Review: A sobering journey into new depths for Blink 182 with ‘California’!

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Blink 182 – California – 01/07/16

6.5/10

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Let’s first address the elephant in the room. A substitution of Tom DeLonge (because he’s off searching for UFO’s… no seriously) for Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba is always going to bring a different sound and I don’t believe for a second this would be any kind of gut reaction. The question that has to be asked is whether Skiba is looking to emulate DeLonge or put his own stamp on things?

We enter the album with Mark Hoppus’ unmistakeable vocals and then dropping into a typical Blink style thrashing punk rock in the tune of ‘Cynical’. Seems fitting that the open line talks about whether to give up. This must have been a question that has been asked to Mark a thousand times. We also hear a mistake from Travis Barker on the opening drum roll that is left in along with an accompanying “ah!” – It’s safe to say their sense of humour hasn’t gone anywhere.

‘Bored to Death’ was the first song written for the album, recorded at producer John Feldman’s (Panic! At the Disco, Good Charlotte, Goldfinger, Papa Roach etc.) Foxy Studios, in Woodland Hills, California between January and March 2016. This was allegedly written on the first day of work with Feldman. Obviously, they started as they meant to go on. This song has something for fans old and new and grows with each listen.

The dip into the ‘love song’ pool with ‘She’s Out Of Her Mind’, about gooey romantic girl next door type situation, might be too far gone for a band like Blink 182 in that they’re all comfortably into their 40s. However, the relentless youthful energy these guys have completely overshadows any thoughts of age. This song makes me feel 14 again, listening to pop-punk wishing I was cool enough to be in a band.

‘Los Angeles’ is quite a far cry from the classic Blink sound but a tune delivered with aplomb and a siren call of ‘Los Angeles’. The first song heavily driven with Skiba’s vocals and I would imagine influenced musically by him in the most part. It seems a little trite to name a tune after the most famous city in California. But, it’s Blink. If you’re expecting them to drop some enlightened political drivel, you’re in the wrong place.

We fall into an issue with ‘Sober’ where it seems Feldman might have been left alone with the track a little too much and forces some stiff handclaps and piano interludes that seem to have no place.

Breathe a sigh of relief. Go on. ‘Built This Pool’ had me audibly laughing. A 17 second track that simply says “wooo-oo woo—oo. I wanna see some naked dudes. That’s why I built this pool” with a voice asking “Is that really it?” – they retain their childish humour in this inherently silly song that is genuinely enjoyable.

Both ‘No Future’ and ‘Home Is Such a Lonely Place’ prove the synergy with this new line up – Hoppus’ and Skiba’s vocals intertwining in such a satisfying way. ‘Kings of the Weekend’ and ‘Teenage Satellites’ are power chord fuelled jaunts into the old days. There is a constant undertone of misspent youth and reminiscing thinly veiled in perpetual drum fills and guitar riffs. It’s hard to say too much about these tracks as they aren’t that discernible from the other. Bear in mind that doesn’t mean they are not enjoyable songs.

‘Left Alone’ has an ‘I Miss You’ element lingering with the chorus effect on Hoppus’ solemn vocals. This is cut through when the song explodes into its chorus which is another demonstration of the way Skiba and Hoppus can mesh and work together. All the while Travis Barker is doing his thing as one of the best drummers walking the earth.

It has to be noted that despite the youthful energy and whimsical nature that sometimes comes with Blink 182. There is a maturity in this album. The lyrical sensibilities point towards an outside looking in type situation. Like looking at their youth through the adult lens. This is evident in ‘Rabbit Hole’ in the lyric “I am a cardboard cut-out, old and faded”.

Another trite theme for a tune in ‘San Diego’, but a venture into the more sombre feel. Skiba is tasked with the chorus here and seems to have created a brother song to ‘Los Angeles’ in the similarities between the chorus hooks.

‘The Only Thing That Matters’ – a song that wouldn’t be out of place on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. It’s a short and snappy tune that holds its own despite its short nature and is very difficult to find fault in.

The title track ‘California’ doesn’t feel right. I can’t put my finger on it but it just seems like a cliché filled escapade into the mediocre. More ‘na na nas’ than you can shake a stick at. Having said that, I can imagine Californians sitting on the beach around a fire blasting this out while they enjoy a scene that is one thousand times better than that of my desk. I imagine it’s hard for me to relate to and maybe why it doesn’t resonate with me.

We get another blast of comedy in the 30 second track Brohemian Rhapsody which is a pop punk thrash for the sole purpose of a crass one-liner. I laughed. So did you, don’t lie. “There’s something about you that I can’t quite put my finger in”. Gold.

If I’m entirely honest, which I am, I think this album would have been better suited as an EP. We could have missed out a number of tracks and put out a mind blowing 5 track EP. Instead, we trudged through some murky waters to get to the good stuff. It’s not the finest work Blink 182 has ever put out but it does show their versatility to retain their identity in a 3-piece band when one of those members has been replaced. The strength of character that takes has to be respected.

All-in-all an enjoyable album but some very un-assuming tracks mixed in with some potential classics.

6.5/10

6.5 Energetic!
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