blink-182 – California
Released: July 1st 2016
Mark Hoppus – Bass/Vocals
Travis Barker – Drums
Matt Skiba – Guitar/Vocals
Here we are, finally got my hands on the newest album from my most favourite band in the whole world. Only now things are different following the departure of guitarist Tom Delonge and the welcoming of Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba to the already impressive line up consisting of bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker. While this past year for most blink-182 fans, like myself, has been a rough acceptance of the fact things won’t be the same and moving forward, this is how things will be (unless Tom gets his shit together and rejoins again), it was difficult at first to put differences aside and listen to their new sounds without always thinking about what could have been, how certain tracks could have been perfect with a little Delonge input and what if the lyrics had more meaning behind them than what was finalised and produced. All that aside here we go with the track by track review of California, the 7th studio album from the band.
The album opens with the Hoppus lead “Cynical“, slow at first with nothing but a guitar strum behind his voice when all of a sudden 29 seconds into it the rest of the band joins in, Travis Barker is on fire smashing his kit and all of a sudden a familiar vibe is felt as Mark’s long whine-like singing brings you in and makes you want to get moving. Matt finally gets his chance to shine however when he opens up, all I can hear is somewhat of an attempt at channelling Tom Delonge‘s long, dragged out worded singing. (Note: I’ve not heard much of his previous work in Alkaline Trio and from what I did hear, I didn’t like. So I’m unsure if this is his way of natural singing or if he was trying something different for the blink record). The song ends with both vocalists bouncing off each other and Matt’s repetitive singing of the lyrics “I’m sorry, I’m sorry and I’m sorry now“. Could this be aimed at fans who are still dirty at him for joining? Probably not but I’m going to assume it is and move onto first single and banger “Bored to Death“. This was our first taste of the new direction the band was heading in and as previously stated, it’s a catchy as fuck pop-punk hit with elements of early blink and +44. Travis and Mark were hard to fault, Matt’s guitar playing wasn’t too technical but the song itself has become an instant hit for myself and fans alike. Arguably one of the better songs from the entire album.
“She’s Out Her Mind” is up next and upon hearing the opening bass chords and drum beat, all I could think of was “FUCK THAT SOUNDS LIKE DUMPWEED SLOWED DOWN” and my hopes were instantly up that they had gone back to earlier roots and brought back that sound, however after about 20 seconds I realised that wasn’t the case and we were back to the youthful pop-rock influence which makes you want to bop up and down with lyrics aimed towards the tween generation (ages 12-17). While I couldn’t connect with the words being sung, I focused more on Travis who was once again killing it with his beats. (Spoiler Alert: He continues to do this for the entire album, there is not one thing I can fault him for on California). By this point I’m sensing that repeating lyrics and words to make up time is a common theme for new blink, while it could have worked for maybe two or three songs at most, it starts to get annoyingly repetitive very quickly. Following on from this is “Los Angeles“, a song that blends both an upbeat tempo with a slower (almost borderline) dark rock chorus consisting of the basic, repeated lyrics “Los Angeles, when will you save me, Los Angeles, when will you save me…“. The first lines of the chorus (the slower part) are almost haunting beautiful and work well for the track, but it feels choppy at times and didn’t seem to flow well. “Sober” once again brings back that pop-rock feel and Mark’s addictive twang that we have grown to love over the years, I feel this is the best song that represents blink-182 members at their current age and lifestyle. Its not so technical, above average and exactly what you would assume a band of over 40 year olds should sound like. Lyric wise though, I couldn’t imagine 40yr old adults smashing their neighbours lights and digging in the ground though. So glad they brought back the piano for this one too. Very easy to say this could have been a leftover from 2011‘s Neighborhoods album.
At 17 seconds long “Built This Pool” is the first short joke song the band has put out in 15 years (the last being Happy Holidays You Bastard and Fuck a Dog from 2001‘s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket) however it seems so out of place. At the end of the song one of the guys asks “Is that really it?“, a question I even asked myself when I first heard the song. Not only that but I had to take another listen to make sure it wasn’t Tom Delonge asking the question because it sounded so similar to him. “No Future” begins (kind of like a slowed down version of the song Anthem Part II) with an opening drum beat accompanying a strangely similar to Bored to Death guitar riff which is not only fun to listen to but gets you ready and excited for the upcoming chorus drop, which unfortunately misses the mark. Everything about this song is great, except the chorus. It feels slightly out of place and clumpy when the band transitions from verses into it. However, it’s catchy enough to enjoy despite that factor… oh and the repetition again!
If you like sappy acoustic love songs, “Home Is Such A Lonely Place” is definitely for you! It sounds very close to being more of a lullaby than a love song with Travis summoning his inner drummer boy on the snare while Mark and Matt sing in harmonious glory with twinkles of bells in the background. The last 40 seconds of the song picks up speed but it unfortunately falls flat on it’s face because the track feels so out of place compared to the rest of the album. I’m guessing they tried to do something different but it just doesn’t feel right. Producer John Feldmann worked previously with Australia’s 5 Seconds of Summer and to me, this track was very similar in many ways to their song “Amnesia“. Moving into the second half of the album we have “Kings Of The Weekend” beginning with a bass and drum duet complimenting Mark Hoppus’ vocals before Matt Skiba joins in with his guitar softly in the background. When the chorus starts though, everything picks up pace and the potential is raised for this being another decent banger. When Skiba takes control of the second verse, I can’t help but think to myself (for the first time) how perfect this song would be if Tom Delonge was singing instead. I tried my hardest to push that idea out of my head while listening to this whole album, but I couldn’t escape it with this one. The song ends with one final burst from all three members and finishes abruptly. Listening to this made me feel like I was receiving the best blow job of my life, however I just didn’t get the chance to climax. It had all the elements a great pop-punk song should have, but just missing that one thing to make me blow all over the place. Apologies for the visual.
