Box Car Racer is the first (and only) album from the eponymously named pop-punk band Box Car Racer. What originally began as a side-project in 2001 for blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge would eventually become a full-fledged band, complete with a 2002 tour intermixed with blink-182’s schedule. Even with Box Car Racer being a one-and-done thing, why do people still care today about its presence?
For an album that starts off with a slow and melodic piano intro, Box Car Racer wastes no time in laying down grungy, raw verses and guitar breakdowns. Frontman Tom DeLonge proceeds to explore the dark and doom in songs like I Feel So, Tiny Voices, and Sorrow.
Though the album features two members of massively successful punk band blink-182, the side-project marks a huge departure from the happy-go-lucky sound the potty-mouthed punk rockers accustomed themselves to. Box Car Racer explores mature themes of sorrow (hence the aptly-titled track), isolation, and confusion.
While songs like I Feel So feel reminiscent of the sound that made blink-182 so popular, at the same time it’s the low-fi sound production that gives Box Car Racer it’s unique edge and charm. Perhaps one of the album’s highlights is the quick, rapidly paced My First Punk Song that serves as an interlude to the album’s grown-up themes.
And then there’s the maturity in Letters to God and There Is, soft power-ballads throughout the album’s second act. While the former evolves into one of the heaviest choruses on the album, it’s the softness of these songs that set Box Car Racer apart from other pop-punk contemporary acts.
Though Box Car Racer was only meant to be an unreleased side-project for Tom DeLonge to take time away from blink-182, the album eventually saw release in 2002 to moderate success. Singles I Feel So and There Is would go on to chart at #8 and #32 on the US Modern Rock Tracks Chart, respectively.
The album would be more notable, however, as its herald of the beginning of the end of Tom’s tenure with blink-182. Box Car Racer created a riff between DeLonge and blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus, in which Hoppus felt betrayed by his two bandmates forming another band without him. “At the end of 2001 it felt like Blink-182 had broken up. It wasn't spoken about, but it felt over," Hoppus said.
Despite this split, blink-182 would go on to release a massively successful eponymous album in 2003 before a 2005 breakup. The breakup was caused by tensions between the bandmates stemming from the Box Car Racer project.
Box Car Racer would come to be the only album released by the band before their disbandment. DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker would continue with blink-182 before their 2005 hiatus, 2009 reunion, and DeLonge’s 2015 departure from the band.
DeLonge, during blink-182’s hiatus, would later go on to form Angels and Airwaves, another side-band which he would describe as a continuation of the Box Car Racer project. Barker, meanwhile, would go on to join blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus’ side-project, +44, before blink-182 reunited in 2009.
Next week’s review: Red’s “End of Silence”