Remember the heyday of punk rock, when such unruly bands as Black Flag, Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedys sawed off your ears with dissonant, often-deafening layers of noise?
The violent, turbulent punk atmosphere of the 1980s has recently given way to the near-mainstream, more radio-friendly sounds of the Offsprings and Green Days, whose traces of melodious power-pop push for equality alongside discordant guitar thrashing and feedback.
Some of today's punk bands, particularly those from Southern California, have set aside darkness and depression and put the emphasis on humor and outdoor physical activities. As evidenced by last summer's Warped Tour--a nationally touring punk/hardcore festival--teens are excited about this mixture of modern music and outdoor recreation, including skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding.
One up-and-coming band, San Diego's blink-182, has just returned from a three-week tour in Australia and will embark on a 10-day coastal-cities trek next month, both while performing as opening act for the surf-punk band Pennywise.
The trio--featuring guitarist-vocalist Tom Delonge, bassist-vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Scott "Mad Dog" Raynor--headlines tonight at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana.
On "Cheshire Cat," the group's debut released last year on the independent Cargo Records label, blink-182 offers a mixture of melody, punk and frequently trashy humor. Their catchy "M&M;'s" song was a regional radio hit, and the CD has sold "exceptionally well," according to a Cargo Records spokesman.
But what about punk's independent spirit? Are bands turning their backs on this fundamental aspect of their punk-rock heritage in affiliating with major labels and skateboard promoters?
"What is punk?" Delonge, 20, responded rhetorically during a phone interview from his parents' home in Poway.
"I mean, is it the retro rock of England's Exploited, the anarchy of the Ramones or the political focus of Bad Religion? Punk has gone off in so many different directions that you can't really classify it anymore," he said. "People said Elvis Costello was punk when he first came out."
Influenced by the Vandals, the Descendants and NOFX, blink-182 (having recently changed its name from Blink after some legal wrangling with an Irish techno band of the same name) was born several years ago when Raynor met Delonge at a party for their eighth-grade class.
The two decided to form a band and searched for a bassist until finding Hoppus. The threesome clicked, and they've been forging a musical identity ever since.
"Every song of ours is a version of another punk song that I've heard and tried to make better," Delonge said. "In the end, ours wind up a little different, but I know where the influence came from, and I think it's important to acknowledge that".
Most of blink-182's songs poke fun at their own youthful escapades, focusing on raging hormones, candy, masturbation, intestinal gas and other topics of interest to adolescents. The band also tackles boy-meets-girl rituals with a keen awareness, and a couple of tunes ("Sometimes," "Cacophony") explore areas of self-doubt and despair.
Should the band members feel as though they are starting to take themselves too seriously, they have songs such as "Toast and Bananas," "Does My Breath Smell?" and "Ben Wah Balls" to turn to.
"We do thrive on this whole concept of not growing up . . . of the older you get, you should still think young," Delonge said. "It's who we are . . . and although I don't always succeed, I try to put a funny, clever twist on things."
With that in mind, Delonge said that the group's five-song, 7-inch vinyl EP scheduled for release next month will vary little from the zany blink-182 style and sound. Two "upbeat, frenetic" tunes ("Wrecked Him" and "Lemmings") are prime fodder for parties. A full album is planned for release sometime in the summer.
In between all the zaniness, Delonge seems to find some time to think seriously about his punk generation.
"Punk has tapered off," he said. "The Offspring is nothing like the intense force of a Black Flag or the Descendants. But the attitude is the thing. We all share the same energy and view on life and really don't care what other people think. I'll continue to call our music "punk," and I'm proud of our toilet humor."
* POP LISTINGS, FXX
* Who: blink-182, Less Than Jake and Homegrown.
* Where: Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.
* When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Harbor Blvd., head north on Harbor and take the third right, Lake Center Drive. The theater is on the left.
* Wherewithal: $10.
* Where to call: (714) 957-0600.