Eight years ago, Colleen Green’s computer crashed. Though there’s never a convenient moment for that to happen, the timing was particularly unfortunate: The California-based lo-fi pop-punk artist had just spent two weeks self-recording a full-album cover of Blink-182’s 1997 record Dude Ranch. “I had no backups because I always fly by the seat of my pants!” Green recently wrote on her Bandcamp page. She was so devastated by the loss of the files that she scrapped the whole project, and she couldn’t even bring herself to consider rerecording it until late last year. Finally, last Tuesday, “with much pride, happiness, and relief,” she posted to her Bandcamp page the fruits of a simple, brilliant idea that had now been gestating for nearly a decade: Blink 182’s Dude Ranch as Played By Colleen Green.
Green’s music has the feel of a one-person ’60s girl group, had the one person in the group been Joey Ramone. Her voice has a Valley Girl lilt that’s curdled in a punk sneer, and she is rarely seen without her signature, opaque Wayfarers, which seem to filter everything she sees through a haze of laconic cool. “Heavy shit, on my mind,” she sang atop three furious chords on her immensely catchy 2013 record Sock It to Me. The beauty of her early music was that she rarely elaborated any more than that. Her Dude Ranch cover album is a product of a similar minimalist ethos: Using just her voice and a rumbling bass guitar (occasionally multitracked, to mimic the harmonic banter between Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge), Green strips these songs as bare as the boys themselves in the “What’s My Age Again?” video.
Green’s most recent full-length, 2015’s great I Want to Grow Up, found her expanding the scope of her sound (it was the first of her records to feature a full band) and rendering her anxieties in more vivid detail. “I’m sick of being immature, I want to be responsible,” she sang on the title track. “I’m sick of always being bored, I think I need a schedule.” That sentiment would seem to be in direct conflict with the eternal adolescence of Blink, a band Green has cited since day one as having had a huge influence on her music. But when she made her first network TV appearance, performing that album’s single “Pay Attention” on Last Call With Carson Daly, she gave a wink to Blink fans implying that she hadn’t killed her idols: Green was wearing a T-shirt that said “SCOTT RAYNOR,” the name of the band’s original drummer.
It was something of a loaded reference: Raynor left the band right before they became hugely famous. Dude Ranch was the final Blink release he played on—for their commercial breakthrough Enema of the State, the band recruited the frenetic SoCal drummer Travis Barker. Dude Ranch wasn’t exactly an underappreciated indie gem: It was the band’s major-label debut, and it spawned a huge alt-rock radio hit with the still-beloved ode to reluctant emotional maturity, “Dammit.” Still, for a lot of pop-punk fans who felt the whiplash of Blink’s sudden late-’90s transformation from Warped Tour upstarts to genuine TRL heartthrobs, Dude Ranch came to develop a mythic, almost Edenic glow. It was their final punk record, the one they made before they went pop.
But Green’s revelatory cover album proves that this was never really true. Even when they were just a trio of scruffy skaters ordering Mexican food from Sombrero, Blink-182 were always a pop band at heart. Dude Ranch has the rough, jittery energy of a punk record, but by peeling away its inessentials and slowing town its breakneck tempos, Green spotlights the mastery of its melodicism. In a recent Ringer video about the best songs of 1999, our own Chris Ryan said of Blink’s “What’s My Age Again?”: “This song is everything that Blink-182 does well, which is initially you’re kind of repelled by how juvenile it is, and then you realize [there’s], like, a Beatles-esque melody underneath of it.” Green’s record comes to a similar conclusion.
To be able to ask “What’s My Age Again?” implies at least a rudimentary level of self-awareness. Dude Ranch is the record Blink-182 made before they even thought to ask. The promotional jaunt they undertook to promote it, after all, was called “the PooPoo PeePee Tour.”
Lyrically, parts of Dude Ranch have aged like an unrefrigerated burrito. There are cheap gay jokes—a character named “Ben Dover,” an otherwise poignant song that had the misfortune of being titled “Dick Lips.” There’s an entire song told from the perspective of a Peeping Tom spying on a woman as she undresses (“I’ve seen everything there is to be shown / I followed her all the way home”) and one that rhymes “important,” somehow, with “retarded.” To my ears, the only lyrics Green has changed in her otherwise reverently faithful interpretation are in “Degenerate,” self-editing a few lines about a character she, wisely, just calls “Ben.” Everything else—gender pronouns, masturbation references, morbid jokes about slamming one’s dick in the door of a police car—is left intact. At best, Green’s project becomes a kind of meditation on the agelessness and gender blindness at the core of musical fandom. Blink 182’s Dude Ranch as Played By Colleen Green is an empathic exploration of the post-adolescent male psyche, sung by a 30-something woman who sounds like she can still relate to many of the feelings it dredges up.
The music of Colleen Green—Twitter handle: @colleengreen420—has a stoner’s grace about it, which means that thinking about it too hard misses the point. It kind of just is, dude. Still, something about her collection of Dude Ranch covers feels unexpectedly tender, even profound. (For now at least, it is currently exclusive to Bandcamp and costs $7 to download in full, which is not nothing but is still a fraction of the $16.98 I vividly remember forking over for a CD of Dude Ranch at the Echelon Mall Sam Goody.) Green’s sparse, lonely arrangements help the listener connect more directly to an exquisite sadness that was always just beneath the surface of these songs. In her hands, the juvenile potty humor comes off less as a defining factor of the record than a defense mechanism, as if Hoppus and DeLonge have suddenly realized how emotionally raw some of these songs are and felt a nervous impulse to distract the listener with comic relief. Great covers help you see familiar source material from new angles. I used to think Dude Ranch was Blink’s most gleefully immature record. Now I hear it as their most vulnerable.