Why I Don’t Hate blink-182

It’s okay if people are excited about their reunion

blink-182 poster (Image: Amazon)

It is my understanding that blink-182 have been in the news recently. Honestly, I don’t think much about blink-182. (Please note: I did not say “I don’t think much OF blink-182.” That’s something very different entirely.)

There are many things that crawl, leap scurry or serpentine into my mind with some frequency – the rise and defenestration of the DuMont Network, the remarkable artistry of Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould, Bo Diddley, Wim Wenders, the wondrous friendship of Peter Falk and Patrick McGoohan, and so on – but I must say, I would likely never think about blink-182, unless their name popped up on the news. Which it did. 

I have never really listened to blink-182, but I respect them.

Maybe that surprises you. But this is the thing: A long time ago, I learned there was an unspoken brotherhood amongst musicians and music geeks, all musicians and music geeks. Whether you are a member of Bon Jovi or Dry Cleaning, chances are you were that guy or girl in your high school who had the coolest record collection, who knew insane and arcane details about your favorite musicians, who followed about fourteen weird bands for every one group in the pop charts.  Seriously, it’s an odd secret, but I guarantee it’s true: Pretty much anyone who’s put the time and effort into learning an instrument, pursuing a career, and putting up with all the bullshit surrounding the music business is bound to be a serious lover and student of music. There’s just too much crap, boredom and disappoint in the life of a musician – any and every working musician —  to sustain someone who really doesn’t care about the art form. Really. So, regardless of any personal relationship I may or may not have with blink-182’s music, I respect them as brothers, as people who cared deeply about music and made that obsession into a lifelong career.

And I respect their fans. True. Mostly, I respect them because they freaking care enough about music to actually be a fan. I love the idea that people care about music. My god, you are engaged in the world of guitar, bass and drums! You see romance and beautiful thrills in the power of downstroked E-chord! You care about rock ’n’ roll!  Good on you, as the say in Australia. I mean that. See, I am not going to play that game where I look down on you because you like blink-182 but don’t like hipper, older, more obscure, or more credible bands.  Any ass who plays that game must be willing to look in the damn mirror. For instance, I enjoy 20th Century neo-classical music; I like, oh, Aaron Copland, Krzysztof Penederecki, Terry Riley, Tony Conrad, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, etcetera. But I guarantee that there’s someone out there who will go “Oh, that Sommer guy is a douche!  He doesn’t know any Morton Gould or Benjamin Britten!  What a Neanderthal that Sommer cat is!” Now, the fact that I can’t name any compositions by Benjamin Britten doesn’t mean I love or enjoy Terry Riley any less. Not knowing any Benjamin Britten doesn’t impact how Terry Riley can affect me, not one iota. And the same goes for you. Just because you can’t name any songs by, oh, the Dils or Crass or the Weirdos or the Pointed Sticks doesn’t mean that you aren’t as moved when you hear a song by blink-182. If a song reached your heart, if you heard something and thought “I cannot wait to share that with my best friend!” or “Looking forward to hearing that song got me through class today,” that’s all that matters! What possible difference does it make how famous or how obscure it is.  Shit, I spend a lot of my time listening to music you probably couldn’t even spell, but it still makes me deliriously happy to hear “Ray of Light” by Madonna, and I have no trouble screaming that fact to the world. I am not going to look down on anything that moves anyone, provided it doesn’t espouse any hurtful or hateful bullshit or dogma.

 

VIDEO: Madonna “Ray of Light”

I mean, there are exceptions, but very bloody few – actually, I take that back, there are no exceptions. If you love music, I mean truly love it, live inside of it, live for it, live to be occupied by it and enthralled by it and obsessed by it, you love it for the right reasons. True, there are some artists – and this is a very small community – who make music for the wrong reasons. And really, there are very, very few “wrong” reasons for making music, and it pretty much boils down to this: Anyone who makes music solely to prove they are smarter than someone or more clever than their listeners, or makes music whose primary foundation is irony, well, that artist is a bolus of shit.

