstruct the suburban ennui of the early 2000s. My upbringing was not hard, but the world outside was fucked. Wars. Stained dresses. Hanging chads. Parents fighting. Puberty. Meanwhile, MTV and the radio still shaped and defined much of pop culture. And this bred within me an undercurrent of malaise and distrust for authority and the so-called “tastemakers.” I’ve come to define this period in my life as a plastic rebellion, not without a cause, but within the safe confines of suburbia. And for a group of us, Blink-182 became our avatars by which to navigate that feeling. An anti-authority bent with a streak of bleached blonde hair and dirty jokes. Two middle fingers in the air soundtracked by a prodigious drummer and two friends whose musical connection and songwriting partnership would mold the jumbled mess that was our previously shapeless identities.
It’s December 2003, 7:45 PM. I’m 20 and back home from my sophomore year of college for the holiday break. I’m sitting on the roof of my car in some back alley with my high school friends. We’re regaling each other with exaggerations of college parties, the drinks we drank, the nights we had, the pranks we pulled. We’re bullshitting and teasing each other over how we’ve changed. I pierced both ears; someone grew out their hair, the smart one found weed, and the shy one is outgoing and confident now. We’re different but the same. Ryan’s not with us. He joined the Marines. All we know is he’s abroad, somewhere, and there’s an unvoiced emptiness in our circle; we miss our friend. I miss his deep laughter playing the bass to my high-pitched cackle. I wasn’t thinking about it then, but now, I look back and see this reunion as the beginning of our group slowly drifting. Slowly and then all at once. The circle tightened as fewer would come back for holidays, and text message replies would stretch further apart. We grew up, graduated, moved away, started new lives, and formed new groups of friends. Time splintering, time quickening, and time leaving me with this memory of a back alley on a cold December night with my brothers. And piercing that memory, keeping the shape and edges as they fade to time, is remembering the album playing on repeat through the car speakers. It was Blink-182’s untitled masterpiece.
I’m not the first to comment on the music you discover during this period of your life becoming both transformative and transformational. But what I’ve become obsessed with is nostalgia’s magnetism as we enter middle age. The seduction of youth, the commercialization of our teenage angst, and how we navigate the aging of our bones next to the aging of our heroes. In many ways, Blink-182’s new album, One More Time…, is the musical answer to my question. It’s an album with a string to our past that winds around our present as it navigates broken friendships, forgiveness, a youthful wistfulness, and the ever-present reminder of the fragility of life. It’s an album that embraces the band’s history and uses our nostalgia not as a crutch but as a way to pull the listener back into their world. A world of pop, punk, and a touch of that youthful irreverence we remember.
When you have a strong relationship with a band, there’s a fear that you won’t be able to separate your history from the present when they release new music. Either unable to look at the album critically or, conversely, being let down that it doesn’t make you feel like it did when you were sixteen. And as an artist, there’s the pressure of living up to those expectations. Needing to please fans who have years of lived experience with your music and the pressure of adding to that catalog can sometimes conflict with the wants and needs of the artist. After Blink-182’s original break-up, their first reunion felt like a band struggling with where they fit into the music scene at the end of the last decade. The result was Neighborhoods, an album that personified this internal strife and unhealed wounds. It is an album defined by a disjointed recording process where the band admits they were walking on eggshells around each other. Then came the second break-up and an awkward period for Blink-182 fandom.
I’ve always believed that if Tom didn’t want to be there and have his whole heart in it, I’d rather have some Blink-182 than no Blink-182. And while I’m on record as having enjoyed the Matt Skiba-era albums, it undeniably felt like something was missing. And now, vindication comes because Tom buying in has helped produce their best record in twenty years. In some ways, it feels like he realized Blink-182 was the band he always talked about wanting—a massive band making music that millions of people connect with. By embracing the idea of having fun with it again, the band sounds reinvigorated and confident, and the album we never thought we’d get again now exists.
You might as well open with an anthem.
