Box Car Racer (album)
|Box Car Racer|
|Studio album by Box Car Racer|
|Released||May 21, 2002|
|Recorded||December 2001–January 2002 at Signature Sound, San Diego, California, Larrabee Studios West, Hollywood, California, O'Henry Studios, Burbank, California.|
|Singles from Box Car Racer|
Box Car Racer is the only studio album by American rock band Box Car Racer. Produced by Jerry Finn, the album was released May 21, 2002 through MCA Records. The band was essentially a side-project of Blink-182 members Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker, with David Kennedy completing the band’s studio lineup; a bassist and friend of Kennedy, Anthony Celestino, toured with the band throughout late 2002. The record was the only studio effort the trio produced together, and was recorded over the course of six weeks during the winter of 2001.
The record is primarily based on DeLonge's post-hardcore influences, such as Fugazi and Refused. The sessions were particularly difficult for DeLonge, who had previously undergone back surgery. Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus by all accounts felt betrayed over his lack of inclusion on the project, which evolved into tensions between the two. The record is a concept album detailing the end of the world, and features dark, moody tracks mulling over confusion.
The album peaked at number twelve on the Billboard 200, and the two singles "I Feel So" and "There Is" charted on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks. Despite receiving positive reviews on release, this is the only album from Box Car Racer, with Delonge having stated that the band "served its purpose and is now defunct." The album has been certified gold in Canada.
Box Car Racer was conceived by Blink-182 guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge and formed during a break from touring. A European tour for Blink-182 in winter 2001 was delayed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and rescheduled dates in early 2002 were also canceled due to DeLonge's back problems. The roots for Box Car Racer began with DeLonge playing acoustic guitar during recording sessions for Blink-182’s 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and grew from there. Feeling "bummed out" in the studio during the recording of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, DeLonge felt an "itch to do something where he didn't feel locked in to what Blink was." In a 2012 interview, DeLonge likened the creative state of Blink-182 to the art of painting, in which one has several different colors but, in the case of Blink-182's previous efforts, only employs one.
According to DeLonge, the project wasn't "meant to be a real band," but rather "something to do in some spare time that was really only expected to be on the low list of the totem pole of priorities in my life, and just to have an experimental creative outlet." The unnamed project went through other names, such as The Kill, and the record was initially titled Et tu, Brute?. He eventually settled on Box Car Racer, which was actually the name of a band Barker was in just after high school that DeLonge liked. Although Barker felt the name was meaningless, DeLonge related it to similarities between the Book of Revelation and World War II. Whilst reading about the war, DeLonge was "freaked out" to learn that Fat Man, the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, was dropped from the B-29 bomber Bockscar (commonly misspelled Boxcar). The record was originally conceived as a "Violent Femmes-esque acoustic record" that allowed DeLonge to explore his dark songwriting abilities away from Blink-182, but the project quickly became louder and more plugged in when Barker joined the project. To complete the project he invited fellow guitarist David Kennedy, whom DeLonge had met in the San Diego music circuit years prior.
Recording and production
Box Car Racer was recorded over six weeks beginning in December 2001, primarily at Signature Sound in San Diego, California. Rather than spend "months and months refining and polishing everything for a major label and international pop market," Box Car Racer followed a closer DIY spirit. Sessions commenced quickly, with the "ever-resourceful" Jerry Finn having sent one whole load of equipment to Signature ahead of his arrival. The material recorded was formulated over the fall and, when the musicians entered the studio, little would be changed aside from certain lyrics. Barker completed recorded his drums in one day at two recording facilities in Los Angeles prior to the Signature sessions. MCA representatives dropped in on the sessions and were pleased with what they heard.
However, the project caused division in Blink-182, mostly between DeLonge and Hoppus. The latter was interested in being a part of the record, but DeLonge did not want it to turn into a Blink-182 album. DeLonge contended that the involvement of Barker was to refrain from having to pay a studio drummer. Regardless, Hoppus felt betrayed and unresolved tension dogged the band. "Nobody talked about it," he told Blender. "It was this strange situation that nobody addressed. It got to be this weird thing in the band for a while."
