Is there anything worse than a bad song on a nearly perfect album? Probably, but for the sake of our series, Seeing Red, there isn’t. In Seeing Red we ask our staff writers to talk about the songs that they hate on albums that they love.
Today we have Dying Scene Content Manager Bizarro Dustin dissecting the supposed humor of Box Car Racer’s “My First Punk Song” off their 2002 debut, Box Car Racer. You can read their over-analyzed opinions below.
At the risk of losing my punk cred, Box Car Racer’s sole album is one of my favorite albums of 2002. It’s possibly one of my favorite debut albums (I’d have to think about that to be sure, but it’d probably crack the top 25) and most definitely one of my favorite albums by a band that never released anything past one album. Maybe I’m just another victim of romanticizing the past, but I believe that Box Car Racer, to this day, remains the highlight of Tom DeLonge’s career.
Sure, Box Car Racer is essentially blink-182 minus Mark Hoppus, played in drop D. And yes, it has some lame, pseudo-political rhetoric that would embarrass Anti-Flag, and there’s that goofy duet between DeLonge and Tim Armstrong that also features Jordan from New Found Glory as well as a riff directly lifted from an Alkaline Trio song. The music doesn’t even sound like the post-hardcore bands that DeLonge allegedly claimed to be inspired by when writing the album, but when it comes to pop punk you can’t really take these things too seriously. [Ed: an ironic choice of words, given DeLonge’s career trajectory since this album’s release.]
Yet, in spite of all of this, Box Car Racer holds a special place in my heart. Maybe I’m just listening with rose tinted headphones, but whenever I hear the opening riff to “Tiny Voices” or the drums that kick off “There Is,” I can’t help but enjoy it. For a band that’s literally the blink-182 of post-hardcore, Box Car Racer’s sole contribution to the realm of studio albums is pretty good. But this piece isn’t for me to defend my shitty taste in music. I know that I shouldn’t like this album as much as I do, but I can’t help it. I really like it.
Except for “My First Punk Song.” Oh god, is “My First Punk Song” awful.
It’s bizarre that a one minute song could annoy me so much, but “My First Punk Song” is the type of song which made blink-182 so easy to hate in the first place. What’s even more bizarre is that the first half of the song is actually okay. Structured to sound like a hardcore punk song, “My First Punk Song” ’s quite possibly the only track on the entire album to even remotely sound like one of DeLonge’s alleged influences (if my memory serves correctly, he mentioned Fugazi and Quicksand), with the pounding drums and feedback in the intro sounding promising. Even the line attacking bands with a political angle as being “full of shit” is kind of funny, especially in the context of the album because a previous song (“All Systems Go”) contains the lyrics “The government is lying / the youth, they won’t believe them”. It’s not the greatest of lyrics, but it shows a self-deprecating sense of humor and who doesn’t love that?
But then right before the 30 second mark hits, DeLonge tells the listener that he fucked their brother. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why that lyric is there other than because… it’s funny? I guess? Maybe if you still call things “gay” that kind of humor is up your alley, but then it also sounds like you’ve got a case of homophobia and / or being an asshole, probably both. Unfortunately it only goes downhill from there, as the next lines are the repeated refrain of “there’s one problem / I got brownies / from your mother / they gave me syphilis / I got no dick!”. Which… hold on, I have to organize my thoughts.
First: That’s not how syphilis is spread. That is how misinformation regarding STIs is spread. Second: That’s not what syphilis does to people who contract it. Again, this is how misinformation regarding STIs is spread. (I fully admit that the song doesn’t explicitly say that his lack of a dick is due to syphilis, but given that the song does say he got syphilis from brownies, and the lines are back-to-back, it’s not hard to see why people might assume there’s a connection). Third: I don’t think I have a third thing, so I’ll just repeat myself: This is how misinformation regarding STIs is spread.
Taking DeLonge’s popularity in 2002 into consideration, especially when thinking about his target demographic, writing lyrics like this is not only stupid, but also incredibly dangerous. Think about how many kids in 2002 walked around believing that they could ingest syphilis through baked goods, or that it would make their genitals fall off. It sounds like an exaggeration, but remember that even today there are people who believe that the Earth is flat or that vaccines cause autism all because celebrities told them so. It’s just irresponsible. [Author’s note: I’ll give DeLonge credit for no longer spreading misinformation about sex with his current musical and literary endeavors. His belief in UFOs visiting Earth is still pretty out there, but at least it isn’t detrimental to a listener’s physical health.]
I get that “My First Punk Song” is supposed to be a parody, mocking the whole I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-anything punk rock attitude, complete with angst-ridden nonsense lyrics that was likely prevalent in the scene while DeLonge was growing up. But the tonal shift between the first and second halves of the song is so drastic. Remember, this is a song written by the same person who wrote songs about an incestuous family, spying on a girl from afar, wanting blowjobs from someone’s mom, and basically encouraging sex with minors. By including lines about having sex with another man and getting syphilis from a brownie, it’s almost like he forgot that he was writing a parody and just wound up writing half of a blink-182 song. That in itself is a much funnier joke than any of the supposed jokes in the song.
Bizarro Dustin spends far too much time thinking about songs that are nearly 15 years old and rather enjoys the humor of Milo Goes to College, My Brain Hurts, and Love Songs for the Retarded. You can follow him on Twitter @cmoncheermeup