Roughly two minutes into the first song, any worries of eggshells or fragmented collaboration were washed away. When Mark’s vocals come in, I feel my skin start to warm. The drums, the big brash production choices, the mixture of all three band members building to an epic conclusion, it felt like I’d been whipped back in time and was hearing a favorite song I’d forgotten existed. Each moment building on itself as a perfect encapsulation of everything that made me fall in love with this band to begin with. Upon subsequent listens, I’m most drawn to all the subtle production flourishes here. Travis Barker and Aaron Rubin’s attention to detail shines in the soft/loud dynamics, nodding to the great Jerry Finn by bringing the absolute best out of the performances. That little bite to Tom’s vocals, the way a cymbal crash hangs just long enough before propelling you forward. Each choice is made with intention and care. This meticulousness is seen throughout the album, revealing itself in multiple songs and walking up to the edge of what the song needs without overloading it. These touches unveil themselves slowly, adding an extra layer of depth and brilliance to an already captivating musical experience.
This is highlighted in how “Terrified,” a reworked Box Car Racer track, can sound modern and like it could have been pulled from the sessions in 2002. The reverb on Tom’s vocals, the crunch to the guitar, and the distortion in the chorus are all immaculate reproductions but with a sheen that keeps the song from feeling out of place on the record. Travis’s drumming adds the usual panache, and layering Mark in the chorus is the perfect touch to keep the song on the Blink-182 side of the fence. This tightrope walking is seen in multiple places on the album, folding in pieces from their various projects over the years, but each time being able to make them feel distinctly Blink-182.
I’ve always believed that title tracks carry with them, fairly or not, the weight of an album’s thesis. A song with the same title as the album seems to be the artist saying, “This one, this is the one to pay attention to.” And this holds true with “One More Time” as it becomes the band’s love letter to themselves. A vulnerable public admittance that it shouldn’t take tragedy for friends to reunite:
Older, but nothing's any different
Right now feels the same; I wonder why
I wish they told us it shouldn't take a sickness
Or airplanes falling out the sky
And a reminder that we are on this earth momentarily, and we are never promised tomorrow. So when both Mark and Tom combine for the powerful crescendo, it hits like memories from your youth bubbling to the surface:
I miss you, took time, but I admit it
It still hurts even after all these years
And I know that next time ain't always gonna happen
I gotta say, "I love you" while we're here
It's a decisive moment that etches to music what we've seen over the past year. After the announcement of the band's second reunion, I think many of us were in a wait-and-see mode. As fans, we were optimistic, but we'd been hurt before. And then they performed at Coachella, and we saw a joyous concert with the band not only sounding incredible but giving off an aura that this time it would be different. The song "One More Time," like the album it sits on, feels like this aura manifesting itself in musical form, cementing itself as an ethos to this emerging era of Blink-182. A band self-aware and inviting the fans along for the journey. A band wanting to seize control of the time they have to make music that makes them happy, and this energy transfers to the listener in a palpable fashion.
I've often remarked that Enema of the State is not the best album I've ever listened to. But it just might be the most fun album in my entire collection. Thirty-five minutes of pure raucous delight. A tight, blistering experience that showers the listener with perfectly produced pop-punk, an immediate injection of auditory serotonin. And while One More Time… may not be the best album I've heard this year, it is the most fun I've had with an album. A modern example of a record for any mood, able to bring an instant smile but also carry the right balance of lightheartedness and self-reflection. It's an album defined by its replayability. And this is embodied best in the run from "You Don't Know What You've Got" through "Turpentine." A new classic stretch that delightfully calls back to the best of the band's career. "You Don't Know What You've Got" has some of the most personal lyrics on the album and, musically, would not feel out of place on California. "Blink Wave" acts as musical catnip with its layered synths, divine chorus, and ending with an organ that sounds pulled directly from Enema of the State. "Bad News" pulsates like the best song New Found Glory never wrote, with a chorus and drum pattern that would feel at home on the back half of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Then we have "Turpentine" going meta as it plays with time signatures and the very pronunciation of the word to craft a song that shifts multiple times and culminates in Mark coming in for a gorgeous moment as he sings:
Sharks smell the blood in the water
We're all just lambs to the slaughter
It's only all the time, this time
A generation lost and forgotten
Clawing at the lid of this coffin
Your god ain't coming back this time
Before Tom "blah blah blahs" his way back to the speedy conclusion as he pulls off my favorite vocal moment on the record when he's belting, "What if I'm not like the others?" This is a song that wouldn't have felt out of place on the untitled record, but it has a playfulness to it. This stretch of songs has the best of all three members shining bright. And it's the push and pull, the combination of all their gifts, that make it great. I could have seen versions of these songs where they were isolated silos, places for each member to flex alone. Instead, we find the two vocalists connecting and overlapping, and each creative choice leads to a cohesive outcome that imbues the songs with an unpredictable energy. The synergy comes from the three band members working together and their ability to seamlessly play off one another. It's this melding that infuses these songs with an irresistible alchemy. The perfect balance and artful way they complement and enhance each other's talents breathes life into the music and elevates it beyond the sum of its parts.
