Usually you can trace back to moments in time when you know you’ve discovered something special or extraordinary. Sometimes that can be a new love, a new album, or new band that makes you feel like you’re discovering a new part of yourself in the process. Looking back on the 20th anniversary of this pop-punk classic makes me remember the carefree days of school ending and looking towards the promise of an unpredictable summer. Treading into the unknown only furthered my discovery of who I was, and in the process, helped me discover one of my favorite bands of all time. Blink-182 had made quite a name for themselves on their album, Enema of the State, and all eyes were fixed to see how the pop-punk band would follow up their massively successful and now legendary record. Enter Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, the studio album that’s a pun for <ahem> the act of self love. Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker couldn’t have been riding any higher coming into this fourth album, and working with veteran hit-maker Jerry Finn (Green Day, Sum 41) wasn’t going to change their trajectory into the stratosphere of popularity. The topics covered on the album tackle young love, fighting back authority figures, and more serious issues like divorce. With a mix of both topical elements, on top of well-crafted pop-punk tunes, Blink-182 must have known they created something special.
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was one of the first major pop-punk releases to debut at the very top of the Billboard 200, and got major label executives extremely excited at the prospect of signing the next big thing in the Warped Tour scene of bands. Blink-182 was one of the most, if not the most popular bands in this scene, and they experienced moderate success on their earlier material, only to explode into superstars on MTV’s Total Request Live, and being the band most closely associated with the genre. There was a lot to like about the young trio of Hoppus, DeLonge and Barker, and the music that they matched up with their quirky personas on camera was like lightning in a bottle.
The record blasts off on the right foot with the safe choice of “Anthem, Pt. 2,” that connects the dots between Enema and TOYPAJ. It also includes one of Hoppus’ most memorable bass lines in their discography, and the band chemistry between the three musicians was undeniable. DeLonge sets the scene by singing with his trademark nasal delivery, “Everything has fallen to pieces / Earth is dying help me Jesus / We need guidance, we’ve been misled / Young and hostile, but not stupid / Corporate leaders, politicians / Kids can’t vote, adults elect them / Laws that rule the school and workplace / Signs that caution, sixteen’s unsafe,” and it was as if he was singing directly to the youth of America by explaining the status quo. Barker’s great drum fills on the song really added to the punch behind each of the lyrics.
”Online Songs” lets Hoppus to take center stage on vocals, while the backing vocals by DeLonge on the chorus and “na na na’s” further added to the sound the band were going for here. “First Date” quickly follows the track with another great Barker opening drum fill, and features some great starts and stops between the guitars and drums to make for a memorable single. The video featured some great comedic elements, and not to mention, DeLonge’s legendary “WTF” gif. The music itself here was more aggressive in tone than some of the polished pop-punk found on Enema, but the overall sound comes across just as powerful today.
There’s a few filler tracks to be found (“Happy Holidays, You Bastard”) that tackle the playful side of the band, but they are brief, and don’t distract the listening experience too much. For every one of these playful tunes, Blink-182 come back in full force with a jam like “Story of a Lonely Guy.” It’s on this track that the bass line really echoes off of the speakers, and nearly drowns out DeLonge’s lyrics in the verses in the mix. Finn’s choices on deciding which parts of the band to accentuate on each song makes for an interesting and overall enjoyable album listening experience.
”The Rock Show” was an obvious choice of a first single, and the band have everything in its right place on one of their most fan-adored songs. Hoppus sings on the beautifully crafted bridge, “Black and white picture of her on my wall / I waited for her call, she always kept me waiting / And if I ever got another chance I’d still ask her to dance / Because she kept me waiting,” and the back half of that bridge ends up being one of the best harmonies that band ever created.
Things take a turn towards the more serious aspects of life on “Stay Together For the Kids,” where Hoppus and DeLonge share vocal duties on a song about the very real topic of divorce. The build up to the massive chorus of, “So here’s your holiday / Hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away / It was mine, so when you’re dead and gone / Will you remember this night, twenty years now lost / It’s not right,” hits just as hard as it did from the first time I heard it. It’s a topic I’ve been fortunate enough to not experience in my personal or family life, but having seen some of my closest friends go through this unfortunate family situation, it’s a song that delivers on so many levels for understanding how devastating the process can be.
”Rollercoaster” on the other hand brings the breakneck pop-punk back to the forefront of the listening experience and delivers a track that’s still a fan favorite to this day. My personal favorite from the set of songs on TOYPAJ comes on its ninth track, “Reckless Abandon.” Maybe I’m a sucker for the hisses and pops of the vinyl sound in the beginning of the track, or maybe I just appreciate a well-constructed pop-punk song that has more hooks than a fishing boat. Either way, Hoppus, DeLonge and Barker are so in-tune with each other’s strengths on this song that it couldn’t not make the final cut of the album sequencing.
Similar success is found on “Everytime I Look For You” and “Give Me a Good Reason,” with the former track getting some more prominent plays on coming of age films like American Pie 2. “Shut Up” to me sounds more like an end of the sequencing filler track, especially having the foresight of knowing what Blink-182 would be able to create on their next few records. However, things end on the right foot with the brilliantly aggressive “Please Take Me Home,” that also includes some great reverberating bass lines, impressive drum fills, and more great guitar work. DeLonge’s lyrics of “Be strong when things fall apart / Honest this breaks my heart,” on the second verse carry more weight with my older ears, and it’s no secret why they chose to repeat the heartfelt lyrical lines before they break out into a big jam to close out the now legendary album.
The first few pressings of the CD’s included some “hidden” bonus tracks that were different based on which version of the album you purchased, and included such legendary titles of “Mother’s Day,” “Fuck a Dog,” and “When You Fucked Grandpa.” Blink-182 would go to follow-up Take Off Your Pants and Jacket with what many consider their best album in their self-titled effort and further expand upon the possibilities of what their band is and could become. While Blink-182 may look a little bit different today, it’s still important to recognize any time where one of our scene’s albums celebrates an important milestone such as this 20 year mark.