Don’t Stay Together For The Kids

An Open Letter To blink-182

Don’t Stay Together For The Kids
Don’t Stay Together For The Kids

By Rob Barbour

Jan 28, 2015 14:15

Dear Mark, Tom and Travis... Do you remember the first time? The first time this happened, I mean. After spending the better part of a decade influencing teenagers to don Hurley and Atticus t-shirts, sing in high-pitched nasal accents and sling seafoam green guitars so low we have a whole generation of musicians who’ll prematurely suffer from severe back problems, you coined the concept of the ‘indefinite hiatus’.

I guess I first realised there were cracks in your relationship when Tom and Travis released their ‘Boxcar Racer’ album; ostensibly an outlet for ‘darker’ ideas Delonge felt weren’t suitable for Blink. The end result was a Blink-182 album without Mark Hoppus and with a bunch of pianos and faux-Refused shit. This was to be the first taste of Tom Delonge’s transparent desire towards total creative control.

Although most fans welcomed the release as it bridged the gap between Blink’s much-better-than-its-godawful-title ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’ album and your self-titled follow-up, I realised something was amiss when during the press for the latter, Hoppus went on record as saying ‘I took it very personally. It was really hard and a weird time for our band. When Tom and Travis started Box Car Racer I felt like the odd man out, the forgotten bassist’.

So when, in 2005, Dave Navarro inadvertently announced your initial split I was disappointed, but not surprised. As a former member of Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Navarro was no stranger to inter-band drama, so there was something oddly appropriate about his being the one to accidentally inform the world that Blink had parted ways.

Those of us who grew up listening to you, dressing like you and developing appalling musical technique as a result of teaching ourselves your songs – so we could play terrible, terrible versions of them at school hall ‘gigs’ to friends whose enthusiastic applause was more the result of the Bacardi Breezers they’d been necking in the car park – waited with baited breath to see what happened next. What happened next just about sums up what’s happening this week, a decade later.

Mark and Travis, you went on to form +44 and put out an underrated album of solid pop-punk bangers. Putting the darker lyrical content aside – some of it clearly aimed at Tom (seriously, read the lyrics to ‘No, It Isn’t’) – the album wasn’t so much a logical progression from Blink-182 as a step back to the straightforward pop-rock on which you’d built your careers.

Tom, on the other hand. You formed Angels & Airwaves. Best described as what would happen if you locked 30 Seconds To Mars and U2 in a recording studio with an X-Files boxset and a mountain of cocaine, Angels & Airwaves’ debut album ‘We Don’t Need To Whisper’ confirmed what many of us were thinking: you just didn’t want to play Blink-182 songs anymore. (Incidentally, Tom, I’m not implying that you have a coke habit. I’m just outright stating that most people would have to be high as a rocket-propelled kite to think a track like Valkyrie Missile needs to be 7 minutes long).

Four years later, in the wake of a plane crash which claimed the life of two of Travis’ best friends and left him with a pathological fear of flying, you reunited. Appearing with Mark and Tom at the 2009 Grammy Awards, and with his arm still in a sling, Travis told us ‘We used to play music together, and we decided we want to play music together again.’ A beaming Mark Hoppus then declared, ‘Blink-182 is back!’

But… were you? Were you really? Let’s assume, Tom, that your awkward posture was simply a result of having nothing to say. Perhaps you suspected fans blamed you for the band’s disintegration in the first place; after all, at least one of them outright told you face-to-face:

Screenshot 2015-01-27 22.37.05

The more cynical among us couldn’t help noting the size of Angels & Airwaves’ tour venues and record sales, disappointing if only by comparison with the multi-platinum arena-stuffing trio with whom you paid your dues, and wondering whether this sudden reconciliation had at least a little bit to do with your having become accustomed to a certain lifestyle during Blink-182’s glory days.

There were three men stood on that stage and two of them, I suspected, could happily have spent the previous 4 years playing the songs I loved. One of them had prevented the others from doing that. It was telling that you let those two men do the talking and that Mark’s effusive aura of pride clashed so blatantly with the air you had about you of a primary school child who’d been called to wait outside the head teacher’s office. But with the promise of new material, the rational approach was to let the music speak for itself.

Don’t Stay Together For The Kids

Two years later, we finally got ‘Neighbourhoods’. An album essentially written and recorded via email as you worked apart from each other in separate studios, it was a disparate mish-mash of classic Blink-182 and Tom’s newfound obsession with The Edge’s pedal-board.

Things looked up when the three of you actually got together in a rehearsal space and wrote 2012’s ‘Dogs Eating Dogs’ EP, containing hands down the best material you’d written since reuniting – discounting Yelawolf’s inexplicable appearance on ‘Pretty Little Girl’ (seriously, did he just barge into the studio while you weren’t looking?). Now we learn that rather than a welcome return to your roots the whole project was actually a cynical Christmas cash-in to, I don’t know, allow Tom to buy himself some new SETI equipment or something?

Then there were the shows. Blink-182 have never been renowned for their live performances but Christ on a bicycle, Tom, you weren’t even trying anymore were you? My abiding memory of Reading Festival 2010 is watching you unbuckle your Famous Stars & Straps belt, slide down your black emo jeans and crimp out a steaming turd all over my adolescence. It’s one thing to fluff lines or play a guitar part cack-handedly but you were literally just making weird noises instead of singing. And all the while, you kept the delay-pedal masturbation project that is Angels & Airwaves going.

Which brings me to you, Mark and Travis. +44 went ‘on hiatus’ as soon as Blink-182 reunited. What that told me was that you wanted to play Blink songs together but wouldn’t (or perhaps more importantly, couldn’t; I know how it is when lawyers get involved) without Tom. So it must have been irresistible, when Tom apparently came around to the idea of reuniting the band, to jump back into bed with him. When it comes to exes, there’s nothing like a lack of closure and the intoxicating memories of the good times to facilitate appalling decisions.

Now it seems you’ve woken up hungover, hurting and remembering exactly why you broke up in the first place. Carefully worded press releases and optimistic outpourings about Blink-182’s legacy have been replaced by your calling Delonge ‘ungrateful’ and ‘disingenuous’ in the Rolling Stone, confirming exactly what we all suspected was going on all along. While it’s been outright embarrassing watching this petty bitching between 40-year-old men unfold over the last few days, at least now it’s over. Blink-182 is dead and, just as we thought, the band performing under that name for the last six years was a zombie. Mobile yet lifeless; singing but not breathing.

So, as someone who’s been listening to your music since it was only available on import from a dusty independent shop in a shabby shopping arcade; who took up playing bass largely because he thought Mark was the coolest guy he’d ever seen; who started aggressively spiking up his hair in an attempt to capitalise on a resemblance between us which was visible only to me; in other words as a fan, I’m begging you: please, stop. Pick up a limited-edition 12″ repress of ‘Enema Of The State’ and use it, Shaun Of The Dead style, to decapitate the hideous re-animated corpse of my once-favourite band.

Please don’t drag Matt Skiba into this. Don’t take this the wrong way – my initial reaction to hearing that the Alkaline Trio mainstay would be taking Tom’s place at the upcoming Musink festival was unadulterated joy. The frontman of the band responsible for some of my favourite albums of the last 15 years replacing the worst thing about this hideous Blink simulacrum – what’s not to like?

But then it hit me: this isn’t a collaboration, is it? Sure, the job description might be ‘guitarist and singer whose voice doesn’t hold up live wanted for punk rock trio’ but… Matt Skiba? Really? You’re going to take the man who wrote ‘Radio’, ‘Private Eye’ and ‘Continental’ and make him sing ‘I Miss You’ and (God help us) ‘Family Reunion’?

I don’t really understand or like sport but I know a good analogy when I see it so I’m going to steal one from one of my favourite contemporary rock writers, Kerrang!’s Tom Doyle:

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Mark, Travis. What are you doing, guys? More people than you realise would totally be into a second +44 album. More still would come and watch you play those songs live. And Mark, I know you got stung by that investment scam but surely you can’t need the money badly enough to take Blink’s twitching corpse, cover it in eyeliner and drag it through the streets like this. I know you’re better than that.

The rhetoric in the press and in hastily deleted Tweets this week makes me think a legal battle over Blink-182’s songs, if not the name itself, might be on the horizon and it’s not making anyone look good. But in situations like this, it’s inevitable that some fans will pick sides. Perhaps Tom Delonge really is the unreasonable jerk as which he’s being painted, but if that’s the case then maybe you should rise above it.

I don’t really believe in having heroes, but for a lot of people who discovered music at the same time as me your band is the closest thing we had to them. It’s bad enough that your legacy was turning into that of two middle-aged men making jokes about genitals; please don’t trounce it further by having a playground scrap via international media outlets.

This is the kind of guy I know you are, Mark: I know that when +44 toured the UK with a struggling independent British band whose fee wasn’t even covering their transport costs, you paid for all of their meals out of your own pocket. The persona you’ve cultivated online, of a genuinely good dude who cares about his fans and even more so about his music, withstands scrutiny and makes me think that maybe, just maybe you’ll listen to the pleas of those fans.

Murder this monstrosity. Start something new. If Skiba is part of it then you’ll be my favourite band before you’ve recorded a single note of music; even if he isn’t – and given how good the last Alkaline Trio record was, the last thing I want is for that band to split too – you’ll have a chance to put the dick jokes, delay pedals and disappointment behind you and do something creative without having to find space for the ego of a deluded man-child with a UFO obsession.

And in case you’re in any doubt as to the veracity of my claims to fandom, allow me to furnish you with a picture of the band I was in around the time the self-titled Blink record was released:


While considering the Atticus shirt and Famous Stars & Straps belt buckle on our guitarist (who owned not one but two Tom Delonge signature strats), please note my ludicrous attempt at Hoppus spikes (second from right) and the general vibe of a group of mates f–king around and havin’ a gooood time. Just like you used to be.

The band didn’t last, of course. We got older, we got interested in different things. We moved on. Perhaps it’s time for you to do the same.

Yours optimistically,


P.S. To the other members of Five Second Hand Rule: sorry guys. Trust me, there are far worse pictures.