Parsing Colleen Green’s Song-For-Song Cover of Blink-182’s ‘Dude Ranch’

There’s a high-brow…well to call it a joke would be strong. Maybe it’s more of an anecdote, or a witticism. I don’t remember who is the person behind it. Some intellectual. As a work of satire, they wrote a review saying that an English speaker had written down the entirety of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote word for word. Not only was this an equal work of genius to the original writing of Don Quixote, after all it contained all the same words in the same order so how could it not be, but it was actually MORE impressive because he had done it in Spanish, which was not even his native language. The point, I think, is that genius comes from creative spark. It’s not the words on the page, but the idea to put those words on the page. Anyway, this is a weird way to start a piece about the Blink-182 album Dude Ranch.

Or rather, about Colleen Green’s album Blink-182’s Dude Ranch as Played by Colleen Green. See, how it all makes sense, right? Colleen Green is an artist I am a fan of, though it can be complicated at times. She made a really good album called I Want to Grow Up in 2015 after she turned 30, but her Twitter handle is still “ColleenGreen420.” I like what I like about her so much it makes me feel disappointed about the stuff I’m not wild about, sonically and otherwise. Maybe no song hits me where I live more than her song “TV,” but sophomoric stoner isn’t necessarily my own personal style.

That being said, as two people who grew up at the same time and seem to have similar sensibilities by and large, it’s not a surprise that Blink-182, the pop punk legends of the ‘90s and 2000s, figured prominently into both of our lives. They were a big band in my early teens, but then of course they were recontextualized in my mind as sellouts, because I was too busy listen to real punk bands like…NOFX? Yeah, teenagers are dumb. Now, though, I don’t much regret giving up on listening to Blink, because my memories of that trio are not kind ones. I just think of three man children making the lamest jokes on the planet. I had no interest in revisiting their music.

Colleen Green feels differently. She considers Dude Ranch, the bands 1997 album that was their last with Scott Raynor on drums, her favorite album. At least, that’s what the narrative around her cover album indicates. Two years later, Travis Barker had replaced Raynor, the three were running around naked in the video for “What’s My Age Again?” and 1999’s Enema of the State made them stars. That album, simply put, sucks. However, prior to the release of Green’s covers, I would have called Dude Ranch my favorite Blink-182 album, though that is damning with faint praise.

I should really get to the meat of the matter, though. Green has released a song-for-song cover of Dude Ranch in its entirety. It’s kind of like how Ryan Adams did a song-for-song cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, only this doesn’t feel like pointless gimmickry and, unlike Adams, Green isn’t a total piece of shit.

I imagine it must feel strange to be a professional musician who has put out so much of your own stuff and then one day you sit down and start recording your own version of your favorite album. There you are, singing words you have surely sung many times over, but this time for posterity. You will be putting it out in the world saying, “Hey, there is value in listening to me performing this song. In fact, here’s an entire album of covers.” But she did it, and I bought it, because I was fascinated that this existed. It was a combination of original material and artist I had to hear.

Which brings me back to that increasingly pointless anecdote from the beginning of this piece. What can you say about an album that is just a recreation of a previously-existing album? Green didn’t change any of the lyrics. The songs are still fundamentally the same. Is this akin to some guy writing down Don Quixote? Could somebody write some satirical review saying that it’s even more impressive than the original Dude Ranch since she never had any of these experiences and was not writing from a personal standpoint?

Music is, fortunately, slightly different than text. You can interpret a song. That’s why covers are so popular. I have never listen to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” but I have heard Screaming Females rip through it, and it ruled. I really enjoyed listening to Colleen Green’s take on Dude Ranch. Some of that is novelty, sure, but only a small part of it. There are genuinely good songs on the album as well. I give Blink-182 a hard time for holding onto their juvenility into their early 30s, but “Dammit” is still a pop punk classic. Sometimes, their lyrics were good. Sometimes, they were super dumb and sophomoric.

There is probably an aspect of listening to an interpretation that gives me something of a pass for listening to those songs as well. I’m hearing somebody sing lyrics they didn’t write because they are covering the song as part of an overall piece. It’s almost anthropological, or maybe I’m just obnoxious. It could be both. There are times where I was laughing at the lyrics, not with them, and it’s easier to do that when you aren’t listening to Blink actually perform, say, “Degenerate.” There’s a distance provided.

There’s also a distance provided in the sparseness of Green’s arrangements. It’s almost entirely just her voice and her guitar. She’s never really bombastic in terms of her vocals, but she sounds even quieter than usual here. It’s weird to hear Blink-182 sung with a voice that could be described as “delicate,” to be able to describe a song written by sophomoric So Cal punks as “beautiful.” That may be part of what made me like this album so much. Imagine replacing Tom DeLonge’s voice in your head with Green’s. That completely changes the sonic context of a song, in my opinion for the better.

Look, if I’m being perfectly honest, “Thinking extensively about Colleen Green covering an entire Blink-182 album” is very on brand to me. I’ve joked to friends that me getting excited about this album when I heard about it was when my musical tastes verged into self parody. That being said, while this album won’t go down as the best of the year, and not just because it is a song-by-song cover of an album that came out over 20 years ago, it will almost definitely be the most interesting album of the year. Not all that long ago, Green told us she wanted to grow up. Now she’s dedicated her time and energy to putting out her own version of a cherished album from her youth that reeks of arrested development in its worst moments. Maybe she’s just stuck being on brand as well.

About Chris Morgan

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