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Pop Music Review

Blink-182 Delivers Angst-Fueled Fun

May 15, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Yes, Blink-182 played its latest single, "Adam's Song"--reportedly the tune to which a Columbine High School athlete hanged himself earlier this month--during its sold-out show Friday at the Great Western Forum. But despite the Southern California bubble-gum punk trio's teen-endearing, parent-annoying sense of blatantly offensive humor, they weren't nearly degenerate enough to joke about or even mention the tragic event.

All they said was something about how you might want to hold your date's hand. Then, bassist Mark Hoppus crooned the plaintive opening line ("I never thought I'd die alone").

And the arena erupted with the cheers of thousands of boys and girls who could relate to this sing-song anthem, an apparently all-too-perfect illustration of that ephemeral teenage "I'm-one-step-from-oblivion-anyway-so-why-not-make-it-official?" feeling.

With its unmitigated emotional intensity and slightly slower tempo, the song is something of a Blink anomaly. Yet it was the 70-minute set's most stirring example of how well songwriters Hoppus, 28, and singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge, 24, still understand the adolescent loser-freak mind-set.

This talent might not be obvious in a group whose current, triple-platinum album is titled "Enema of the State," but that's part of the point. True to the classic "stoopid" styles of such kindred Cali-punk spirits as the Circle Jerks, Offspring, et al., the puerile humor, along with the loud, slashing, staccato music, serves as a natural adult repellent. At the same time, perhaps the players' juvenile state of mind somehow keeps them attuned to youth's more somber moods.

Not that any time was wasted being serious. Hoppus and DeLonge cracked countless dumb sex jokes, danced to Sisqo's "Thong Song" and traded so many homoerotic insults that they resembled live versions of Terrence and Phillip, the flatulence-obsessed cartoons from the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The fans responded by screaming, moshing and (in the case of a few) practically baring all for their heroes.

Still, there was a disarming, self-deprecating goofiness to it all, which served to partially deflate accusations of sexism or whatever. Effectively mocking the whole arena-punk-star concept, Hoppus' and DeLonge's faces were projected at silly, unflattering angles onto the video screen, where a delirious montage included footage from vintage B-level teen flicks, stag films, drug-scare movies and more. They even worked in a solo for drummer Travis Barker.

Occasionally these routines dragged enough to remind you they were also padding a set of short, loud, fast tunes. For the nonfaithful, the material wasn't always distinctive, partly because Blink-182 gets a lot of mileage out of about three great hooks. But also, the stripped-down music wasn't well served by the cavernous acoustics.

Ultimately, however, nothing obscured the fun, nor the deeper truths Blink-182 offered in such wistful, angst-fueled selections as "Aliens Exist" and "All the Small Things." These resonated with the frustrations and thrills of being old enough to make your own choices but not free enough to do so, and feeling so close to that freedom, it's agonizing.

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