I haven’t had enough time to really sit and listen to it, but from what I’ve heard so far, the new Blink-182 album, California, is surprisingly good.
Why do I say surprising?
I mean, I love Blink-182. Normally that would create these unnaturally high expectations for the album, thus setting myself up for disappointment. But, uh, they kinda did that to me with the last album. I think Neighborhoods is kinda bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are songs I like on Neighborhoods (maybe just one, actually) and there are certain things about it that I enjoy, but I think all-in-all, it’s an incredibly incoherent album. It was made with the members of the band recording parts separately from each other, sending song ideas and half-finished lyrics to other members of the band over the internet. And while some people can collaborate in this way and end up with an amazing result, that didn’t happen here. Tom DeLonge just doesn’t work well with these guys anymore, and unfortunately, it showed on Neighborhoods.
Well, prior to writing this album, Tom quit. Or was fired. I don’t know exactly what happened. The last time Blink-182 went on hiatus, he quit in an extremely shitty way, pretty much disappearing on Mark and Travis. I’m a bit more inclined to believe Mark and Travis’s version of the story than Toms at this point. But it’s honestly not all that relevant; the point is that Tom was out. Gone. Done. But unlike the last time Tom exited the band, this time the remaining members kept it going, recruiting Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba for guitar and half of the vocals.
It works! He’s a great fit for the band. While he’s not going to have the same effect on Blink’s music that Tom did, (likely skipping the spacescape sound effects Tom is so fond of) he brings something else to the band that they hadn’t had in a while, at least not when they’re not on a stage.
He brings fun back to Blink.
Now, to be honest, fun is not actually my favorite aspect of Blink-182. My favorite Blink-182 songs are the songs where they shut out all of the playfulness in favor of taking things seriously, if only briefly. My favorite album of theirs is the untitled one, (which is severely underrated by most people; it’s actually got a very unique sound,) that being an album that takes itself entirely seriously. My favorite songs off of their albums prior to that are Going Away to College, Adam’s Song, Roller Coaster, Shut up, Stay Together for the Kids, What Went Wrong, Please Take Me Home and Wendy Clear. There are a number of other songs I could add to the list, as far as favorites go, but that list covers just about every non-jokey song they ever wrote prior to the untitled release. The “fun” is clearly not the main draw for me.
All that said, it’s still a totally likeable aspect of the band. Maybe it’s not for everyone, possibly including myself, but it’s easy to see why people would fall in love with that flippant and entirely unpretentious side of them. And after spending such a long time with them making kind-of-underwhelming songs in that “serious” mindset, it’s actually nice to see them taking a different approach that is still totally Blink-182, through and through. And it’s working. The joke songs they’ve released are stupid, catchy, and funny by virtue of being kind of not funny. If that makes any sense. The other songs do seem free of dick-jokes and self-deprecating humor, and there are a lot of them, meaning that I get the Blink-182 album I want, too.
From what I’ve heard of it so far, it’s not, like, blowing me away or anything. But it is good. It is totally listenable, something that I don’t think I can say about at least half of Neighborhoods. It is, at the very, very least a completely serviceable pop-punk album with Travis Barker playing incredible drums over Mark Hoppus’s Cure-inspired lyrics and melodies; Matt Skiba being a surprisingly suitable replacement for Tom. I think that’s all I could have asked for at this point. I would love to hear an album that does for me what Blink’s untitled album does, but I don’t think continuing to have that expectation of anyone, let alone any stapled-back-together incarnation of Blink, is reasonable. I’m happy with this album so far. It doesn’t have to change my life, I’m just glad it reminds me of the fact that they already did.