By the release of Dude Ranch in June 1997, the young blink-182 had developed a strong sense of who they were and what they were about. After Cheshire Cat, the band recorded a limited release 7-inch EP, They Came to Conquer... Your Uranus, which further distilled their comedic edge and found the band their niche, with an appreciative following extending all the way to Australia.
Given their success abroad, the name Dude Ranch (referring to a quintessentially American style of tourist hospitality) might have been chosen for their second studio album in order to establish the band internationally in terms of their American identity – in those days apparently more of a selling point than it is today – and the album's artwork, inspired by cheesy old-fashioned postcards and photographic Americana, reflects this.
The album was recorded at Big Fish Studios, Encinitas, California, with producer Mark Trombino providing some additional piano and keyboard backing.
Tom's riffs are on this record are memorable and creative, and Mark's bass playing has become more assertive since his first outing, while Scott Raynor's percussion provides a tight foundation for his bandmates' growing confidence.
The lyrics, meanwhile, are fun and humorous, sung in the band's characteristic dual vocals, with Hoppus and DeLonge sometimes alternating verses before joining together for the chorus. Song tracks are interspersed with joke recordings and, as with Cheshire Cat, the thematic focus throughout is on immaturity and adolescence, with all of their attendant parent troubles, girl troubles, and unrequited lusts.
The album opens with 'Pathetic', a catchy number about a failed relationship, before whirling through the brash and scratchy 'Voyeur' and on to the third track and hit single, 'Dammit', whose distinctive, droning bass line owes to a couple of missing strings from Hoppus's guitar. The record's three other singles, 'Dick Lips', 'Apple Shampoo', and 'Josie (Everything's Gonna Be Fine)' continue with the theme of adolescent frustration, while 'Untitled' experiments with ska punk musical styles.
Overall, production values on this album are vastly higher than on Cheshire Cat. Some reviewers of the time commented negatively on the vocals (which the band were struggling with), but what these critics failed to realise was the precise appeal of this raw, unpolished quality; indeed it was what endeared blink-182 to their fans in the first place. At this stage unaware of their potential for megastardom, the band were still just having fun, and were understandably a little complacent when it came to properly taking care of their singing voices.
Their uniquely accessible irreverence is what really shines through on this record. More than Cheshire Cat, this was a manifesto of sorts, honestly showcasing their image with high tempo percussion, sunny melodies, and vocal trade-offs.
Dude Ranch was targeted at the surf and snowboard scene through magazines and retail tie-ins, and the band toured continuously to promote their second album. Their really big break, however, came with the release of 'Dammit' as a single to TV and radio stations. As national exposure swelled their popularity, sales of their album sky-rocketed, reaching 40,000 in the two months after release and going platinum in two years.