Prior to their first studio album, blink-182 had already produced three demo tapes: Flyswatter and Demo 2 in 1993, and Buddha the following spring. These cassettes, along with their tireless self-promotion and uniquely comical stage manner, would eventually draw the attention of independent San Diego record label, Cargo Music – as well as the enthusiasm and support of 'O', a guitarist in local band Fluf who was to become blink's first outside producer.
Between Westbeach Recorders in Los Angeles and Doubletime Studios closer to San Diego, Cheshire Cat took less than two weeks to record (albeit mainly because additional studio time was expensive) and the band's début LP was released on 17 February 1994.
Musically, the record draws on the same punk rock, skate punk and hardcore influences as the band's earlier demo tapes, from which a number of songs were recycled for this release. Specifically, late seventies/early eighties bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, and especially the Descendents, were all key inspiration for the brisk, upbeat and endearingly raw yet powerful punk rock punch of early blink.
Stand-out tracks include 'Carousel', with its bass-driven intro and meteoric guitar riffs, the more percussive 'M+M's', and the quick and punchy 'Sometimes', as well as 'Wasting Time' which, with its stellar opening guitar, became a rock radio hit. Joke tracks including 'Does My Breath Smell?', 'Ben Wah Balls', and 'Depends' (closing the album), all encapsulate the raw humour and irreverent dynamism of the band having fun.
Cheshire Cat was promoted on local radio, and the band gained wider exposure through the Good Times tour of '95, playing for surfers and snowboarders as far away as Australia. Although distribution of the record was largely via pirated copies (and this was especially the case abroad), it nevertheless sold well enough for a fledgling band to be taken seriously, and their popularity would eventually bring them under the auspices of manager Rick DeVoe, whose prestigious client list included NOFX, Pennywise, and The Offspring.
Looking back, critics have pointed to the unrefined vocals of DeLonge, the often inaudible bassline of Hoppus, and the limited creativity of the band's original drummer, Scott Raynor, as some of the album's many flaws. Yet despite its unsophisticated finish, the consensus feeling among fans for Cheshire Cat is one of fond appreciation. The sometimes muddled imbalance of juvenile humour and melancholic angst was the trio finding their groove; it was them developing their language, and, if nothing else, it was an earnest attempt to connect with their peers.
Named for DeLonge's favourite Alice in Wonderland character, Cheshire Cat remains an iconic indication of the band's future direction, though few if any knew just how far down the rabbit hole this band would go.