The Commodification of Pop Punk Nostalgia
On October 11, 2022, the angsty, genre-defining pop-punk trio Blink 182 announced via Instagram that they were “coming”...back, that is. A new single, album, and tour were on the horizon, and everyone born between 1981 and 1996 (give or take a few years) collectively lost their shit.
This is not to say that the members of Blink 182 or their sphere of influence had gone missing for the past few years (the band’s most recent album, California, was released in 2016). Frontman Tom Delonge has maintained relevancy, at least in my personal scope of social knowledge, as the alien guy, and Travis Barker wed the eldest Kardashian sister all while releasing a range of skin care products and creating music alongside Machine Gun Kelly, Avril Lavigne, etc. I don’t know what Mark Hoppus has been up to, truthfully, but I saw pictures of him at Kourtney and Travis’ Italian wedding. Those of us who claim Blink 182 as “one of their favorite bands” or hold tightly to pre-teen memories of screaming “what’s my age again?” and truly thinking 23 must be a god-awful age are more loyal to Dude Ranch (1997), Enema of the State (1999), and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001). Tom’s whiny voice, the dick jokes, the perfectly poppy yet angry and why-won’t-my-dad-just-hug-me-and-tell-me-he’s-proud-of-me songs were earworms that made us somehow feel collectively cool while also being rebellious enough to be misunderstood.
As a born and bred Southern Californian, most of my childhood to teenage memories are set to a Blink 182 soundtrack. So, as I said, when the news that an album and tour were imminent I excitedly texted my millennial friends with enthusiasm. Did I think the promotional video was stupid? Kind of, but the news was positive nonetheless. There was even a stop on the tour in my new home city of Chicago. I was stoked.
The first single from the album, “Edging”, was released on October 14, and tickets for the tour went on sale a day prior. Imagine my horror when I found that the nosebleed seats went for around $380 a pop and the single was…alright?
If I was ridiculous enough to purchase tickets for the 2023 tour it would be my third time seeing Blink 182 live. To be fair, the second time I saw them, it was actually only two-thirds of the dedicated trio at Riot Fest and the speakers were faulting. But I also saw them in Mountain View during my undergraduate years right around the time Neighbors was released, and they graciously played mostly hits from 2003 and prior. Oh, and the tickets were $30.
So what’s happening here? Is it safe to assume the concert promoters and the big names behind the band are targeting the demographic for Blink 182 as adults “of a certain age” who can now afford things like a mortgage, children, and $400 tickets to a concert? Maybe.
Is the new song, Edging, lazily resting on old laurels and aesthetics that appealed to this aforementioned demographic when we were pushing twelve and thought boners were funny, and perhaps now that’s falling a little flat? I’d deign to say so. I compared the vibe of “Edging” to discovering that a Stepbrothers 2 film was coming out this year. It’s not that we’re not in on the joke, we just don’t find it that funny anymore.
The generation of pre-internet youth that flocked to everything Blink 182 had to offer was the same group of kids that went to Warped Tour, shamelessly shopped at Hot Topic, and spent their weekends at shitty venues called Che Cafe to see their friends scream into a microphone with one eye covered by their perfectly flat ironed bangs. We are not ABOVE paying money for charm, but we are not selling out. What so successfully defined the Warped Tour era of music was the fact that the festival typically took place in a parking lot and that the band members were easily accessible after their 15-20 minute set. You could not only see Spencer Chamberlin, Anthony Green, or whoever the fuck wandering around the parking lot, you’d most likely end up buying their own merch from them later. There was a special proximity and every man-ness that permeated through the asphalt.
Some may argue that this same feeling has been somewhat recreated at Chicago’s Riot Fest, a three-day festival that is arguably affordable and has showcased bands like Rise Against, Nine Inch Nails, Motorhead, and Rancid. The offering attracts a similar type of crowd, and even pop/punk/goth generations of yesteryear, which give a harrowing glimpse into how all of us tattooed, pierced, leather-clad millennials will age (hint: not well). All that is to say, it’s nice to be around your peers.
Blink 182 is by no means underground. “The Kardashians” is not even Travis Barker’s first stint on a reality show. The boys are money-making machines, and it wouldn’t be the first time a generation of kids who thought they were really sticking it to their parents ended up worshipping a band that would go on to make songs for Kia commercials. But something about the Blink 182 of it all feels like a personal attack.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for a bit of an evolution from Tom, Mark, and Travis. I often felt like the band's 2003 self-titled album was the perfect progression of their creative forces alongside my unstoppable route to puberty. It’s ok that they're still dressing the same and making dick and balls jokes, but I don’t sense any of their true selves in this rollout. Even the repeated nature of “they’re coming” in the promotional video feels like it came from a guy in a suit.
So maybe that’s what it is: maybe, for all these years, we had seen the Blink 182 boys as our peers. The ones that got it - got US. Perhaps we thought, like us, they’d age (in a cool way) and learn to love the lip piercing scars and be pretty decent parents and people and find joy in all the small things.
Are we expecting too much? Are we just old and broke? Should we take our nostalgia crumbs and move on? I haven’t decided yet. But one thing is for sure: I am not paying $380 for some shitty seats at the United Center. Because that’s not fuckin punk at all.