Moving onto the “woah oh oh oh ohhhhh” filled “Teenage Satellites“, Matt Skiba finally gets the chance to take centre stage properly and have all the attention on him and we finally get to experience a song where he sounds like himself. I surprisingly enjoyed this song more than I thought I would, but in comparison to what we’ve heard so far it was fairly simple. This is where things get a little weird, when “Left Alone” began I immediately thought I was listening to an Angels & Airwaves song. A direction criticised by “true blink-182” fans who hated the way Tom tried to make the band sound like his other side project, yet here we are on the follow up to Neighborhoods and they continued this theme, so maybe it wasn’t Tom’s idea all along. Once we’re past the futuristic beeps and solo guitar playing, pure pop-punk goodness is returned and the trio work together in unison to produce yet another favourite for the album. I’d like to skip the next song completely but unfortunately you just can’t do that when completing a review of an album. “Rabbit Hole” is what I like to call an embarrassment to the band and music in general. I feel they wasted one of the best sounding tracks with lyrics that seem like they were written by a high school kid and oh my god, the repetition throughout was disappointing. Skiba definitely tried his best to recreate Tom’s signature twang but failed miserably. I could go on further but I feel I’ve already ripped into Rabbit Hole enough to make it self aware of how shit it is. Change the lyrics and redo this song completely and you’ve got an instant hit, but for now I’d give this one a miss.
Ok, now thats all out lets move onto the slow jam “San Diego” which is an obvious stab at returning to your roots (possibly even Tom who I’m sure still resides there). From what I took from this song, the band addresses the times they had growing up there but there is no way they’d ever return. Its like how you leave your home town and while you have so many memories there, you’d never be able to go back and experience the same fun you remember. A pleasing ode to ones past, moving forward and how far you’ve come since then. “The Only Thing That Matters” starts with elements of middle blink era songs from the Enema/Take Off Your Pants… saga complete with an opening bass line followed by fast guitar riffs and drumming. If the band could ever summon a circle pit at a gig, this would be the track to get everyone moving in a non-aggressive way. At at length of only 1:58, it’s over just as you start to really get into it, but pleasing enough to leave you fulfilled. “California” opens up once again sounding like something from Angels & Airwaves 2006 album We Don’t Need To Whisper, inspiration or not, you can’t escape the feeling they’re either taking the piss or paying tribute to their somewhat sibling band from a former member. I’m slightly confused but move on and start to appreciate the ballad styled “coming into adulthood” track which I’ve been waiting for blink to write for years. I loved this band growing up because their songs represented what I was going through at that age. Now that I myself am an adult, I’ve moved on from the teenage addressed music and have started resonating to songs about growing old and getting your life on track. This is the song I’ve been waiting for. All the instruments, lyrics and members bounce off each other in a way so perfectly executed I forget about some of the atrocities I heard earlier in the album. If every song was written as well as this, I think it could have sat more higher up in my opinions and approval rating. The build up towards the end doesn’t disappoint and I’m left with a huge smile on my face. Had the band ended on this song we could have all been happy but for the last 30 seconds of the album I’m subjected to “Brohemian Rhapsody” which is nothing more than a fast paced pop-punk track which had so much potential, had it been given an extra 3 minutes and better lyrics than “There’s something about you, that I can’t quite put my finger in!”. Another lacklustre joke song which missed the mark and wasted one of the best riffs I’ve heard from the band in years.
There was a lot of anticipation for this album and criticism was always bound to be present from all sides, but at the end of the day blink-182‘s new album didn’t quite reach the expectations I was hoping for… HOWEVER I can safely say I really enjoyed California more that I thought I would. Mark Hoppus took control of the band and helped it stay afloat, needs more work on his song writing, but still sounds as badass as he always has been. While Matt Skiba had some pretty fuckin huuuge shoes to fill, he didn’t fail as bad as I thought he would. I can appreciate the new sound he brought to the band, but he just needs to give us more of him and stop trying to emulate the legacy Tom Delonge left behind. He’s a talented musician and I’m interested to see what else he can do moving forward. I have nothing to say about Travis Barker besides the fact he completely nailed it once again. Hands down he’s the most talented member of the band now and killed everything he contributed to the album. I would have liked to hear more fast paced, almost free styled drumming on some tracks but there is nothing I can really fault him for. All up blink-182 are back but are heading in a different direction to what we’ve known them for, but I for one will continue to join them for the ride. Blink-182 Life For Life.
Check out our list of The Top 7 blink-182 Music Videos of All Time here
blink-182 – California tracklist
2. Bored To Death
3. She’s Out Her Mind
4. Los Angeles
6. Built This Pool
7. No Future
8. Home Is Such A Lonely Place
9. Kings Of The Weekend
10. Teenager Satellites
11. Left Along
12. Rabbit Hole
13. San Diego
14. The Only Thing That Matters
16. Brohemian Rhapsody