Despite this tension, Hoppus lent vocals to the track "Elevator" and shared early ideas for the next Blink-182 album. In a Reddit AMA, Hoppus concluded, "The whole situation sucked. But I sang on the track because, at the heart of it, Tom and Travis are my friends. I'm sure Tom felt the tension and asked me as an offering. I was glad to have done it, and I was glad that he asked."
The sessions were particularly difficult for DeLonge, who suffered chronic back pain, the result of herniated disc. "When your back is killing you and you have to have surgery and all this stuff, it's just kind of hard to keep a focus on the happier times in your life," he told MTV News. "You end up writing all these songs about feeling sad and confused."
Box Car Racer was inspired by and is partly a tribute to bands DeLonge credits as an influence: Jawbox, Quicksand, Fugazi and Refused. The subject matter found on Box Car Racer explores religion, the apocalypse, conspiracies and Freemasonry. The album follows a central storyline, regarding an unnamed boy during the end of the world. Only two songs deviate from the album’s central storyline, the humorous "My First Punk Song", which pays tribute to early hardcore punk bands that inspired DeLonge, such as Gorilla Biscuits, and "Elevator", which was written in the aftermath of September 11 attacks. Mark Hoppus, the bassist from Blink-182, provided guest vocals on "Elevator" as did Tim Armstrong and Jordan Pundik, of Rancid and New Found Glory respectively, on "Cat Like Thief".
The music of the album is much different than any previous Blink-182 album, closely following a much darker and moody tone. According to DeLonge, he used Box Car Racer as an outfit to experiment with ideas that were not "Blink-friendly". Blink-182, in stark contrast to the themes of Box Car Racer, was known for typical sophomoric humor and toilet gags. It has been suggested that the album’s music was a precursor of things to come for Blink-182, whose next album, Blink-182, also contained much darker and more atmospheric music than any previous studio recordings. During the hiatus of Blink-182, Tom DeLonge formed Angels & Airwaves, which he has called "a continuation of Box Car Racer". Angels & Airwaves has played various songs from Box Car Racer during live shows.
Release and reception
Box Car Racer was released in May 2002, charting at number 12 on the Billboard 200. The first single released from the album was the opening track, "I Feel So", the second "There Is"; the former charted the highest, shooting to number 8 the Modern Rock Tracks chart, the latter only peaking at 32. A DVD titled also titled Box Car Racer was released in November 2002, featuring special behind the scenes footage. A music video was made for each single released from the album. Both of these videos can be found on the Box Car Racer DVD.
The album received positive reviews from various official music publications and critics. A large amount of the praise came from the change in lyrical and musical direction. John McKay of IGN admitted that Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker "have more musical integrity than many would give them credit for, especially with the deep subject matter of several of the songs on the disc." Absolutepunk gave the album a 78 out of 100, calling it "far from perfect" and criticizing the random inclusion of "My First Punk Song", but said that "it does have many positives and in the end proves to be a solid album". Channing Freeman of Sputnikmusic said that "aside from a few missteps, this album is excellent, and worthy of a place on your shelf beside your Blink-182 discography".
The album has since been certified gold in sales by the CRIA.
Posters for the album can be seen in a shot of the 2004 film Along Came Polly, the ABC television series 8 Simple Rules, and the CBS television series Still Standing. Tom DeLonge and David Kennedy's later band, Angels & Airwaves, recorded a song titled "Letters to God, Part II" for their 2010 album Love. An official vinyl pressing of Box Car Racer took place in July 2010. The album was limited to 2000 copies and were only available at Hot Topic.
All tracks written by Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker, and arranged by Box Car Racer.
|Box Car Racer|
|1.||"I Feel So"||4:29|
|2.||"All Systems Go"||3:15|
|3.||"Watch the World"||3:52|
|5.||"Cat Like Thief" (featuring Tim Armstrong and Jordan Pundik)||4:20|
|7.||"Letters to God"||3:17|
|8.||"My First Punk Song"||1:04|
|11.||"The End with You"||3:11|
|12.||"Elevator" (featuring Mark Hoppus)||2:45|
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