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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Blink-182: But seriously, folks

Amid the band's high jinks have always been more thoughtful themes. Now they want you to notice.

November 19, 2003|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

Jerry Lewis' movie "The Day the Clown Cried" (1972), in which the comedian played a children's entertainer at Nazi concentration camps, was his ill-fated attempt to be taken seriously as an artist, but it went too far and was never released.

Blink-182's new album is not "The Day the Punk Clowns Cried," but with its release Tuesday, and in the band's concert at the Avalon on Monday, the perennial jokester trio seems to be asking fans to pay a little more attention to its serious side.

On the other hand, it did kick off Monday's crisp, 45-minute set with "Family Reunion," its sing-song burst of profanities. But rather than setting the tone for the evening, it seemed to be a matter of getting it out of the way. There were hardly any bodily function jokes at all from guitarist Tom Delonge and bassist Mark Hoppus during the following flurry of such hits as "What's My Age Again" and "Dumpweed," after which Blink fully tapped the moodier rock that marks the new release, "Blink-182" -- the title itself a sign that the group wants this to be seen as a fresh phase.

But amid all the tom-and-mark-foolery, Blink has always been a serious band, with introspective songs and underappreciated songwriting sophistication.

Themes of abandonment, alienation, loss and loneliness have coursed through the group's five previous studio CDs, if only people bothered to notice. With the somber textures that mark about half of the new album, notable for prominent keyboard touches and minor-key settings, it's hard not to notice.

Several new songs were blended well into the catalog of familiar favorites at the Avalon. "Obvious" carried as much emotional intensity as any Jimmy Eat World or Dashboard Confessional anthem, though that's not exactly new to the band, as was clear from such older songs as "Stay Together for the Children."

There were no attempts to re-create the elaborate production of some of the album versions, but the band showed itself quite capable of ratcheting up the musical drama.

The Monday and Tuesday Avalon shows were album-release promotions with a $1 ticket price, so it's hard to say how much the set list and at least partly matured mood will carry over to its regular shows. But when Blink finished Monday with 1997's "Dammit," Delonge's closing line "I guess this is growing up" didn't sound as snarkily ironic as it once did. Jerry Lewis might well approve.

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