It’s about time I write about the new Blink-182 album California. I’ve been so caught up in everything that this is the earliest chance I have to write this. This not only being the first new album by the famed pop punk band in close to five years but also the first album without guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, it’s been quite the anticipated release, met with different responses from all sorts of critics. Thankfully for the band, most of the criticism has been positive, but with some mixed in negativity.
Newcomer Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio fame was brought in to Blink-182 to replace Tom for some live shows and became an official member a little bit after that. And with Matt comes new life. The 2011 release of Neighborhoods, what was then the band’s first album in eight years, proved to be a continuation of the direction the band was heading in on their previous pre-hiatus self titled album, with a punk heart but an alternative sound. I remember when it came out, a few people were upset by that. I thought the album sounded great, and I really had no complaints, but I agreed it was far from the pop punk music that exploded the band into fame in the mid-90’s.
Perhaps it was Tom DeLonge‘s influence that led Blink-182 down such a direction. I’ve never really listened to Angels & Airwaves but I’ve been told and I’ve read that they have a similar sound to Neighborhoods. Now with Tom out and Matt in, there’s an obvious refreshment to Blink’s sound on California. Anyone I know who had heard the leading single Bored To Death in the months before California’s release had nothing but good things to say about it, to which agree it was rejuvenating to hear.
Bored To Death isn’t a fast pop punk song like Dammit or Dumpweed, but it’s got an energy to it that puts it in a league with their classic Adam’s Song. Matt Skiba also uses (or steals?) Tom DeLonge‘s clean guitar sound for the opening riff, just to add more familiarity to long time listeners. Mark Hoppus, now the sole remaining founding member, takes most of the lead vocals on the track, with Matt singing a verse or two and not sounding out of place.
Actually, Mark sings quite a bit more on California compared to most past Blink-182 albums, especially more than Neighborhoods which he was limited to less than a handful of songs. Matt does get a fair shot at singing on the album too however. His voice isn’t the high pitched punky kid voice that Tom had, but then again, even Tom doesn’t sound like that anymore.
With sixteen tracks on California, there is a lot to love. Opening track Cynical starts things off perfectly. It’s less than two minutes and it, despite the slow intro, it blasts in to perhaps the fastest song Blink-182 has recorded since their 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. My only complaint is that the song is too short.
Most of Blink-182‘s fans grew up with them in the 90s. I did grow up with them in a sense, I mean I was around when they were making music and it was all released in an impressionable time for me when I was listening to anything that the radio played, but I’ll admit I didn’t fall in love with the band until around when they reunited in 2009, however when I listen back to their hits from the 90’s and early 2000’s I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Even the songs I didn’t know back then still sound like the music that was everywhere back then and leave me with that youthful feeling. The point I’m trying to get to is that California compiles a large number of songs that will make these long time fans feel like they are back in the 90’s, doing whatever they were doing back then.
Songs like She’s Out Of Her Mind – which reminds me of Rock Show – as well as No Future, Kings of the Weekend, Teenage Satellites, Rabbit Hole and The Only Thing I Feel all sound like songs that could have been written in the 90’s. What’s most important is that all of these songs sound fantastic. The latter two aren’t quite up to par with the others, but these songs do more than just bring sentimentality to listeners. As for a slower paced rocker, Sober also feels like a 90’s party song with some modern touches. Also, just to bring back the humour of their younger days, California includes two very short songs, Built This Pool and Brohemian Rhapsody, the latter being the album’s closing track, are both thirty seconds or less and will make you laugh.
This is 2016 though, and Blink-182 make sure we know their heads aren’t completely stuck in the 90’s. California has a few songs that have a bit more of a modern rock feel by veterans of the music business tend to include on albums. For a welcome change, Los Angeles has the feeling of a serious sounding alternative rock song. San Diego and Left Alone definitely feel like punk songs, but by a more mature band that wouldn’t have released a song this free spirited yet somber. Home Is Such A Lonely Place is the closest thing California has to a ballad, but it doesn’t quite sound like past greats like I Miss You or Stay Together For The Kids but rather it takes a modern upbeat sound. The last full song, which is also the title track California, is completely different from anything on the album in how it has a happy sound to it, but with a very slow pace and with soothing music to it
I don’t see any negativity in California. The main question mark was the addition of Matt Skiba and the subtraction of Tom DeLonge, but Blink-182 has proven to make the most of that change and the result is the album that Blink-182 fans have been waiting fifteen years for. It doesn’t completely bask in the 90’s pop punk sound, but it has more than enough to please those who prefer that sound. For the more open minded of listeners, the more modern songs for the most part prove to be of excellent quality, and in turn Blink-182 have one of the best albums of their career and one of the best albums of the year.
“Kings of the Weekend”
9 (Out of 10)
|2.||“Bored to Death”||3:55|
|3.||“She’s Out of Her Mind”||2:42|
|6.||“Built This Pool”||0:16|
|8.||“Home Is Such a Lonely Place”||3:21|
|9.||“Kings of the Weekend”||2:56|
|14.||“The Only Thing That Matters”||1:57|