On Box Car Racer
by Noise Pollution
In 2001, one of the Blink-182 frontmen, Tom DeLonge, formed another band, to perform in alongside Blink. This side project was called Box Car Racer, and they only released a single album before disbanding. Self-titled and released in 2002, Box Car Racer is probably one of the most interesting albums DeLonge has ever worked on.
I find it hard to declare it as “good” or whatever, but whether it’s “good” or not is irrelevant when considering whether or not it’s interesting. And it is, in fact, interesting, and it appeals very strongly to my tastes. If I knew whoever I was talking to was coming from the same place I was, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it good, I’d even go as far as calling it great.
Even with that in mind, it’s not perfect. There are some odd, forced lines every now and then that seem to only exist for the sake of propping up the story Tom DeLonge is trying to tell. And the story isn’t multi-faceted or especially intricate; though an album maybe doesn’t need to tell an intricate story to tell a good story. I guess the overarching story just isn’t especially great. It follows a character who has a vision of the world ending, tries to warn people, but inevitably fails and kills himself. I believe the implication is that he was in fact right about the end of the world, though if it’s ever said explicitly, I failed to pick up on it. It’s very simple, and only avoids pretension by being so straightforward.
All that said, the music sets a tone for the world Tom has set up, and that’s what makes it interesting. It is very tonally consistent and that tone is a vaguely unsettling one, which is exactly what you should be looking for in something like this. Simple lyrics like “I feel so mad/I feel so angry” end up feeling powerful when surrounded by pop-punk turned off-putting.
It feels very much out of Tom DeLonge’s head, whatever that means. The album really seems like everything he’s been trying to do with Angels and Airwaves since its inception, sans the space bullshit. While I personally enjoy the project he worked on after this (the self-titled Blink-182 album) more, this album feels like Tom hit all the notes he wanted to. I guess I can’t know that for sure; I can’t get in his head and see how he felt as he was working on the album. Whatever he thinks about it, the end result comes off as his personal masterwork, it is Tom’s testament to the world. If everyone in the world was born for the sake of making one thing, this would be his one thing.
That’s not to lavish too much praise onto it; you have to want this album to really like it. It’s not for everyone, and it’s far from perfect. There are flaws, and there’s a simplicity to a lot of the lyrics that even I’m not always looking for. You really have to want it. If the flaws here resonate with you as much as its strengths, like they do with me, then you’ll be okay calling it a masterpiece. If it doesn’t work for you, then it might just come off as mediocre! It’s hard to say; a lot of aspects of this album appeal to who I am and my personal tastes. I’m just happy it exists, and while I may like some of his other work more than I like Box Car Racer, if I had to choose one thing that I want Tom DeLonge to be remembered for (as weird and selfish as that idea is) it would be this album. Do I recommend it? I don’t know. I think it’s worth listening to. Take that to mean whatever you need it to.