July 6, 2016

Blink 182 – California

182

Disclaimer: Normally we don’t review albums this big, but since it’s Blink-182, it gets a pass.

It’s been 5 years since the last full-album release from Blink-182 and a lot has changed. Tom Delonge is no longer a part of Blink-182 and has been replaced with Alkaline Trio frontman, Matt Skiba. California marks the first official Blink release without Tom Delonge. There’s already been a lot discussed about this subject so I’ll keep it minimal. How do I feel about Blink replacing Tom with Matt? Well, as an avid Alkaline Trio fan I’m quite pleased. Matt has an amazing punk-rock voice and I place his musical abilities as a notch above Tom’s.

Let’s discuss California.

The album starts off with the brisk 1:55 track “Cynical,” which captures the soul of Blink in it’s simplicity. Once Matt makes his entrance in the chorus the song really lets loose. We’re treated to Travis Barker’s intense drum fills and Matt’s angsty rocker voice. It’s a brilliant opener for anyone hesitant about how much Blink has changed with Tom gone. This will be a reoccurring notion in your head the entire time listening to this album. “Bored to Death” was the first chosen single for California. It’s easy to see why. It contains a booming 4-chord chorus, plenty to sing along to and very little substance. The track works as most pop-punk singles do: heavy emphasis on the pop. “She’s Out of Her Mind” feels like Enema of the State Blink at their finest. Matt and Mark play off each other nicely and the lyrics contain enough “whoa’s” and sing-alongs that render it harmless fare. “Sober” contains little to write home about. The lyrics could be copy/pasted to any modern country hit and no one would know better. Tapping into the rarely used acoustic playbook is “Home Is Such A Lonely Place.” Matt gives us a sappy laden chorus that is impossibly catchy and helps bring the track to life. “Left Alone & Rabbit Hole” bring the passion and attitude of older Blink and affirm your belief that even after this release, the band’s in good hands. “San Diego” may be the only track on the album that was made with heart. Lyrically, the song references the departure of Tom and the open wounds of him and Mark’s current friendship. The album ends with “Brohemian Rhapsody,” a parody of modern pop-punk musicality with the sly humor of a never-aging Mark Hoppus.

California does a lot right, but also a lot wrong. People will inevitably compare California to Neighborhoods as they are quite honestly the two least popular/liked Blink albums. California doesn’t hold a candle to Neighborhoods though. It’s easy to poke fun at the 2011 release as it was constructed poorly and was a little to “Tom/Angels & Airwaves” heavy for some, but there was substance to be found. Reflect back on any other Blink release and there’s a few tracks that actually have a solid message in them and something to say. Nearly every track on California feels ready to be fed to the mainstream culture. The song composure, while addictingly catchy, is lackluster and too power-chord heavy. Blink songs used to be a familiar feeling told in a different way. The new songs feel like a familiar feeling told the same way as all the rest.

At 16 songs, California is really too long. Cut the fat with a couple of the state inspired drivel like “Los Angeles” & “California” and get rid of the targeted youthful anthems of “Kings of the Weekend” & “Teenage Satellites” and the record feels much more condensed. The best tracks on the album “Cynical” & “The Only Thing That Matters” are far too short and deserve more time to really develop. Matt Skiba is the savior of this album with an overused Mark. Anyone who knows a bit of Blink history was surely laughing at the notes Mark was hitting throughout the record because he’s never been a good singer. Matt makes up for that by bringing in the necessary experience and nuance California needs to succeed. The balance in old Blink  had Mark used much more sparingly and it’s easy to see why when he’s been given the full reigns. While there are some thrills to be found in Travis’ drumming, much of the album doesn’t use him to his potential. He feels rigid and confined when it’s normally explosive and creative.

I’ll admit there’s something to like in nearly every track on California. The good tracks outweigh the bad ones and you’re left with a compelling notion to hit replay once the album’s concluded. I’ve already had every track stuck in my head at some point since I bought the  album. Whether it’s a pop-heavy chorus, a few well-timed piano notes or just the carefree attitude the album possesses, it’s insanely catchy with a lot of replayability. Don’t invest yourself in thinking this album is anything more than what it sets out to be. Ultimately, isn’t that what Blink is all about though? It’s hard to be so critical over my favorite band, but sometimes you can’t help but feel like they could do better when you know they are capable of it.

Written by: Patrick Marion

Rating: 7/10

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