ALBUM REVIEW: blink-182 – California

With Tom Delonge gone, can pop punk founding fathers blink-182 still strike gold?

It’s odd to think that blink-182 are still a thing in this day and age. Having faced former alcoholic members, indefinite hiatuses and near death situations, nothing has ever threatened the band more than the issue of relevancy. After their lukewarm set at Reading + Leeds in 2014, many criticised the act for still hitting out with limp dick jokes as well as being a shell of their former self. It didn’t help that last year saw the departure of founding member Tom Delonge, a man who many see as making blink-182 what they are.

This left the band questioning how they should approach this issue. They could have easily just called it a day as drummer Travis Barker even claimed that “why Blink even got back together in the first place is questionable”. The thing is though, unlike DeLonge who seemed to want nothing to do with the band and did anything other than try to work on Blink, both Mark Hoppus and Barker have their hearts and focus solely on blink. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Hoppus made it clear that he didn’t want Delonge’s departure to “hold Blink-182 back from what we all agree that we’re going to do: play shows, record music, continue this legacy and have a good time doing it”.

As soon as California, the band’s seventh full length LP, kicks off, it’s clear what changes the band deemed necessary to make. While we’ve had singles drip fed to us prior to the album’s release, Cynical is the best example of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba inserting himself into the group’s dynamic almost seamlessly. Skiba’s presence adds a much needed shot of adrenaline to the band’s tried and tested pop punk sound, managing to give certain songs such as Cynical more of an edge to them in comparison to DeLonge who sounded more bored than ballsy on Neighbourhoods.

In addition to this, John Feldmann has also been roped in who undoubtedly has the biggest effect on the album. Having wrote hits for the likes of 5 Seconds Of Summer and All Time Low, there was always worries that this may be the moment than blink-182 jumped the shark or, worse yet, became the same thing that their influence had spawned. Sober  feels like the product of this, a track that any of the hundreds of acts inspired by blink would have made to appease to a stadium full of fans with the always needed instrumental strapped back segment with added clapping. Thankfully though, it doesn’t derail the album and there’s a definitely feeling of crispness that radiates from each and every track on display.

The album can feel a bit disjointed at times and fails to pack the same cohesiveness that, say, their self titled 2003 album managed to. Not that it’s a cardinal sin but it feels very much like a collection of hits without any real flow, something that may put off those expecting the album to sound more like the aforementioned self titled release especially since a lot of songs seem to borrow heavily from it. Not to say there’s nothing new or creative from the band. Los Angeles, love it or hate it, sounds nothing like the band have made before and has a lot of intentional imperfections added to it that helps to break up the unfiltered pop punk fury that kicks off the album.

As mentioned previously, California does borrow a lot from what the band have done before. Songs like Bored to Death can be analysed and segments traced to songs a decade old in the band’s discography which some may see as lazy and others as a nice little nostalgic touch. Me? I see it very much in the same vain as Weezer on their recent record, taking bits of their music and further refining it: if you make it then you can do whatever the fuck you want with it and blink do pretty much that.

Is the album perfect? Not by a long shot. Some tracks are just clear filler and some others don’t get nearly the right amount of time to develop.In fact, it may feel to some like the new producer has drained the band of what made blink “blink”. However, California is a solid comeback for a band who have found it increasingly difficult to find relevancy in a genre full of bands that they have inspired. They get the high octane, classic pop punk tracks that will send chills down your spine and some tranquil, chill songs as well. Oh, and a track about naked dudes.

What else did you expect?

7/10

Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

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