A deteriorating genre in need of revitalisation, California sees Blink-182 overcome the loss of their founding member and deliver a nostalgic pop punk record, teenage angst and toilet humour intact.
The inundated dick jokes and sexual innuendoes riddle this pop punk trio’s profound yet tumultuous history. Since their formation six years earlier, things for Blink-182 weren’t quite right. Drummer Travis Barker had survived a deadly plane crash, guitarist Tom DeLonge seemed more interested in investigating UFOs while Mark Hoppus found solace in dad jokes on Twitter.
Now, having lost founding member in DeLonge, the Blink trio have returned to the mainstream spotlight, reinvigorating the pop punk sounds for the ears of today with California. And while the addition of Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba may suggest the DeLonge days are well and truly over, Blink-182’s welcome return to the music scene has never been more of a blast.
Five years since the release of the band’s last LP, times have indeed been tough for the founders of pop punk. A continuously shifting sound and an incapacity to reignite the glory days, the dilapidating genre of pop punk would fail to reignite. In hopes to rediscover the band’s most celebrated sound, Goldfinger’s John Feldmann produces the trio’s seventh outing, delivering a sixteen-track album that purifies the pop punk sound for the nostalgic soul.
The band’s leading single ‘Bored to Death’ reignites reminiscent sounds of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and the band’s self titled album to a near instantaneous 2002 throwback. Hoppus’ vocals are as teenage angst driven as they were fifteen years ago, juxtaposed by his simplistic bass lines, an obligatory feat to any successful Blink track. Barker’s drums pulsate throughout, proclaiming throughout its four minute run time in fast beats and incessant speeds. Matt Skiba, though initially unrecognisable to Hoppus’ vocals, takes some adjustments and acclimates firmly into the Blink family and excitingly, a new legacy for Blink-182.
The Blink sound remains fresh and new in 2016, delivering tracks seemingly plucked out of the band’s early 2000s era. ‘She’s Out of Her Mind’ exclaims the purest pop punk can deliver in angsty lyrics of teenage love. “She got a black shirt, black skirt and Bauhaus stuck in her head”, sees a twenty-four year old Blink-182 bellow the same sentiments the trio belted at the pinnacle of their irreverent and romanticised sound.
‘Rabbit Hole’ delivers the album’s most prized and nostalgic possession, fuelled by the band’s most eclectic and energetic rhythms. “I won’t fall down that fucking rabbit hole” delivers the trio’s most expletive fuelled romp in years, a welcome return as Hoppus’ catchy hook bellows through Barker’s instantaneous beats.
Along with DeLonge’s departure, the band’s stadium rock have been substituted once again. Allowing the pop punk outfit a chance to rekindle their former years, California sees an upbeat and energetic return to a forgotten genre, an added bonus in bringing Matt Skiba to the Blink-182 legacy. DeLonge’s sprawling yet tumultuous history in Blink-182 will remain milestones within the band’s legacy, but yet in the addition of Skiba births a promising future for the trio.
What seemed like inevitable chaos in the band’s grim, Skiba’s harmonised vocals and reminiscent guitar melodies accentuate an old school take of a punk scene to the streets of today. ‘Cynical’ sees Skiba’s vocal stylings at the best of its core, while opening a Blink-182 record with nostalgic style and heavy guitar melodies.
An often deviated take on pop punk, producer John Feldmann’s take sees him shift focus on the pop side of pop punk all too frequently. Here, it is occasionally the case. With more “Who-oaa-aa-Who-oa’s and “Na-na-na-na’s” than a mainstream pop record, “California” drifts into repetitiveness, often quickly in its sixteen-track length. A departure from the band’s recent arena-like alternative rock, DeLonge’s departure is certainly felt in the band’s current state.
The album’s title track attempts overly cliché lyricism cascading over the band’s love letter to their beloved state – seemingly felt like an unfinished and neglected track in the recording studio. An oddball love letter to the state that birthed the Blink legacy, ‘Los Angeles’ sees the trio attempt to continue any semblance left by the band’s last LP ‘Neighbourhoods’, resulting in a mixed bag of synthesisers and guitar riffs.
A hotly anticipated album such as “California” would be inspected under finely tune investigation and scrutiny. And as Tom DeLonge fans may favour his science fiction side projects over the current state of Blink-182, the trio’s returned state sees a new Blink for the years to come. While ‘Built This Pool’ and ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’ sees the band’s at their usual irreverence, tracks from ‘Cynical’ and ‘Kings of the Weekend’ remind ourselves of the sixteen year olds in us, falling in love with punk rock once again.
Devoted fans will be remiss of the band that once was The Mark, Tom and Travis Show, but as “California” awakens a new, bright future for Blink-182, the very question of what are ages are again will be fuelled by hearty, pop-punk nostalgia.