And honestly, making and releasing art is a very hard thing, so there are very few artists out there who would go to the effort of releasing stuff just to be clever or ironic. Really, I guess we’re just talking about  Weezer (and maybe, sometimes, Les Claypool and Danny Elfman?). But just because these tiny palmful of artists make music for the “wrong” reason – and dammit, if I have one overriding artistic philosophy, it is that Irony Kills Art – that does NOT mean that their fans listen to them for the “wrong” reason. Honest. In theory, anyway, the fans of “bad” music listen to music for exactly the same damn reasons that people listen to “good” music: To be moved, to be thrilled, to be distracted, to be occupied, to have their day made better, to have a splendid decal they can slap on themselves and call identity. Which is all to say: There are NO bad listeners, and very, very, very few “bad” musicians

See, there’s nothing wrong with popularity, nothing wrong with liking the popular.  Regardless of whether you listen to the most obscure noise from Brooklyn or the most mainstream pop, you probably listen to it for the same reason:  it moves you, it distracts you, it makes your day better, it gives you something to talk about with your friends or the people you want to be friends with, it says something for you that you cannot say yourself. I feel that way when listening to “Fiery Jack” by the Fall or “Brando” by Scott Walker; someone else may feel the exact same thing when listening to Nickelback or Darius Rucker.  The messenger may change, but the listener’s motivation and heart stay the same.  A song that creates an amazing shared memory for someone is a spectacular gift, and I am not going to ridicule it, whether it’s by the Mekons or Miley Cyrus.

 

VIDEO: blink-182 “All The Small Things”

Now, as long as I have your attention, let me tell you a little about punk rock.

To me, more than anything else, punk rock means the freedom to be yourself, have your own opinion, and dream big dreams and love those dreams with all your heart, despite the naysayers; I believe punk rock is literally the opposite of conformity and bending to peer pressure. More than a “sound,” it is the idea of an unfettered, un-tethered imagination. That’s punk rock: the limits of your imagination, and beyond. It is your fist tapping a rhythm on your desk, it is the thump of a hundred drums in a Mardi Gras parade. I also believe it is essentially a simple art form, where you discover and express beautiful, strong, powerful, intensely creative dreams that others might say are “too obvious” to express; in other words, people looked at the work of Picasso, Mondrian and Pollock and said “My kid could do that,” or they heard the Ramones and said “Shit, anyone could play like that.” But NO ONE had painted like that, no one had played like that. If you could do it, why didn’t you do it?  If your kid could have done it, why didn’t you encourage him or her to do so?  Often, beauty, genius, and invention are as obvious as the air we breathe. Punk Rock artists discover a new country, the one that was in front of us and under our feet and in our dreams the whole time; the one whose beauty and power was so obvious, it was like discovering a delicious, nutritious fruit just sitting there hanging from a low branch of a tree, and everyone else said “If it’s that easy to pick, why hasn’t someone already eaten it?  It must suck.” Having said that, if you do love blink-182, please consider your love for blink-182 a doorway. Let that door lead you to the soul, spirit, joy, compassion, simplicity, artistic adventure and discovery, and immediate magic of Punk Rock. Let that door lead you…

To the truth: Punk rock, first and foremost, is an expression of what moves you, without the shadow of peer pressure.

To the visceral: Punk Rock is about discovering the beauty and power of the obvious and everyday; the hum of a refrigerator can be punk rock; the ticking of a signal indicator can be punk rock; the one-chord passion of an old rockabilly song can be punk rock.

To the adventurous: Blow it all up and put it back together any damn way you want, any goddamn way that has the power to move you; and if it moves you, there’s a very good chance it will move someone else. That strange sound you want to hear over and over?  I bet someone else wants to hear it, too. Trust your ears and heart.

And please note this: A lot of the visual and iconic language of punk is borrowed from the language of rebel politics and the battles of the disenfranchised to gain equality and socio-economic power.  Go to the roots of this iconography: Don’t just “say” fight for your rights; actually fight for your rights, and other peoples. Literally nothing is “more” punk rock then helping those who have less, those who have no power, and protecting those who are in harm’s way. It’s not enough to “give the wrong time/stop a traffic line” as the brilliant Johnny Rotten wrote in “Anarchy in the U.K.”  Ideally, a punk should give the right time to someone who can’t afford a watch, and clear traffic in front of an abortion clinic.

Oh…if a band you like has ever done anything intentionally racist, sexist, homophobic or refused to condemn any section of their fans that have done the same, then none of this applies. Any band that doesn’t defend the disenfranchised, that is the artistically, economically, socially, sexually, politically disenfranchised, are just posers.

Good luck to blink-182. And God bless their fans. 

 

Signed,

 

Timothy A. Sommer

 

(I dedicate this piece to one of the great music lovers of all time, the late John Loscalzo. A version of this piece, considerably altered from this one, originally appeared in a site he created and ran, The Brooklyn Bugle.)

 

AUDIO: blink-182 “Edging”

 

 

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Tim Sommer

Tim Sommer is a musician, record producer, former Atlantic Records A&R representative, WNYO DJ, MTV News correspondent, VH1 VJ, and founding member of the band Hugo Largo. He is the author of Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish and has written for publications such as Trouser Press, the Observer and The Village Voice. Learn more at Tim Sommer Writing.

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