Without blinking 

(+44) produces pop-punk, post-breakup

click to enlarge Hey, guys, stop staring us down. We had nothing to do - with the Blink-182 breakup.
  • Hey, guys, stop staring us down. We had nothing to do with the Blink-182 breakup.

As band breakups go, the end of Blink-182 ranked as one of the more puzzling splits of recent years.

Band members Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge had plenty of financial incentive to stay together. With a string of million-selling CDs, including Enema of the State (1999), Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001) and Blink-182 (2003), the group was one of the most popular modern rock bands going.

It also had always projected the image of fun-loving, close friendship.

Among rock's biggest pranksters, Blink-182 gained considerable notoriety for bathroom humor and a variety of stunts that included a penchant for getting naked whether it was in the video for the hit song "What's My Age Again," or on stage. And for a long time, the one-for-all ethic wasn't an illusion.

"We were all best friends," Hoppus says. "The three of us had a great time and were down to do whatever."

But when the bassist-singer elaborates on the circumstances surrounding the split, a breakup that seemed surprising and sudden starts to make a lot more sense.

Things went especially sour on a tour of Europe in 2004, when a rift began to grow between DeLonge and the other two-thirds of the trio.

"Tom was, for whatever reason, needing things to be more and more his way," Hoppus says. "The last, probably, year of the band started being very defined by what Tom was willing to do and not do."

To hear Hoppus tell it, the demands DeLonge was making were hardly trivial. He says DeLonge wanted to dictate the band's touring schedule and how the group made albums.

"[In] the last conversation, Tom was talking about only recording in San Diego and mailing the Pro Tools files back to one another," Hoppus says. "Tom would write his stuff at his house and I would write stuff at my house and Travis at his."

Not exactly the standard recording process for a successful rock band, let alone a group of tight-knit friends.

"It kind of became this Frankenstein's monster of a band at the end, where it wasn't a band," Hoppus says. "When things were great in Blink, I felt like we were greater than the sum of our parts. At the end of it, it felt like we were less than the sum of our parts that there wasn't a sense of band with Tom at all."

After the breakup, DeLonge began work on the debut CD by his new band, Angels and Airwaves. Hoppus and Barker, meanwhile, started (+44) a name the new act derived from the country code used when calling England. The band's debut CD, When Your Heart Stops Beating, arrived Nov. 14, and while it offers some contrasts to Blink-182 (particularly with the electronic elements in songs like "155" and "Weatherman"), it's not a radical departure from Blink-182's pop-punk sound.

And Hoppus, who never seemed too disenfranchised with his time in Blink, seems content with the effort.

"I think there is a musical difference between Blink and (+44)," Hoppus says. "I think it's still very melodic. I think it's still very catchy, but I think it's a lot more diverse than anything we did in Blink."

(+44) with The Matches

Ogden Theater, 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver

Wed., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $21.75, 16-and-over; visit ticketweb.com.


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