Pop Punk kids everywhere can rejoice, Blink is back.
While Tom DeLonge is off chasing UFOs, Blink-182’s remaining members are solidly rooted in California — and thriving there. The band’s 7th studio album "California," the first album with new singer Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio, brings together all the nostalgic, classic Blink bullshit with a newly-founded and fresh maturity in their homage to the state.
Next year the band will be turning 23 - and we all know what that means. But if this album is any indication of their future, we’ll probably still love them.
While DeLonge’s prankster-dweeb addition to the band might be missed by some, "California" is the band’s most successful album since 2003’s "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket" and 1999’s "Enema of the State." In no small feat, Blink is recapturing the gold standard sound that has become embedded in the cultural consciousness of 90s kids.
Unable to wait for a summer at the Warped Tour, "California" manages to capture a summery coming-of-age thread throughout, which reads uncannily genuine and effective for the now 40-somethings. As the first single “Bored to Death” exclaims, “it’s a long way back from 17” but if you listen carefully, they never truly left. Next to iconic garage punk energy, you’ll also hear a recycled guitar intro from “Adam’s Song” and a “Stay Together for the Kids” chorus — but hold the tissues, they’ve managed to turn the heartbreaking melodic tunes into an upbeat anthem.
The album’s opening “Cynical” is an admission of nerves (there’s a cynical feeling saying I should give up/you’ve said everything you’ll ever say), a keen bit of reverse psychology as they rev up the edgy sighs to the thrashing power that never entirely leaves the album; although "California" is far from one note. It quite comfortably sprawls out from wound-licking ballads like “Home Is Such a Lonely Place,” an honest look into the emotional turmoil leaving family to go on tour takes on the band, to shiny new-energy tunes, most successfully “No Future” and “Rabbit Hole.”
As for the songs referencing the album’s title "California": they’re not misses, but they’re not necessarily the biggest hits on the album either.
An ode to “San Diego” their hometown, rings fatalist as a swift chanty about an idyllic, surely impossible return- although who doesn’t dream of crashing Cure concerts? “Los Angeles” is moody, goth-tinged alt-rock. It’s catchy as all hell and a truly great song even if it is slightly forgettable outside of Travis Barker’s break-through, bar-none drum solos. The album’s namesake “California” is a shockingly calm and cliché picturesque encapsulation of the sunny, surfer state itself with some lyrically dark twists that require a bit of work from the listener “Hey here’s to you California/Beautiful haze of suburbia/living in the perfect weather/spending time inside together/hey here’s to you California.”
But just because they’ve infused a selective maturity and gone in slightly different directions with certain songs does not by any means mean that they’re done with the days they ran naked through So Cal streets and called it art. “She’s Out Of Her Mind”, the third single from the album, is a female “What’s My Age Again” with a partnering all-female music video remake of the iconic nude shoot. The steady and rather simplistic drum beat give way for the lyrics “I’m in deep with this girl but she’s out of her mind/she said babe I’m sorry but I’m crazy tonight” to shine. The song is an anthem of girls at the rock show and promises to stay stuck in your head for days on end.
The gleeful heyday of purely, intriguingly stupid pop humor is wrapped up in “Built this Pool”- a 16 second song dropped in the middle of the album whose only lyrics are “Woo woo/I wanna see some naked dudes/That’s why I built this pooo-ooo-oool/Wait, is that really it?” The song is addictive and never fails to be funny, even after dedicating literal minutes of wasted time listening to it. It’s a hidden gem among an otherwise well-developed album.
And if you thought they’d end on any note less than the porn-addled “Brohemian Rhapsody” well, welcome to Blink-182… you’re in for a shock. The final track of the album isn’t a reference to the classic Queen song but a 30-second build-up of hectic instrumentals and one singular sharp lyric I’ll let you find for yourself.
Despite the antics, you’d be hard-pressed to find more talent elsewhere. Hoppus has stepped up, taking lead on vocals in a majority of the songs seamlessly while balancing his bass lines with precise whimsy and Barker unarguably remains one of the best drummers in the music industry. The new addition of Skiba cops some lead vocal duties off Hoppus, complementing him brilliantly without attempting to copy the irreverence of DeLonge. All in all, this band knows how to make damn good music.
After more than two decades, Blink 182 still has a deeply rooted connection to the kids they once were and those they’ve always made music for. The album stands as a full reverence for where they’ve been and where they’re going, letting long-time listeners return to the emotional home found uniquely in Blink music.
To pull from their “Kings of the Weekend”: thank god for punk rock bands.