Recorded at Doubletime Studios, the birthplace of Cheshire Cat and Buddha, and produced by Otis Barthoulameu (aka 'O'), the San Diego guitarist who helped the band secure their first record deal, this 7” EP deserves full recognition as an unadulterated example of early, quintessential blink at a period of their career when little outside involvement meant complete creative freedom.
It was released in 1995 through Cargo Records as a limited edition, hand-numbered pressing of 300 copies, with subsequent pressings through Grilled Cheese gradually diminishing the rarity and collectibility of the original.
As well as being their first EP, this was also the band's first release with the name Blink-182, as opposed to just Blink, under which Cheshire Cat had been issued. Although the name had been altered out of necessity (to avoid copyright infringement) the change also seems to have coincided with a marked surge of self-assuredness coming through from the band's music – from the guitar work and percussion, at least, if not so much from the vocals.
Six songs were originally recorded for They Came to Conquer, but three were dropped and recycled for various Dude Ranch releases later: 'Lemmings' and 'Strung Out' (as 'Enthused') on the album, and 'Good Times' on the B-side of 'Apple Shampoo', Dude Ranch's second single.
Kicking off this EP is 'Wrecked Him', which deals with the themes of inauthenticity and acting cool in friendships. Tom's vocals on this track, as on a lot of the band's early work, are raspy and often off-key, but there are some solid riffs and tight percussion driving them forward.
'Waggy' follows, and fans will recognise this track at a much higher tempo than its later incarnation on Dude Ranch. Led by Hoppus's endearingly raw vocals, the song ends with a great guitar solo and deals with expectations in relationships.
The final track on this EP, 'Zulu', a blistering quick ode to alienation competently tied together by Raynor's drumming, sees a considerable improvement to Tom's vocals. Without a doubt this song captures the essence and brilliance of the blink-182 that was.
Critical reception of They Came to Conquer can only really be backdated, due to its limited initial release. Encounters with the EP were staggered over the following years and subsequent re-issues, but the prevailing attitude towards this record is positive.
In one sense, it stands as a forgotten watershed in blink's career. Recorded prior to Dude Ranch, which drew the band into the spotlight and away from their early collaborators – producer O and friend Kerry Key, who had been instrumental in getting the band together in the first place – this was very much an end of innocence for the band. Soon after They Came to Conquer Uranus, pressures would mount for them to conquer the Earth, and the band's original sound (described as “unrefined” but in that sense true to their pop punk flavour) would evolve.
Most fans revel in this EP's unsophisticated vocals and low-budget production values since, aside from anything else, this record was a landmark in their own lives and early development as much as it was in blink's.