Okay, let me begin by making it very clear that I am going into this article completely biased. I am a die-hard Blink fan and felt the trauma in 2005 when Tom DeLonge first left the band. When he came back in 2009, my emo heart felt whole again and swelled when they dropped the album Neighborhoods in 2011. His recent departure brought back that first heartbreak all over again and with the release of the new album, I have had to face my fears.
We enter the new chapter of Blink-182, one that includes Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio, replacing Tom as lead singer and guitarist of our favorite emo punk band (Don't worry Taking Back Sunday, you're our favorite too). It is 8am and I am listening to the new album, California. As I listen, I keep thinking that this isn't exactly working for me early in the morning. With previous Blink-182, I’d get my morning coffee buzz going and turn up the volume. Not so with the new album. After listening to the first track, Bored to Death, I was amazed at how accurate the title described my feelings. Not off to a good start and following tracks did not do much to change my opinion and here’s why: Matts voice is too good for Blink-182.
I know that just sounded like a ridiculous argument, didn't it? But bear with me. If you are a total Blink-182 fan, you started listening to them around age 12-15 and up through your adolescent years, maybe even into your 20’s. Why? Because Tom’s lyrics spoke to us in our rebel/emo/I hate everyone and everything stage. Tom has a raspy quality to his voice that seemed to resonate that angst and it symbolized how we felt about life.
So, what about Skiba? His voice lacks that edge. He sounds so harmonized, so smooth, it changes that unique Blink sound all us fan kids crave. Honestly, if it were not for Travis Barker, California would not sound anything like the Blink-182 I am used to. On a kinder note: Skiba is an exquisite artist (don't let my Tom fan girling fool you). He sings well and the lyrics echo classic Blink-182 enough to pass, but in the end, they did not speak to my emotional soul as before.
So what is actually going on here? Am I listening to this through a filter of too much nostalgia? Possibly the problem here isn't Matt Skiba. Maybe it's that all of us old fans are missing the sound of Tom’s voice that brought us comfort for so many years. And just maybe, it is hard for me to judge Skiba fairly because I don’t like that Tom abandoned us again? It might be time for me to genuinely ask myself "What's my age again?"
Despite that, one thing I do know for certain is that it is near impossible for an original band to replace a main member and call it the same band. With that change, the whole sound changes. In my mind, this is like The Beatles replacing John Lennon with Elton John but still calling themselves The Beatles. It just doesn't work like that. So, maybe that is the answer here. Maybe Skiba, Hoppus, and Barker could have hooked up, made music and called themselves something other than Blink-182. Maybe then, I could remove that nostalgia filter and listen to them for who they are instead of what they are trying to replicate.
Please don't make me dedicate your own song to you, Tom. But I will if I have to.. "Like indecision to call you and hear your voice of treason; Will you come home and stop the pain tonight?
Stop this pain tonight."