"Up All Night"
From 1994 to 2005, the Southern California pop-punk power trio Blink-182, consisting of singer/bassist Mark Hoppus, guitarist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker, put out five albums that sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. That put the band squarely in the upper echelon of the post-grunge rock age. As so often happens with successful acts, however, Blink's members decided they'd had enough of each other and the band went on "indefinite hiatus"—rock-speak for breaking up without actually calling it a breakup.
DeLonge formed the band Angels & Airwaves, while his former mates solidified into +44. Neither act achieved anything close to Blink's success. In fact, unless you were a hard-core Blink fan, you've probably never even heard of them.
But when Barker was nearly killed in a 2008 plane crash that left him badly burned and in need of a year's worth of rehab, it proved to be a kind of fiery serendipity that would reunite and reignite Blink-182. "My biggest failure was the breakup of Blink," DeLonge told the Chicago Tribune in 2010. "That was a failure of friendships, businesses and communications. In our hearts, we thought that [the breakup] was forever and [the band was] gone. … If [Travis'] accident hadn't happened, we wouldn't be a band. Plain and simple. That was fate."
And so Blink-182 is back with its first charting single in eight years—a philosophical, Cheshire-cat exercise in pop-punk wordplay that maybe looks at life as a glass half-full. Then again, maybe it's half empty. It's always been hard to tell with these guys.
"Everyone wants to call it all around our life with a better name," the song begins obliquely. "Everyone falls and spins and gets up again with a friend who does the same." That theme—falling and getting up, failing but still trying—seems to be what the song is about. "Everyone lies and cheats their wants and needs and still believes in their heart," the next line tells us.
The chorus then asks whether a friend (or perhaps a lover) is really willing to commit to that cycle of failure and second chance: "Let me get this straight, Do you want me here/As I struggle through each and every year?/And all these demons, they keep me up all night/They keep me up all night."
Like I said, half-full, half-empty.
In the end, the band rightly recognizes that it's important to keep on keepin' on, even though death will eventually have the final say ("Everyone works and fights, stays up all night to celebrate the day/And everyone lives to tell the tale of how we die alone someday"). That perspective reminds me just a bit of what Solomon observed about life in the book of Ecclesiastes. There is a time for everything under the sun—including, in a broad sense, the kind of striving and failing that Blink-182 has come to know so much about. Our lives are but a mist that disappears in the morning, and we'd do well to ponder that sobering reality. "Up All Night" is a song that, interpreted in this way, could prompt listeners to think more deeply about some pretty big questions.
The same can't be said of the song's video, however.
In it, the band performs in an abandoned house in an abandoned neighborhood where packs of roving youth give in to every anarchical impulse. Graffiti on a fence reads, "No More Parents." And, indeed, the video has the feel of a block party that's taken over the world in the wake of all the 'rents getting jettisoned into space. Cars are burning. Kids ride around on bikes wearing spaceman costumes. They gleefully break the china in a suburban home. They attack each other with Cheez Whiz. You get the picture. Then, the action culminates with two groups of masked hoodlums facing off against each other, suggesting a darker, Lord of the Flies-style conclusion.
If the song itself, then, doesn't resurrect all those rebellious messages Blink-182 became so famous for a decade ago, its video certainly does.
A postscript: In addition to the song's official video, the band also released a second video that cobbles together YouTube footage of fans dancing, playing guitars, banging on drums, and blasting bikes and skateboards into the stratosphere. "To launch our first single in eight years," script on a black screen tells us, "ATT helped us search YouTube for every instance of fans using our music without our permission and rewarded them for it. The following is made out of clips from all those videos. Thanks for being a fan." Then, a logo of sorts announces, "The blink-182 Film Festival You Didn't Know You Entered."