‘Atticus: …Dragging the Lake’ at 20: a look back on the classic blink-182-curated comp

‘Atticus: …Dragging the Lake’ at 20: a look back on the classic blink-182-curated compPublished: May 7, 2022

blink-182 brought pop punk to a more mainstream level than it had ever been with 1999's Enema of the State, they kept the momentum going with their beloved live album The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back) the following year, and they gave punk rock its first chart-topping album with 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. After three consecutive years of blockbuster albums, 2002 was the first year they didn't have a new CD on the shelves, but their presence was felt everywhere. It was the year they co-headlined the storied Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day, which had support from Jimmy Eat World, Saves The Day, and Kut U Up, and which sort of solidified that blink-182 were starting to surpass Green Day as pop punk's biggest stars (and which, as Mark Hoppus sort of suggested in Dan Ozzi's SELLOUT, may have lit the fire under Green Day's ass that led to American Idiot). 2002 also birthed a slew of big-ticket pop punk albums that walked right through the doors that blink-182 had opened (including Sum 41's Does This Look Infected, New Found Glory's Sticks and Stones, Simple Plan's No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless, Avril Lavigne's Let Go, The All-American Rejects' self-titled debut, and The Starting Line's Say It Like You Mean It), two blink-182 side projects released their debut albums (Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker's band Box Car Racer and Travis' band with Rancid's Tim Armstrong, the Transplants), and Mark and Tom curated the first compilation album by their new clothing company Atticus Clothing, Atticus: …Dragging the Lake. The comp was released by SideOneDummy Records 20 years ago today (5/7).

With blink-182 sitting atop punk rock's proverbial throne, they had more power and influence than ever, and with Dragging the Lake, they used that power and influence for good, shining a much-deserved light on a handful of great smaller bands within punk, pop punk, post-hardcore, hardcore, and emo, as well as some veteran musicians who paved the way for blink's own music. They upped the demand by including a handful of rare and/or previously unreleased tracks, including blink's own "Time To Break Up," which was a bonus track from a limited edition of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and the very first-released Box Car Racer song, further ensuring that it'd end up in the hands of people for whom blink was becoming a gateway to punk. (Not to mention blink's influence on punk/skater fashion was strong too, and those Atticus tee shirts were everywhere.) I am one of those people, so I probably hold Dragging the Lake in a much higher regard than someone who came to it under different circumstances, but I doubt I'm alone in saying that this album and its 2003 sequel Atticus …Dragging the Lake II were two of the most formative comps for someone getting into punk in the early 2000s.

blink-182 may have been big enough to mock the Backstreet Boys in a music video and then get played on the same TRL countdowns as them, but they were still very in touch with where the punk underground was at, and where it was heading. Even before emo surpassed everything else as the punk subgenre of choice for millennial teens, blink-182 were some of Jimmy Eat World's biggest fans, but by 2002, they were fully aware that SoCal skate punk was on its way out and its more serious three-letter cousin was on its way in, and this comp reflected it. (Just look at the album artwork; clearly this meant to catch the eye of emo kids.) It helped shine even more of a light on Drive-Thru Records, which was a crucial player in emo/pop punk crossover and which was growing rapidly thanks to the success of their flagship band New Found Glory and a then-recent deal with MCA Records (home of blink-182). NFG, who were already pretty big at this point and about to be much bigger upon dropping Sticks and Stones a month after this comp came out, were represented with their then-rare Christmas song "Ex-Miss," and other Drive-Thru bands who were on the cusp of breakthroughs were there too. Philly emo-leaning pop punks The Starting Line were there with "Greg's Last Day" from their 2001 debut EP With Hopes of Starting Over, and a few months later they'd begin rapidly rising with their debut LP Say It Like You Mean It. Long Island emo/melodic hardcore band The Movielife made the cut with "Walking On Glass," one of the best songs from their 2001 EP The Movielife Has A Gambling Problem. Finch, who were instrumental in putting a pop punk-friendly spin on post-harcore, made the cut with "Post Script" from their debut LP What It Is To Burn, which came out a couple months before Dragging the Lake. Midtown, who hailed from the storied New Brunswick punk scene but always had a more radio-friendly sound than most of their peers, were there with "Find Comfort In Yourself," one of the best deep cuts from their breakthrough album Living Well Is the Best Revenge, which at that point was a month old. It should also be noted that The Starting Line, Finch, and Midtown all worked with Mark Trombino, the Drive Like Jehu drummer-turned-producer who blink-182 did Dude Ranch with after hearing his work on Jimmy Eat World's Static Prevails, and who Jimmy Eat World also worked with on 1999's beloved Clarity and 2001's massive mainstream breakthrough Bleed American, which Jimmy Eat World were supporting on the Pop Disaster Tour. A live recording of Bleed American's "Praise Chorus" is the last track on Dragging the Lake.

Dragging the Lake also showed love for Simple Plan, a band who clearly modeled themselves after blink-182 (their debut single "I'm Just A Kid" is virtually a slowed-down "What's My Age Again?"), whose instantly-popular debut album No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls had come out a couple months earlier, and the song they chose was album opener "I'd Do Anything," the one with guest vocals by Mark Hoppus. The comp included a deep cut from the 2001 debut album by Sugarcult, another sugary pop punk band who were quickly growing in popularity, and it included a not-yet-released song from the upcoming debut album by The Used, whose radio-friendly version of screamo introduced a lot of people to that once-underground subgenre, and who also helped jumpstart Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann's production career. These days, he's even busier as a producer than he is as the frontman of Goldfinger, and his credits include the last two blink-182 albums.

Dragging the Lake didn't only focus on artists who were on the cusp of mainstream success. It also gave space to artists who were more suited for the underground, like Glassjaw, whose intense post-hardcore was represented with "Radio Cambodia," two months before the song ended up on their now-classic sophomore album Worship and Tribute. Innovative Boston hardcore band American Nightmare were given space to show off the caustic "AM/PM" from their 2001 debut LP Background Music. Dragging the Lake also housed the still-otherwise-unreleased rarity "On Vacations" by Rival Schools, who at the time were the current band of Walter Schreifels, whose classic bands Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand inspired so much of the pop punk, emo, and post-hardcore that blew up in the early 2000s. (Tom DeLonge has specifically cited Quicksand as one of the influences on the more post-hardcore-tinged Box Car Racer, so this was a great and well-timed way to give back.)

Elsewhere on the disc you had Alkaline Trio, who were still relatively on the smaller side at this point (their first charting song would be released a year later), with "Jaked On Green Beers," one of their best deep cuts and a song that would be exclusive to this comp until the trio's 2007 rarities comp Remains. Bad Astronaut, the then-new indie rock side project with members of skate punk vets Lagwagon (who blink-182 were famously on tour supporting when Enema of the State became a hit record), were given space for their own great deep cut, "Catherine Morgan," which never got released anywhere else. And though the comp was touted as being curated by Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge, SideOneDummy — the label that released it — may have had some sway too. They had just signed ska-punk pioneers The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who had recently left their major label, and who were about to put out A Jackknife To A Swan, an album that breathed new life into the Bosstones' career just as the mainstream's obsession with ska was dwindling. Dragging the Lake premiered "Sugar Free" from that album, and it also included "Yakisoba" by SideOneDummy-signed Bosstones side project Avoid One Thing, and "Bright Lights, Big City" by SideOne-signed punks Madcap (who also released a split EP with the Bosstones that year). Dragging the Lake was five years removed from the Bosstones infiltrating the mainstream with Let's Face It, which isn't really a long time, but it is when you're young and finding your musical identity, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that the SideOne signing, and the Bosstones' inclusion on this comp and the following year's Dragging the Lake II, helped cement them as a force within a new generation who might've just missed out on the ska craze.

Peppered in with the rising stars and influential veterans were some pop punk C-listers that you probably had to be there to remember, like Autopilot Off, Name Taken, Agent 51, Slick Shoes, and Kut U Up (the latter of whom are probably best known for somehow being asked to open the Pop Disaster Tour and the Riding In Vans With Boys documentary that they made on the tour). Some of those songs are better than others (that Autopilot Off song holds up), but like any good comp, the more "random" tracks are part of the appeal. I never really got into Slick Shoes, and I think I'm okay with that, but thanks to this comp, I know every word to "Friday Nite." One of the best parts of comps — especially in the physical music era — is falling in love with those songs by those artists you never otherwise would've crossed paths with, and Dragging the Lake provided that, along with plenty of Important Bands to balance it out. Would I have ever paid money for Agent 51's Just Keep Runnin' if I didn't hear "I Believe" on Dragging the Lake? Unlikely!

Dragging the Lake made such an impact, that less than a year later, Mark, Tom, and SideOne reconvened for Dragging the Lake II, which included another Take Off Your Pants and Jacket bonus track, two blink side projects this time (Box Car Racer and the Transplants), another A Jackknife To A Swan song, and leaned even further away from pop punk and more into the heavier, darker sounds of post-hardcore and emo, with tracks by Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, Hot Water Music, Jets to Brazil, Dillinger Four, Rocket from the Crypt, Sparta, Rise Against, Hot Rod Circuit, Matchbook Romance, Bane, H2O, Alkaline Trio, Further Seems Forever, The Suicide Machines, Dropkick Murphys, Down by Law, Lagwagon, Finch, Slick Shoes, Maxeen, and Over My Dead Body (the hardcore band of Box Car Racer guitarist and eventual Angels & Airwaves guitarist David Kennedy). It did it again, with another mix of crucial rising acts and influential veterans, and when taken as a pair, these two comps served as excellent snapshots of one of the most pivotal eras in punk history. (Though a little gender balance would've gone a long way.) Punk was so big overall in '02/'03 that the "mainstream" bands and the "underground" bands were frequently sharing spaces, and Dragging the Lake is one of the many things that helped level that playing field. Looking back at the tracklists now, not every band has aged well, but for the most part, these comps are still great introductions to the vast early 2000s punk/emo scene. And even when you take away all the context surrounding their comps, they just were and still are fun to listen to. I don't love every single band on them, but these are expertly-curated mixes that go beyond a greatest hits/singles-only style compilation. To this day, some of my favorite songs by the bands on Dragging the Lake are the ones included here, and it's entirely because of how much time these spent in my CD player.

Atticus: …Dragging the Lake lived on with a third volume in 2005 (with a different artwork style and songs by Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, Death Cab for Cutie, Alexisonfire, Lucero, Gratitude, Piebald, and more, along with the great blink-182 non-album track "Not Now"), and the Dragging the Lake name was dropped for 2009's Atticus IV (which went in a more metalcore direction and didn't feature any blink-182-related material). The series never came back after that, but to this day, the first two volumes especially helped define a moment. The comps weren't regional or label-specific like so many classic punk comps before them, but they represented a uniquely thrilling moment in punk history and helped break down barriers between various subgenres, between underground and mainstream, between influential veterans and hungry young kids. Dragging the Lake was also inseparable from the musical format of choice in the early 2000s: the CD. It used almost the entire 80 minutes that CDs offered, and right now CD is still the only way to get it (and you probably have to find a used copy). It was never pressed on vinyl and never released digitally — many of its songs are available digitally on the band's own albums, but a few of these tracks are totally absent on streaming services. CDs are apparently coming back, and I wonder if Dragging the Lake could too. The era of early 2000s pop punk and emo is currently highly influential on both the thriving punk underground and some of the biggest pop stars around, and Dragging the Lake — from its curation to its sequencing to its rare tracks — is just as effective as the classic studio albums of that era.