Following blink's runaway success with Enema of the State (1999), MCA Records were in no mind to let them change course now and called for more of the same on their fourth studio album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, again produced over three months by Jerry Finn, and released in June 2001.
Right down to its title – a juvenile pun on "jacking it" and a reference to the band's commercially successful penchant for nudity – the album fulfils expectations thematically and mostly keeps within the bounds of their established brand image. Yet the band members themselves were eager by this point to evolve their sound and experiment artistically, creating tension with MCA and ultimately leading to demands from the band's management for easily-marketable, formulaic singles.
The Rock Show
The result is a somewhat tense compromise between classic summertime blink and heavier, more mature material, with the former ultimately winning over. 'The Rock Show', for instance, is an upbeat, almost saccharine tale of teen romance and 'First Date' is a breezy, vocal-driven track inspired by the Bee Gees, of all people. In the other corner, the mature lyrics, formidable drumming and sophisticated chord progression of 'Anthem Part Two', which opens the album, has nods to meatier influences Fugazi and Refused, and 'Stay Together For The Kids', which deals with Hoppus's childhood experience of divorce, is another break from blink's trademark irreverent flippancy.
While the band's brash sense of humour does remain intact here and there – particularly on the fleeting 'Happy Holidays, You Bastard' – there is the overall sense on this record of an inevitable departure from youth.
Promotion of the album was largely through corporate sponsorships, television appearances, and the 2001 Honda Civic Tour, and while the album fared extremely well commercially (hitting double platinum within three weeks of release), the band drew criticism for selling out.
Many were also disappointed with the formulaic feel of some tracks, despite 'First Date' and 'The Rock Show' being massive hits as singles, and were troubled by the overall sense that the band had lost their edge.
With the release of some of their finer material divided between three 'special edition' copies of the album (essentially forcing fans to buy all three) the commercialisation of blink-182 continued and, to their credit, ultimately tore them apart.
Following Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, the trio decided to take a break to pursue other projects. DeLonge found himself rediscovering his creative freedom through his post-hardcore, nu-metal arrangement, Box Car Racer, while Barker divided his time between helping DeLonge with his project and drumming for the punk/rap supergroup, the Transplants.
Despite the tensions surrounding its production, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket has aged well and it stands as a solid snapshot of one vital moment in blink's continuing development. Regardless of what the detractors had to say, there is no denying that blink's accomplishment with this record was musically, vocally, and lyrically superior to the bulk of their earlier work.