blink-182, "Enema of the State" (1999)
The title of this punk-by-the-numbers pop band's 1999 release, which sold over 4 million copies, is both misleading and revealing. It's deceptive in suggesting that the band has much to say about health care or politics, beyond a perfunctory stab at extraterrestrial paranoia ("Aliens Exist")--it's too busy with tired complaints about kiddie romance ("girls are such a drag"; "I need a girl that I can train") and living at home with Mom. But the title does capture the band's comic sensibility, which ranges from that of a frustrated teenage male to that of...his little brother. As if their lyrics were not enough, the band was tagged as misogynist around this time in part for urging female fans to display their breasts during concerts. No one's going to confuse blink-182's music with X or even Green Day, and the lyrics make the early Beastie Boys seem like Oscar Wilde.
But "Enema of the State" does deliver its basic high
school angst with energy, decent hooks and clean, punchy production.
The veteran San Diego band isn't quite as dumb as it acts, nor
is it blind to the disillusion and desperation that surround it.
Many of the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, as if to say, "we
know this is juvenile, but it's what sells to the MTV crowd,
and anyway, you have to admit it's kind of fun."
These images seem to combine the classic "naughty nurse" stereotype with a more malevolent, Ratched-like image, as Janine prepares to do something to the almost naked boys that they may like and/or not like, whether giving them enemas or doing something with that big needle, which would play no role in a real enema procedure. This could be read as a half-baked comment on our powerful "state," which arguably seduces people with assurances that it has their best interests at heart so it can more easily violate them, whether through phallic health care devices, pornography, or record industry marketing. The dominant colors of the photos and all the CD's art are all-American red, white and blue; the inside design also includes a variety of somewhat ominous health care symbols.
But that still leaves a "nurse" as the symbol of a hostile system of control, when historically nursing has been more about struggling to overcome powerful forces that threaten nurses and their patients. And a less thoughtful analysis, to which some of the band's young fans might just fall prey, could miss the nuances and simply see a porn star playing a hot nurse, not exactly a helpful image during the current nursing crisis.
Personally, I think Janine's big scary syringe is full of adulthood.
Review by Harry Jacobs Summers
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