86. Blink 182 - Stay Together for the Kids

For much of their career, Blink 182 was "the fun band." They were the guys running around naked in their videos, writing silly lyrics to extremely catchy punk songs. It seems like they were picking up the mantle that the Red Hot Chili Peppers set down when the Chilis decided to get serious. With songs like, "Dammit", "What's My Age Again?" and "All the Small Things" they took the punk sensibilities that they grew up loving and added a pop hook to them.

But in their Enema of the State album, they decided to go serious themselves with the suicide themed "Adam's Song," which was a departure, being a grown up song with very serious themes and lyrics. But even in there brief moment of gravity, they lampooned boy bands in their "All the Small Things" video, where they are running on the beach... naked.

The song on my list, "Stay Together for the Kids" appears on their next album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. This time, parental strife and divorce are the heavy theme of the bummer song on the album. Many have mocked the guys for the "After-School Special" treatment of the topic, but I disagree. Tom Delonge, the guitarist and one of the lead singers wrote the song from his own personal experience. Interestingly, though, bassist and other lead singer Mark Hoppus takes the vocals on the verses, with Tom taking the chorus. It's a great lead singer situation, one we haven't really seen since Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr. And for this particular song, having Mark's baritone for the melancholy verses and then Tom tearing in with his angry tenor for the choruses really pays tribute to not only their songwriting skills, but having two great vocal performances in the same song.

Since one in every two marriages end in divorce, we all know (or were) people like Tom's angry teenager. The lyrics really sum up the frustration that teens from a breaking home feel every single day.

I'm ripe with things to say
The words rot and fall away.
If a stupid poem could fix this home
I'd read it every day.

I love the line about a stupid poem. It's like our teenager knows it's all going to fall apart, but wants so bad to believe in something, that he'll try anything. I know there are times in my life where I've felt like that. I'll try ANYTHING. Just make this better! It's not right!

Musically, the song is put together perfectly. It starts with a lone guitar, which seems to be just counting the time, waiting. Then Mark comes in with the muted lyrics, while Travis Barker, Blink's drummer plays an almost James Brownish muted drum loop so as not to distract from the lyrics and melody. I've always pictured Travis as a guy who loves to play drums. He needs to play drums. It's in his DNA. Just watch him (hopefully in a live performance) and you'll see what I mean. He's one of those drummers that you think that he might actually get paid for how many times he hits something with his drumsticks. So for Travis, to play this restrained must have been very difficult. But when the chorus roars in, everyone just cuts loose. Tom's vocals soar in their anger and Travis makes up for lost time with a stunning show of his drum skills. Mark is the team player in the choruses, playing a solid, basic bass line while his partners go ballistic.

Many people think that the pop-punk music is a desecration of the honesty and rawness of punk rock. As you could probably tell, I disagree. Just because a song has more than three chords and actually has some production values doesn't automatically mean that it's less. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's bad. Bands like Blink 182, Green Day, Good Charlotte and others are just trying to take punk to another level. It's not necessarily a better level, just a different one, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my parents stayed together and loved each other. But it's nice to know that if things would have ended up different, I would have had music to turn to in my time of angst, where the guys playing the song knew exactly where I came from. So in our shared loneliness, neither of us was alone.

(Two fun facts for this one:

Fun Fact #364 - Of the 123 studio songs that Blink 182 have released, Tom has a slight edge in lead singer duties, with 68 songs, with Mark coming in with 55.

Fun Fact #365 - The video that the band had originally intended to do for this song was a very cool concept where the guys were playing in the basement of a house that was slowly being demolished by a wrecking ball. The house was also filled with teens from broken homes. The first day of shooting wrapped and the band was really pleased with how it had all gone. They were scheduled to come back the next morning to finish up a few things. The date of the first day of shooting was September 10, 2001. Obviously, in the wake of the terrorist attacks that would happen the next morning, they decided not to release the video, and just released a standard performance video for the song. But the original video can be found on Youtube. Just look for Stay Together for the Kids - Original Version. Let me save you the trouble...)

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