EDMONTON - There’s a good reason Blink-182 comes off like a trio of snickering 12-year-old boys.
If they didn’t make so many penis jokes, if they didn’t put up such a blustery front, if they didn’t crack the crudest jokes at every possible opportunity, they would simply melt into a puddle of pure mush. They would turn into a band of Bruno Marses.
Good Lord, there’s a frightening thought. But there it is. Never have such sweet and blitheringly romantic songs been wrapped in such an aggressive punk rock enigma that in turn is wrapped in a cocoon of delightful juvenile humour - such a bracing dichotomy of rock ‘n’ roll music witnessed by 9,000 fans at Rexall Place on Saturday night. Oh, they may call this sort of thing “emo,” as in “emotional,” as in “punk rock for girls,” which also may explain why this band is so popular. Rock bands through history have known this fact: Where the girls go is where the money is.
Consider the abundant evidence. The band opened with Feel This, which is about, well, feelings. Shortly thereafter, Tom DeLonge sang a passionate version of the touching romantic ballad Miss You – after which his partner in crudity Mark Hoppus made a joke about how turned on he got from it. Sorry we can’t print exactly what he said. New songs from the forthcoming album Neighborhood showed the same sort of attitude: After Midnight and Ghost’s on the Dancefloor. Both deal with deep feelings. Slow these tunes down a fair bit, remove the overdriven guitars, add some sweet background vocals and we’d have the Backstreet Boys at their most sappy. But no – this is PUNK ROCK! Right? While a breakneck recitation of the Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television in the encore was much appreciated – as was Travis Barker’s flying drum solo - the psychic damage had already been done. The ripping fast song First Date had an especially tender core: “When you smile, I melt inside.” Likewise with All the Small Things and the line “She left me roses by the stairs, surprises let me know she cares.”
Good grief! Have the Masculine Repressed Emotion Police been informed of this? Punk rockers are supposed to get mad, they’re supposed to incite violent mosh pits, they’re supposed to encourage political revolution. They’re not supposed to express such “feelings,” are they? Of course no one complained. A rather rowdy crowd ate it up – proving that Blink-182 is going to be continuing in this strange direction for quite some time.
Getting to the openers: Against Me! thanked the crowd for coming early before knocking off what sounded like one continuous song that seemed too happy, too peppy and too poppy for the subject matter therein. They protested against protest songs, expressed the discontent of a teenage anarchist who couldn’t find anything to rebel against and took out their frustrations over being discriminated against on “white crosses on a church lawn,” adding, “I want to smash them all!” Hard to believe amongst chugging major chords at 240 beats per minute.
Rancid likewise blasted through a more or less continuous riptide of speedy rockers, some clocking in at one minute, tops, filled with shout-along choruses and positive messages (stand tall, speak your mind, stick with your friends, etc.) Sadly, like Against Me!, the bulk of Rancid’s songs were memorable only for the fact that they rocked pretty hard – and hey, that’s cool, but it just isn’t enough to get you into the big leagues of pop-punkery like Blink-182. The one exception was Rancid’s biggest hit, for a reason, coming late in the set: Time Bomb. This is one of those songs that may actually be more well-known than the band that created it.