It's November 2019, 5:00 PM. The candlelight is blurry because I'm holding back tears. The soft glow of the library fades into focus, and I can see the faces of all my family and friends. In front of me is my new bride. We're married. We did it. The string quartet starts playing as we walk down the aisle hand-in-hand for the first time as husband and wife. The wedding party behind us starts dancing. The violin comes in over the top for the unmistakable chorus. It's a string rendition of "All the Small Things" arranged by my wife. This is the happiest moment of my life.
Where One More Time… is most successful is in blending its feints toward nostalgia with a modern spin on the band's classic sound. Rather than relying solely on sentimentality, it gives the listener a mix of pop, rock, and punk that knowingly winks at the past while bridging the gap from your teenage years to today. Take "Dance With Me," a simple song with simple lyrics that is elevated by the interplay of Mark and Tom and the cadence in which they're delivered. It's how they speed up, then slow down, with Tom cruising through a verse before Mark's soft vocals join in the background. It's not unlike what they do in "Pathetic," but with a modern feel. It's crisper. The vocals are layered all over each other, and it's where Blink-182 stands above their peers. It's not always in a lyrical turn of a phrase or an intricate guitar riff but in crafting songs that feel like they've always been with you after one listen. The band's having fun, so you're having fun. And that's a feeling virtually impossible to describe to someone who doesn't get it. I've always understood, to some degree, why the band were never critical darlings, bewildering the tastemakers, confounding the gatekeepers. And I expect YouTube reaction videos to take pieces of all these songs and explain to me why I shouldn't like them. But I don't care. Because capturing vitality in three minutes is a magic trick. An adrenaline shot to the spine. A euphoric dance between the past and present, comforting yet new. And by using that connection with the audience's past, it elevates these songs. Mark, Tom, and Travis are able to bottle this feeling to give us everything we want without it seeming forced or saccharine—a genuine accomplishment.
Where the album bends is in the places where it feels overthought. "Fell in Love" doesn't hold up to the songs it's sandwiched between as it tries to pack in too much between the beeps, the boops, the handclaps, and the Target commercial melody. "Turn This Off" is a modern-day "Happy Holidays," but I don't think it works quite right to bridge "More Than You Know" with "When We Were Young." And "Hurt (Interlude)" feels like multiple ideas not quite coalescing. However, in an album of 17 songs and clocking in at 45 minutes, these minor hiccups don't stand out in the end. Instead, the album begins its end with "Other Side," a tribute to Mark's longtime bass tech Robert Ortiz, and a song that reminds me of the best parts of "Wendy Clear." It's a song that reflects on the loss of a friend, mournful but ultimately hopeful, capturing the bittersweet nature of loss and remembrance. It serves as a poignant farewell, showcasing Mark's ability to distill complex emotions through simple songs, leaving you with a sense of both sadness and optimism as the album nears its conclusion. This leads to the band's biggest swing on the album, "Childhood." The song asks a simple question about the passing of time over an almost Beach Boy-esque melody. As the song unfolds, it paints a narrative of a lost childhood mirroring a lost today and the poetic yearning to reconnect with both. The lyrics gently prompt us to reflect on the inevitable changes that come with adulthood, leaving us to ponder whether the cherished bonds of our early years can ever be rekindled.
It's February 2023, 3:10 PM. I respond to the unknown number. Three dots. A reply. It's Ryan.
