Between Blink-182 recording sessions in 2001/2002, Tom DeLonge formed Box Car Racer in order to explore darker content and as an opportunity to record material that wasn’t considered ‘Blink-friendly’. From the discordant piano intro for 'I Feel So', to the edgy tubular bell infused 'Instrumental', it's clear that the material on Box Car Racer's eponymously titled album has an unexpected dark diversity. With the return to a far more traditional hardcore punk sound, and inspiration from bands such as Jawbox and Fugazi, Box Car Racer produced an album heavier on guitar and lyrically deeper than Blink.
Finding himself musically uninspired during the recording sessions for 'Take Off Your Pants and Jacket', Tom's notion of Box Car Racer began to surface, giving him an experimental creative outlet. Tom invited Travis Barker to record and tour with Box Car Racer, and with the addition of Hazen Street guitarist David Kennedy and bassist Anthony Celestino, they brought us a far heavier album than expected.
Tom had been suffering with chronic back pain and needed surgery at the time, and later said of the lyrics for the album that when you can't focus on the happier times in life, you begin writing about sadness and confusion. This statement is glaringly evident in the lead single from the album 'I Feel'. Luring you in with discordant piano and lilting acoustic guitar, the sudden explosion of fuzzed up guitars and Travis' accentuated double bass drum makes it a perfect opener for the album – an invitation into something new.
This heavier sound is perfectly showcased on the tracks 'All systems Go' and 'The End With You', both full of fuzzy guitar laden bombast and Travis' foot pressing heavy on the bass pedal. There are some softer moments on this album, with 'Letter’s To God' the calm before the storm that is 'My First Punk Song'... which can only be described as a high speed explosion of anarchy that evens out into something unmistakably Blink. Despite Tom toning down the poppier aspects of his songwriting to focus on more thought provoking material, there are still elements of Blink-182 here and there.
Considering the popularity of Blink-182 at the time of the release of Box Car Racer, there was never really any question that an album recorded by two of the members wouldn’t do well, so there’s no surprise it hit the Billboard charts at #12. Whilst the project had been commercially successful, with the band playing 22 dates across the States in support of the album, it had raised tension within Blink-182. Mark Hoppus had wanted to be involved, but in order to refrain from creating another Blink album, Tom decided against inviting him and insisted Box Car Racer was never meant to be a real band.
Despite this tension, Box Car Racer's punkier sound and more experimental nature did have an impact on the style of Blink's next studio album, with Mark more open to changing up the sound of earlier albums to allow for more personal creativity and a more diverse sound. It’s clear to see the musical direction Tom was heading in with Box Care Racer, and unreleased tracks ended up being part of his next project Angels And Airwaves.
[poll qs="Do you think Box Car Racer was a good thing for Blink-182?" as1="Yes, It opened a new musical direction" as2="No, Blink was never the same afterwards" as3="Maybe, created too much awkwardness"]