10 Years, 100 Songs: #51. “So Here’s Your Holiday…”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 26, 2009
Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
You don’t need me to tell you about what a great band Blink-182 are/were, do you? Nothing used to get me madder than critics or other music listeners with no sense of perspective citing Blink-182 as Part of the Problem–there was never a stage of their career that they weren’t head and shoulders above their peers in just about every respect. The playing, the songcraft, the production, the harmonies, the humor, the videos (well, some of the time…)–there were but a handful of bands around the turn of the millennium that could be relied on for quality as consistently as Blink. Song-for-song, Enema of the State is just as good as the first Ramones album, and the band’s greatest hits can level-peg with Singles Going Steady any day of the week. Hopefully this is already something of a given with rock radio listeners by now, and hopefully it will be only further purveyed in future years, but it’s an important distinction to make just in case you still haven’t figured out the difference between them and SR-71.
They got better as they went, too. As far as importance goes–and this is really the only reason they didn’t make the top half of this list–they did peak in the late 90s, either with “Dammit” (the first modern rock hit and perhaps purest distillation of the band ethos) or with “All the Small Things” (the mainstream pop breakthrough that put them neck-and-neck with Weezer for achieving “Beach Boys of the 90s” status). But as the millennium turned, their songwriting matured dramatically, even if emotionally they never even came close to graduating high school (and might have even regressed a bit towards the end). Evidence: Take Off Your Pants and Jacket‘s “Stay Together For the Kids,” a torrential power ballad of incredible pain and bitterness that made even previous suicide note “Adam’s Song” sound downright sentimental in comparison.
“Stay Together” wasn’t the first song ever written about divorce, certainly–plenty of songs about it have been written from the adult perspective, and I think Papa Roach might have beaten Blink-182 to doing it from the kids’ perspective by a year or two. But the subject was one that deserved a real anthem, one that articulated the hurt from a distinctly teenage point of view, and infused it into the music as well. Blink singer and songwriter Tom DeLonge was obviously the man for the job, with his verve for over-dramatic storytelling and his whiny, uber-emotive voice instantly transporting listeners to their most vivid closed-door, pillow-over-head No One Understands Me memory. Not to mention that he already had the song in his back pocket, supposedly written when he was 16, almost immediately after being informed by Mr. and Mrs. DeLonge that they would be splitting up. You can question Blink’s realness credentials in any number of irrlevant ways, but when it came to broken-home angst, there’s no doubting that they were OGs.
The real brilliance of the song is in how it blindsides. We’ve talked about the quiet verse / loud chorus dynamic in any number of entries on this list already, but know this–there’s quiet/loud, and then there’s “Stay Together For the Kids.” The song starts off with a twisty, melancholy-sounding guitar riff, a plodding tempo, and generally speaking, no clues whatsoever as to what’s to come. DeLonge makes the truly inspired choice to hand off the verse lyrics to co-frontman Mark Hoppus, whose matter-of-fact delivery and unassuming innocence keep the song’s verses on an even keel in a way that DeLonge, with his inevitable sharp, pained vocal inflections, never could. The lyrics are full of simple, emotionally shell-shocked phrases (“It makes no sense at all,” “We get along, so why don’t they?” “If this is what he wants, and what she wants, then why is there so much pain?”) that belie the youth and naivete of the writer, and set a resigned tone for a song that’s apparently going to be as quietly morose as walking home alone on a cloudy, rainy day. Bummer, but fair enough.
Except, well, no. The guitars hit on the chorus, and suddenly it becomes very clear that this cloudy, rainy day is actually a tropical storm hurtling road signs and cows and shit into the air at 80 MPH, one during which you’d really be quite fortunate to make it home at all. It’s basically just a pounding two-chord progression, but the chords are low and minor enough (and are played furiously enough) to sound near-metal in their destructive connotations. And now DeLonge enters with his piercing wail, cranked up to full-blast pout: ” SO HERE’S YOUR HOLIDAYY!! / Hope you enjoy it this time / YOU GAVE IT ALL AWAY!!! / IT WAS MINE!!“ Jaw-dropping, eye-widening, pulse-racing…choose your cliche, really. Whether it was meant to reflect how unexpected and earth-shaking divorce can be for a kid, or whether it was just Mark, Tom and Travis saying “Let’s do it a bit louder this time, yeah?,” it might be the best pure musical catharsis to appear in pop music of any form since Ride’s “Dreams Burn Down.” Nothing could prepare you for this–nothing in the song, and nothing previously in the band’s career suggests that they were capable of a chorus like this.
Blink were never one to be particularly subtle or suggestive with their videos, and the “Stay Together for the Kids” clip punches home the song’s point beyond any possible shadow of a doubt. Playing the song in an open, abandoned housing complex filled with dozens of other stray kids on a miserable, overcast day, Blink nail the obvious symbolism (a literally broken home) and the anthemic aspirations (seemingly an entire generation of displaced youths) right off the bat. The main attraction, though, comes with the chorus–a gigantic wrecking ball, come to finish the job on the already-dilapidated home, shaking the video and the band to its core. Like I said, not particularly subtle, but damned if it’s not a fairly indelible image, one bound to stick in your mind whenever you listen to the song after. Really, though, the song’s music has enough action contained within to make it an ideal soundtrack for just about anything–I remember at the time how it was used for commercial montages of the videos currently in rotation on MTV, and how it made every clip it was featured underneath feel profoundly epic. I’m surprised no enterprising shoegazer or microhouse producer or other creative spirit has tried to lift the chorus chords from their broken-home roots and put them in new emotional contexts to see what other wonderful things they could accomplish.
Unfortunately, Blink only lasted another album after Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, a self-titled effort that saw them moving away from being the heirs to Green Day and The Descendants and moving more into Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure territory. It was kind of cool, musically at least–lyrically, the band could only ape the more embarrassing Corgan / Smith moments, without ever really reaching the transcendent ones–but it wasn’t meant to last, and the band splintered, Mark and Travis getting back to their roots a little with the pleasant +44, and Tom going totally off the widescreen arena-rock deep end with the gloriously overambitious Angels and Airwaves. A recent near-death experience for Travis spurred the band to reunite, but I don’t have high expectations–some bands just weren’t meant for middle age, and if Blink stayed permanently associated with the sound and feeling of being 16, it’d probably be for the best. Seeing them perform “What’s My Age Again?” at outdoor nostalgia festivals 20 years from now would be beyond depressing.
Man, I would kill to hear “Stay Together For the Kids” live, though.
(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)
The List So Far (Now With Links!):
100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia”
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)”
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly”
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar”
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious”
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space”
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
90. Cassie – “Me & U”
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel”
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood”
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over”
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent”
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It”
81. 311 – “Amber”
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite”
79. Nas – “Made You Look”
78. Royksopp – “Eple”
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha”
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)”
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet”
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz”
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes”
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone”
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!”
67. Incubus – “Stellar”
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together”
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard”
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie”
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure”
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite”
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get”
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity”
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan”
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly”
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem”
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday”
55. Darude – “Sandstorm“
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue”
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside”
52. Luomo – “Tessio”
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids”