Have a listen to 'She's Out of Her Mind' and 'No Future'
It may have been a turbulent last year and a half, but for the first time since the reformation of Blink 182, there is a sense that the real kings of pop-punk have returned to their very best. Bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker dropped the dead weight in the trio that was Tom Delonge. While you cannot deny he is still a decent musician, the founding guitarist just wasn’t right for the progress in Blink 182, touring-wise and recording wise.
So in steps Matt Skiba, a key figure in pop-punk, known mostly for his role in Alkaline Trio to record on the band’s most hyped album since perhaps ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’. So what is different? The lack in serious nature and the return of a more positive, uplifting feeling that we haven’t truly felt since 2001. From a single listen to this album it feels like the album I’ve been waiting for since before the self-titled album was released.
There are hints to the “good ole days” and recognisable factors that made Blink 182 great when they were in their prime. A lot of it is the technicality in Travis Barker’s drumming that turns an average pop-punk song into a masterpiece. The intro to ‘No Future’ says it all. Add in Hoppus’ ability to write lyrics from the heart while making sure you are hooked in with each word. Skiba just adds a fresh feel and something new to each song.
Do we miss Tom Delonge? The lack of that nasally whine we consider singing is certainly missing. Skiba’s voice is as equally distinctive and just as hard to ignore, especially in ‘The Only Thinh That Matters’. But, it doesn’t quite replace that higher pitched tone that balances out Hoppus’ rather deep vocals. However, Skiba is still more than capable of replicating Delonge‘s musical ability.
Album opener ‘Cynical’ feels like a message to Tom Delonge, the words “There’s a cynical feeling saying I should give up. You said everything you’ll ever say. There’s a moment of panic when I hear the phone ring. Anxiety’s calling in my head. Is it back again? Are you back again?” Which indicates that there was always some uncertainty when Delonge was still “in” the band. It feels dark but it soon shifts into a fast punk track that seems heavily influenced by the Dude Ranch era. Repetitive vocals of “not sorry, not sorry, not sorry, I’m not sorry” almost takes you back to that album’s final track ‘I’m Sorry’.
‘She’s Out Of Her Mind’ is a pure ‘TOYPAJ’ era song and it has that same hooking capability of ‘The Rock Show’. Some segments and vocal melodies even sound borrowed from the hit classic. ‘Los Angeles’ is perhaps a sign that Blink 182 are still willing to be experimental even without the odd influence from their former guitarist. It starts off with a spacey ambient feel to it before heavier riffs kick in and it goes all early 2000s alt-rock on us.
The biggest sign that the Blink 182 of old has returned is the sixteen-second song, ‘Built This Pool’;, which is about wanting to see naked dudes. I have waited fifteen years to hear a new silly, immature songs from the trio. ‘California’ keeps us on our toes as the band shifts between all out hooking pop punk songs such as ‘Kings of the Weekend’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’, to uplifting slow burners like ‘Home Is Such a Lonely Place’ and the title-track, ‘California. It shows a growth and a continual evolution of the trio as musicians to be less one dimensional in their approach to writing a pop-punk album.
As a long term fan, I am more than happy with this release. Quite frankly I’m blown away by how much it has impressed me. There is an equal sense of nostalgia and progress. As stated in a previous feature, I was certainly expecting something better than the last couple of albums. But, to expect ‘California’ to full on make up for the disappointment that was ‘Neighbourhoods’ wasn’t originally on the cards. It feels safe to say the real Blink 182 has returned.
For fans of: Sum 41, New Found Glory, All Time Low