Before this album was released, Blink-182 were struggling. Not that their first two albums did not have their moments, they did. But they lacked cohesion and vision for their unique modern punk sound.
This album changed that. It’s definitely a step up sonically from the Buddha and Cheshire Cat albums. Without further explanation, let’s jump in and have a listen to the music here.
We begin with Pathetic which is very much like hardcore punk. The vocals interplay between each other and the drums are super fast and intricate. It’s a great beginning to better punk rock than what Blink-182 had done before. It’s super-fast, and good to listen to. Great start to the record.
The next cut Voyeur covers relationship issues. Blink-182 sound very, very good here. It’s as though they knew at the time that they had success just around the corner. This may seem retro, the pop-punk style, but it sounds fresher than anything on the radio today. The harmonies are great here, too. Never a dull moment here, the breakdown in the middle is good as well.
Dammit was a huge hit for Blink-182. It featured on the American Pie movie, and it sounds like happy super fun. “Well, I guess this is growing up,” indeed. It sounds perfect and precise. Guitarist Tom Delonge’s tone is fantastic here too. This is likely one of the best songs the trio did in their time, it’s very good.
Boring starts off with a cool guitar riff and then goes into hardcore punk mode. It is headbanging stuff. This music is very American, and no doubt this feeling made them popular, particularly amongst college students. The outro is comical and weird, in a hilarious way.
The rather out-there titled Dick Lips covers sexual relationships. It’s not the happiest of sentiments, but unlike Blink-182 later songs, sounds incredibly happy and optimistic. The brilliance of this music is understated. It’s positive and wonderful to hear, just as music should be. The pace is manic.
Next is Waggy. It’s more pacing stuff from these guys. This recording, not just a classic, feels much like a hardcore punk record rather than the skate punk that it is aimed towards. Still, it’s definitely great and worth hearing. No track is dull or boring, which makes this album very consistent. The lyrics are a relationship take on being semi-Buddhist and there is a reference to masturbation here as well, oddly enough. The outro is pretty loud.
Enthused is more punk goodness, going from slow to very, very fast. It talks about being undervalued in a relationship. The whole band sounds great here, everything from the singing to the melodic guitar work, and the drumming makes this piece great. The lyrics don’t sound enthused, so maybe it’s sarcasm? Whatever the intent, this is great music.
Untitled doesn’t need explaining in terms of subject matter, it’s much the same as before. It starts very slow and goes into a mid-tempo groove shortly afterwards. There is a shuffle like breakdown in the middle. The guitar playing here is very good too. At the end is an interesting and quite humourous take on an explicit subject, listen to find out what it is.
The next song Apple Shampoo talks about a real-life issue that perhaps one of the band members had with an ex-girlfriend. Whatever this is about, it sounds more melodic, but still has that hardcore punk pace. Success was just around the corner for these guys.
The song Emo refers to the postmodern trend years before it was seen to be a trend. It’s about being ignored by a lover, which never feels comfortable in an ordinary situation. Credit must go to the group for tackling difficult subjects, they do this in the songwriting and music here very well. “She’s better off sleeping on the floor…” for example, is brutal.
Josie comes next. It’s a nice tune about a girlfriend who appreciates a guy for the little things in life, but although there are problems, things work out in the end. Nice sentiment, good song and oh yes, it’s very fast. An essential early Blink-182 song.
A New Hope is not about the Star Wars movie of the same name until it surprises you when it is. The combination of fast, punky playing and relationship-based lyrics is what it is more specifically about. It’s a sad lament, but the music says otherwise to the lyrics here. It’s sad and ironic in reflection here, an unusual combination lyrically.
The next song starts slow. Degenerate then burst into a loud and pacing thing. This is very much indebted to the music of Nirvana, which explains why the dynamics and tempo of it all change at the drop of a hat, or an instant. It’s good stuff to hear, and every number on this album sounds listenable which is a rare feat.
More pseudo-Dead Kennedys style stuff in Lemmings comes next. The band sounds like they are on fire here, and the lyrics are perfectly nonsensical, for the most part. For those who like fast and loud, this is very much your territory here.
I’m Sorry is the final track on the album and a precursor to the music on the self-titled Blink-182 album. It takes more time to get going but still has that fast pace. Boy, these guys sound like that they have been practicing! Still, it is a nice way to end the album. It fades out into an ear-piercing tone, and a rather silly outro.
Why Dude Ranch? It is a quintessential pop-punk album, with many twists, turns and sonically brilliant sections. If you appreciate good humour and like punk rock which is pacing and fast, do yourself a favour and listen to this underrated gem, Dude Ranch. It’s definitely worth it.