China: 20 Years of Dude Ranch

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Blink-182 – Dude Ranch

Released June 17th, 1997 on Cargo Records / MCA Records

Anyone over the age of 16 who claims that Blink-182 is one of their favourite bands is solidly immature – and the older they get, the more you can be assured that they’re existing in a state of suspended adolescence that just gets sadder the closer you get to grey hair.  Anyone under the age of 16 who claims that Blink-182 is one of their favourite bands is probably riding on a crest of Le Wrong Generation smugness, hating on the musical offerings of their generation simply to be contrarian and faux-cool.  I mean, you kids know PUP exists, right?  Pissed Jeans?  There are much better punk bands out now than Blink, you don’t have to suck up to Xinneials for brownie points.

So why are we celebrating the twentieth anniversary of an album that pretty much strikes one note over and over again until you just want to scream “I GET IT DELONGE YOU MANIAC!  YOU GREW UP IN THE SUBURBS AND YOU HAD A TYPICAL SUBURBAN TEEN UPBRINGING!  I’VE SEEN CAN’T HARDLY WAIT I KNOW HOW THIS WORKS!”? Well, for one thing, it’s to say holy shit Dude Ranch is twenty years old and you are soooooo old! For another, it’s to remark that, while Dude Ranch is basically NOFX with the edges sanded off, the personification of suburban skater punk, it’s also the perfection of that form.  “Dammit” is the pop-punk song of the Nineties, and if the rest of the album is basically just fourteen more iterations of “Dammit” it’s okay because that formula works here, and it works exceedingly well.

The rest of the songs also have their charms, of course.  “Dick Lips” is about getting drunk and kicked out of high school; “Apple Shampoo” is about getting your heart broken (and about Elyse Rogers of Dance Hall Crashers); “Emo” is about Jimmy Eat World; “Josie” is about the perfect girlfriend, while “A New Hope” is about the perfect girlfriend, who just happens to be rebelicious Princess Leia Skywalker (RIP Carrie Fisher).  It’s all juvenile, of course, fitting for a band who were still mentally in high school and and for a fanset who largely were still there as well.  It’s girls, drinking, hanging out, and being goofballs – something the band would continue to tackle right up until their 2003 self-titled swan song, which should have been their Rubber Soul but wasn’t.

This is closing in on 500 words now, which begs the question, “who the hell unironically writes 500 words about Blink-182?”  I guess I do, who knew?  I will straight-up admit to unabashedly loving this album as a 16 year old, who was that age right at the time they were doing records like Dude Ranch.  I had a pirated copy, too, burned onto a CD-R that I copied from a friend long before Napster came around to revolutionize that sort of thing.  I might even still have it somewhere; it’s one of those artifacts of youth that have sentimental value, if not precisely musical.  Sometimes nostalgia doesn’t need a sacred reason; sometimes it just about where you were at when you were a kid.  I guess this is growing up.

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Best Coast – California Nights

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Best Coast – California Nights

California Nights is the perfect example of why picking your lead single carefully is important.  Leading off with the title track, it would seem that Ms. Bethany Cosentino had decided to go in a much darker, much more downtempo direction on her third LP.  This would have been actually kind of welcome:  While her debut, Crazy For You, was the perfect pop album for hitting the sunny beach in style, The Only One was like it, but without the charm and winsome longing that she’d brought to the first one.  “California Nights” is a big leap forward for her as a songwriter, a slow psych-rock number that could double as a soundtrack for, well, light-blinded California nights.

It’s the only song like it on the record, however.  The rest of the album is a return to the tempos and structures that she brought to the table on Crazy For You, but with a bit less sun and shrug.  In and of itself this is a good thing – there’s none of the mid-tempo L.A. slog that marred The Only One and quite a few places where the speed spikes and Cosentino stretches into pop-punk territory.  “Heaven Sent”, and “Fine Without You” both mine this vein, but the rest of the tracks aren’t terribly far behind.

Can we just pretend that The Only One didn’t happen and that California Nights is her follow-up to Crazy For You?  Her second album can just be considered a strange aberration, much as Bad Religion’s Into The Unknown is seen as an ill-advised dip into something best forgotten.