AMPA, Florida -- On record and in concert, San Diego pop/punk knuckleheads Blink 182 offer a choice: "I can walk around in inky despair or I can yank my dick and be happy."
Do the math with respect to, say, KoRn. KoRn = self-imposed disenfranchisement. Blink = cum cum cum till your daddy takes the c-word away.
Blink 182 are the proud authors of masturbatory, Lunchables-friendly pogo treats that have helped win the band a chunk of the teen sweeps.
That's because they know how to titillate. Witness their latest disc, Enema Of The State, with porn star Janine suggestively threatening cavity searches on the cover.
Just as Limp Bizkit and their cacacophonous ilk are unleashing bleak forecasts of a universe peopled by schlubs almost, but not quite, as ugly as you, Blink crashes the scene with winking cheeseball anthems about frat parties and bad nights at the prom. Suddenly, you're not alone in your hormonally bedevilled misfortune.
Scream obscenities "We get up there and make fun of ourselves and scream obscenities and run around like we're four years old," guitarist Tom DeLonge confirms.
"But I think kids like not having to watch a really serious band. We have some serious songs, but they're about things fans can relate to. We're not singing about the Middle East or reciting some weird poem we thought up when we were on drugs. It's about the girl who doesn't kiss you and how you feel about it afterwards."
If the diversity of a band's audience can be gauged by the breadth of T-shirt statements made by fans at their concerts, then Blink 182 is doing sweet business.
U2, Suicidal Tendencies, Harley Davidson, Hello Kitty, Beastie Boys and Superman are all represented in the sweltering heat outside Tampa's Ice Palace. And these folks are psyched.
This, guys and dolls, is a happening Saturday night. While chaperoning parents rejoice at the presence of a fully stocked bar cart parked out front of the main gates -- ah, America -- dudes mull over rad decisions like, 'Do I try to pass off the fake I.D. and score a Jack and Coke or just hang?'
Naturally, inside the Ice Palace a different kind of excitement prevails -- catering! Not to mention prime backstage skateboarding time, since Blink doesn't soundcheck. "Well," a publicist demurs, "Tom does sometimes."
That leaves time for more media -- Blink spent the entire day before in Miami fielding questions from journos from Latin America. This time around, a team from England's Kerrang! Magazine are along for the ride, but since the photographer is Jimmy Page's daughter, all's cool.
Human doodle pad drummer Travis Barker is MIA, but chief songwriters and band founders DeLonge and Mark Hoppus -- the latter engaged to be married this December and registered for gifts online if you've got some extra coin burning a hole -- make nice and settle in.
Despite monster sales both of Enema and its 97 predecessor Dude Ranch and the current arena tour, tragedy still found a way to call collect.
On May 4, 17-year-old Greg Barnes, a Columbine student who had witnessed the horrific shootings at his high school, was found hanged to death while Blink's Adam's Song was set to replay.
It could have been anyone's tune backdropping Barnes' sad last moments, but it wasn't, and Blink was reminded that while most teens are bottomless receptacles for caca humour, they are also transiting through painful growth. Spiky rants about crappy breakups don't always get somebody through the night.
"Whatever his reasoning was had nothing to do with us," Hoppus says, stuffing straight-out-of-the-box Lucky Charms into his yob. "It's a terrible, unfortunate thing to have happen, and our hearts go out to his family. But at the same time, that song is so anti-suicidal that it just seems ridiculous to me.
"We get letters and e-mails from kids every day who tell us that that song really got them through a hard time where they thought they were going to kill themselves and didn't. Crazy letters -- stuff like, 'My dad molests me,' or 'I cut myself with razors but I heard your song and it gave me strength.'
"I feel awful about what happened to that one kid, but there's been so much good that it outweighs it."
Their easy grins conveying simpatico thinking, Hoppus and DeLonge softly rechannel the subject, though anomalous incidents such as that one scarcely register a few hours later in the thick of the live show.
Dated propaganda While a huge video screen projects images culled from B-movies, bad TV and (it appears) purposefully dated propaganda reels, Barker, Hoppus and DeLonge do indeed act like four-year-olds cutting up while their sitter is distracted.
Their shtick is not exactly unique in the rock realm -- jumping, screaming, crowd-baiting -- but there is an exuberance that's palpable (See sidebar this page). The kids, predictably, lap it up.
But as Blink lurches toward bronzeable rock glory, there's one potential stumbling block. Won't the Three Stooges of punk inevitably outgrow their audience with each successive record?
"Not a problem," Hoppus cracks, "'cause I'm 28."
"He's 28 and he's more immature than anyone you've ever met in your life," DeLonge volunteers helpfully. "Of course we're going to get older. But the deal is, what we write about are things that people have either gone through or are going through.
"And don't kid yourself. The stuff Britney Spears is singing about that's loved by seven-year-old girls is written by 50-year-old women. None of those people write their own songs.
"We write about teenage angst and love gone terribly wrong. You can listen to one of our songs and look back and remember those feelings of anarchy in the streets and no real responsibility.
"So maybe you're not doing that when you're 30 years old. But you can always look back and remember doing it when you were 17."
BLINK 182, with BAD RELIGION and FENIX*TX, at Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), Friday (June 2), 7:30 pm. $26.50. 870-8000.
ZANY CALI PUNKS commune with the kids -- by kim hughes