It's August 2023, 5:59 PM. I'm sitting on a park bench biting my bottom lip. For the past two hours, I've been pacing around the park, talking to my old friend. We quickly fall into the same cadence we did as teenagers. The frantic over-talking, laughing, and inside joke-throwing conversations we had before the winds of time pushed our boats toward different shores. We catch up on life. On the mistakes we've made over the years. The jobs. The heartbreaks. I tell him about my marriage. He tells me about his. He tells me they're expecting a child soon. We talk about high school and the nights spent wondering who we would be when we grew up with the unspoken acknowledgment that we're now the very people we once theorized about. Middle-aged, some grey hairs, quite a few scars. We talk about his parents, how they're aging and all the pain that comes with that. We talk about my mom and how she fought off cancer again. We talk about music. About the concerts we went to together. We talk about Blink-182. How him giving me Dude Ranch had set my life down a path that would come to define me. We talk about bleaching our hair, reenacting bits of The Urethra Chronicles, and the drives to school every morning where I'd be dying to show him the latest band I discovered. We talk until we're both losing our voices. We make promises to keep in touch and to try and get together when he's next in town.
To write about Blink-182 is to see a through-line in my life—a constant from that fateful day in 1997 to this very moment. A band entwined into the very fabric of my oldest friendships. Sitting here at forty, it's impossible not to think about these things. Memories spin like a slide projector behind my eyes, black and white clips of a childhood, an adolescence, a life with a soundtrack. I think about my friends, those still with me, and those I've lost to time. And I'm brought back to the car full of idiots shredding our vocal cords, emulating Tom's trademark yowl on a road trip to nowhere. I laugh, knowing I smirked in my wedding photos because I've been trying to capture Mark's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket look for twenty years. Music and friendship, friendship and music, a duality bonded together through shared experience and how it resonates deep within us. The melodies and lyrics weave through our memories, creating a symphony of laughter, tears, and moments forever united by these beautiful songs. The songs we let in are not unlike the people we let touch our hearts. Some are with us for but a moment, and some stick to our souls for a lifetime.
It's August 2023, 6:10 PM. I pull myself off the park bench, queue up Dude Ranch, and start walking home. I'm thankful for the heat today. It means my sunglasses hide the emotion in my eyes. I'm thinking about growing older and feel that weight in my chest. It's dawning on me that I may very well have flipped my hourglass over, and the slipping sands of mortality are narrowing through the glass of my history. And I'm thinking about how none of us are promised one more phone call. One day, I won't be able to say hello again to an old friend and reconnect. One day, my favorite band won't make music any longer. The memories of my youth will be but words on a website, the man behind them lost like a whisper in a rock show. The time we have is fleeting and imperfect, mirroring the stories we carry within. I'm thankful now I got to live them. Thankful for the bands that have given my life shape and the friendships forged in the mosh pits of growing up. In a world that practically begs us to be cynical, to turn against each other, to chase division, I've come to look for the moments where life can be a love song. Moments like the flashcards from the "One More Time" video, tiny little pinpricks of joy, of remembrance, of happiness. Moments like sitting on the couch watching our favorite band reunite and play crappy punk rock from our youth. One more time, standing in a stadium and watching Mark soak in the adoration from the crowd, seeing the pure joy on his face. One more time, hearing a new album and realizing it will ride with you for the rest of your life, becoming a part of things you have yet to dream. Realizing that while we may not be promised tomorrow, we have today.
There are many kinds of love in this world. The love of a first favorite band, the love of your first close group of friends, but never the same love twice. I like to believe music can carry this love for us, packaged in tiny parcels of sound, carrying these memories with us through time. We hit play and pluck one out of the sky, feel it wash over our skin, and we feel young again, hurt again, hopeful again. Is it silly? Of course it is. But that's another thing Blink-182 taught me: sometimes being silly is how you make it to tomorrow.
It's October 2023, 9:00 PM. I'm finally almost done with this review. I pick up my phone and type out a message to my old friends. I may not always have tomorrow. But I have today. And I want to say thank you. I want to say "I love you" while we're here. I want them to know their impact on my life and that I'm thinking about them now. Where did our childhood go? It led us to this moment. The journey was shaped by the people we met along the way. The friends, the bands, the music. And as we peer back through time, we'll see the shadows of yesterday outlined by the threads of sound, reverberating our hopes, fears, and dreams back to our present.
Years from now, I want to hear a song and think about this feeling.
Time rolls over us ever faster.
Through the speakers, of course, I hear Blink-182.