Release Year: 2016
The world of Blink-182 has been hectic ever since Tom DeLonge quit, but didn’t quit, but quit the band. So it was unexpected when the band announced a new album without DeLonge. And man, have feelings been tense throughout the fanbase. If you thought the band’s 2003 untitled album divided fans, you haven’t seen what this album has done to the community. Some find it awful, others think it’s great. Some just outright hated the record after hearing the lead single. It was hard to form my own opinion after reading so many negative comments about the new music. I even considered canceling my pre-order, but I stuck with my gut and gave it a shot. I knew I wouldn’t like it as much as their past stuff, but I was still excited. But this doesn’t mean the album is stellar. If anything it’s decent considering this is a new era for the band.
I was surprised by how much I liked the opening track “Cynical.” It begins slowly with Mark singing “There’s a cynical feeling/saying I should give up” and it speeds up to a rapid, frantic pace putting your energy into high gear. With the catchy hook, driving music, and Matt and Mark’s well-paired harmonies, it’s one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s pretty simple and standard for a Blink song, but it’s one that gets you excited for the record. The same can’t be said for “Bored To Death.” It’s not a bad song; it’s just underwhelming. It grows on you over time, but it’s pretty cut and dry. It also sounds like the band is trying a bit too hard to be meaningful with lyrics like “There’s a stranger staring at the ceiling/Rescuing a tiger from a tree.” The anthemic hook makes it prime for live shows, but it’s nowhere near their best.
The heavy, intense opening of “Los Angeles” caught me off guard. Something about the hard hitting music with a slight electronic twinge made it seem jarring for a Blink song. What won me over was the aggressive hook repeating “Los Angeles/When will you save me?” It has a lot of energy and power behind it to grab your attention. Just picture tons of people jumping up and down when that hook plays. The vocals are also pretty strong with Skiba fitting right in with the rest of the guys. It’s not the strongest song on the album, but it’s one of the most satisfying. After hearing him sing some more I thought he sounded a bit like Tom. I may be alone in that but it’s something I can’t shake.
From there most of the songs are generic and predictable. “She’s Out of Her Mind,” “No Future,” and “Rabbit Hole” all play out the same: standard pop-punk with bouncy music, high energy, and a fun vibe. These songs are pretty catchy though they abuse the “whoa-ohs” and “Na nas” too much. This type of filler has appeared on other Blink songs, but it’s never been abused to the point of being lazy. It feels like it pops up every other song. Though they’re not my favorite songs, I still found them enjoyable; just a bit typical. I can’t say the same for “Kings of the Weekend.” This song rubbed me the wrong way. It plays like the most generic party song where a bunch of kids try to be “rebellious.” With its upbeat energy and positive vibe, it sounds like it was made to be a high school anthem.
Blink were never the most prolific songwriters, but their slow tunes are usually good. That isn’t the case here. “Home is Such a Lonely Place” feels corny with its “please come home, I’m lonely” message. It’s also dull with the soft music and lackluster lyrics. Same goes for “Teenage Satellites,” which is so boring I can barely remember how it goes. “Sober” isn’t horrible; it grows on you during repeated listens, but it doesn’t grab you right away. It’s catchy, yet predictable. Something about the melody and the lyrics seem standard like you’ve heard them before. But it’ll stay with you for the simple hook of “I know I messed up/and it might be over/let me call you/when I’m sober.” The closing track “California” isn’t any better. Like so many of the songs here, it’s just okay. It’s kind of sappy since it’s a love song to their hometown, but again it doesn’t stay with you once the album ends.
“The Only Thing that Matters” is a bright moment if only because it sounds like something from Dude Ranch. It’s another standard Blink song, but it wakes you up from the slew of “meh” with its chugging riff and abundant energy. Similar to the opening track, this one has a hyper vibe making it one of the fun tracks on the album. And the reference to Marilyn Manson is cute, yet unnecessary and it’s not the first time they do it. On “San Diego” there’s the line “We bought a one-way ticket/so we can go see The Cure.” I’m not going to lie – that line alone made the song stand out for me. Otherwise, it’s another okay track that’s tolerable at best. It’s grown on me over time, but it’s definitely not a highlight. They also mention Bauhaus on “She’s Out of Her Mind.” It seems odd since it’s not something they’ve done a lot in the past.
And then there are the joke songs “Built this Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody.” Both are about 16 seconds with one line about hooking up with dudes. They’re kind of funny and make you chuckle the first time you hear them. But they’re so short to even care about them. If they were at least a minute they would’ve felt worthwhile, like “Happy Holidays, You Bastard.” Instead, they’re throwaway jokes that aren’t even very funny. Not only that, they don’t fit in with the album. The sound of the record is classic Blink-182. The subject matter has changed slightly with a lot of reflection on growing up, but there’s talk of girls, getting girls, and losing girls like their earlier albums. Maybe that’s why they thought bringing back joke songs would be a good idea. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work.
It sounds like I hate this album, but I actually don’t. My feelings are still a bit conflicted, but I actually enjoyed it. There are a handful of songs I loved that made me excited and pumped like past Blink songs. But most of them were just okay. They didn’t stand out and I couldn’t remember them even after hearing the album five times. A couple grew on me, but most weren’t notable. The album is definitely a throwback to their “classic pop-punk” sound and happy-go-lucky vibe. This has upset some fans feeling like it’s a step backward. While I understand this point, I’m not upset with the decision. Was it the right one? I have no idea. All I know is I don’t hate it.
Overall, it’s a decent album especially with such a huge change in the lineup. I wouldn’t call it better than their last release, but it’s a good start for this new era of Blink. What doomed this album from the start was its release after the DeLonge debacle. There are still so many people in the Tom = Good or Tom = Bad camp that it may affect opinions. Perhaps if they released the album under a different band name, it wouldn’t have been met so harshly. But when you take into consideration this is the first release from a band who experienced a very public disintegration, it’s pretty good. It’s not their strongest album, but it’s a band trying to find footing after such a shake up. As a Blink fan, I’m happy California is doing well and I hope they continue to do great thing whether with or without DeLonge.