After an eight year hiatus, Blink 182 made their big comeback in 2011 with Neighbourhoods. To say it was ‘massively underwhelming’ would be slightly unfair. Only slightly, though. After a hiatus as extensive and painful as this one, we were expecting more than they delivered. Today, despite taking five more years, I think we may finally be getting there with the new record, California.
The new album is filled with sixteen tracks that, as a whole, remind us why we fell in love with Blink in the first place. Despite the obvious absence of vocals by Tom DeLonge, new vocalist Matt Skiba has more than filled the Tom sized hole left after his messy departure earlier in the year. Skiba’s voice (somewhat unexpectedly) fits perfectly with Blink’s sound and even adds something new that I didn’t know was missing until I heard it. Any scepticism I may have had about the new vocalist was more than quashed by the time I was three songs into the album.
Tracks such as the first single, Bored to Death, instantly take you back to the old school Blink 182 that gives us that feeling of being home. It’s familiar and warm and reminds you for the first time since 2003 that they deserve to be the first band you think of when you’re asked to make a pop-punk playlist. On the other hand, tracks like San Diego catapult you right back into 2016, bringing something new to the table with a sound that leans much more strongly towards the pop in pop punk – despite singing about going to see The Cure…
“And it’s a long way back from seventeen, the whispers turn into a scream and I’m not coming home”
Although the record is sixteen songs long, it clocks in at only 42 minutes, with four of the tracks finishing up after less than 2 minutes. Nevertheless, these shorter tracks somehow still manage to add a little something to the picture that Blink are trying to create – a picture that definitely includes poking fun at themselves more than any critic will ever be able to. With tracks like Built This Pool, we are reminded of the boys that wrote What’s My Age Again – boys that don’t take themselves too seriously and are just doing this because they love it.
For the majority of the album, however, they have gone back to writing songs that remind me of Adam’s Song: songs that address more serious topics whilst still making a solid attempt at maintaining their trademark sound. Rabbit Hole and Home Is Such a Lonely Place are two tracks that jump out at me when I consider this and are arguably two of the strongest tracks on the record.
“It feels like the moon is spinning of into outer space without you. This room is such a lonely place without you.”
I love California, I do. I think that as a whole, the vibe is great and I will certainly be bopping along to it as I drive down the Northwestern motorway. But the more I listen to it, the more I wonder whether I only love it because I know that it’s Blink. Would I feel the same way if it was a new band on the pop-punk block? Or would I whine to the neighbours and pray that they move out of town?
When I take a step back and look at it objectively, I do have an issue with the fact that, generally speaking, the tracks don’t vary enough sonically for the listener to differentiate between them. So although 3 or 4 of them inarguably do stand out (hello, Sober), the rest, admittedly, merge into one and as I sing along, I can’t help but fade into nostalgia over pre-hiatus days when all we knew was iconic pop-punk magic.
California is available now via CD, Vinyl, and digital media.