blink-182 – NINE
Released: September 20th, 2019
Mark Hoppus // Bass/Vocals
Travis Barker // Drums
Matt Skiba // Guitar/Vocals
Ahh, blink-182. My old friends, comrades and source for escapism during my teenage years have finally returned with a new album for us called NINE, which serves as the band’s ninth studio release according to OG member Mark Hoppus, the second to feature guitarist Matt Skiba and latest offering in which drummer Travis Barker showcases his flawless abilities. It’s no secret, the past few years since Tom DeLonge‘s departure have been pretty rough on both the band and the fans they’ve amassed over the years with many picking/swapping sides, defending their arguments in comments sections, forums and well, anywhere their voices and opinions can be heard. I’ve been quite vocal myself over the past few years with brutally honest opinions (at the time) of their last release California (review here) and its [Deluxe Edition] follow-up (review here). But just like the band, I have grown since then and accepted that things won’t be the same as they used to be, so for this review, I am going into it as completely open-minded as I can to embrace the new era of blink and try to not be as critical as I’ve been in the past. With the majority of the songs released so far being catchy AF winners after a few spins (in my eyes), I’m keen to see what else the guys have in store for fans…
The album kicks off with ‘The First Time‘ who’s opening instrumentals will sound very familiar to long time blink fans with hints of their untitled opening track ‘Feeling This‘ present (in the form of that rising background sound effect behind Travis Barker‘s drumming intro), only this time, it only lasts a couple of seconds (with an added guitar riff) before the actual song begins and we’re underway. To be honest, I liked the throwback to that era/album and this song serves as a great way to open the new release. It’s much more instrumentally focused with the guitar and drums taking centre stage and Hoppus’ iconic vocals throughout. Without nitpicking the obvious (simplistic lyrics), it’s punchy, pop punky/rocky and may just throw you off with how much you’ll appreciate it after the first two listens. If you wanna compare it to their previous work, it kinda sounds like ‘MH 4.18.11‘ from Neighborhoods with a touch of California. Moving on and ‘Happy Days‘ is up next… My first initial reaction when hearing this was “it’s an upbeat pop punk belter” and that description still stands. Over the past few months, I’ve been solidly listening to all of the four singles they released and enjoying them more with every spin so if you wanna get rid of those bad vibes in your life, give this track a spin (unless those bad vibes come from listening to this track, which in that case go back to Enema of the State). There’s something about this song (and ‘Darkside‘) which just make you feel good after hearing it. Subliminal messaging? Healing properties? Whatever it is, hook it up to my veins because it feels goooood. In ‘Heaven‘, I swear they’re using the infamous Epiphone Tom Delonge Signature ES-333 model because I know that guitar sound anywhere I hear it and despite Tom not playing it himself, it’s a welcoming sound to hear on a blink-182 album again. Mark and Skiba share vocal duties evenly throughout and unlike many of the tracks on the last album, you can distinguish who is who this time around. With a loud, sing-a-long inducing chorus lead by Mark Hoppus belting out: “Angel wings at the bus stop/Halos left on top of the car/Heaven doesn’t want me now/Heaven doesn’t want meeeee” chances are you’ll be shit out of luck doing your best to NOT sing along after hearing it a couple of times. I’d compare this to the Neighborhoods era again if you wanna know what you’re in for.
‘Darkside‘ is up next and I am ALL for this earworm banger. When your virgin ears hear it for the first time you’d be mistaken for thinking it was something from All Time Low‘s early work, BUT, much like the gravitational pull on Earth, even just two spins of this song will inevitably result in you giving it the thrashing of a lifetime. Seriously, this is by far the catchiest thing blink-182 have done in years and if you can’t admit that at least, then you’re not going to enjoy this album one bit. The chorus opens up with Skiba taking the reigns belting out: “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY/NO I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU DO/I’M GOING TO THE DARKSIDE WITH YOU/I’M GOING TO THE DARKSIDE WITH YOU” and upon doing so, an untrollable feeling overtakes you and invades every single bone and muscle in your body making you either nod, lip sync or scream it out loud and proud. Travis is a fucking machine with the drumbeats in this one switching from fast to slower bpm with ease. The ONLY couple of gripes I have with this, once again comes back to the simplicity of the lyrics with Hoppus’ lead up to the chorus of: “And I wait/And I wait/And I wait/And I wait/And I wait/And I wait/And I wait for her” taking up a valuable 24 seconds that could have been used either adding in more lyrics OR changing it up with something like: “And I wait/And I wait/I’m still waiting/I’m waiting/I wait/And I wait/And I wait for her” just to, you know, give the song a bit more personality and character rather than have that mind-numbing repetition which wrecked many of the songs on California invade this new offering too. It should also be mentioned that it’s almost like blink took a leaf out of Avril Lavigne and Pitbull‘s writing process book by rhyming the same word over two sentences. Both of those aforementioned acts have been torn apart for that fact, so I feel that despite how catchy as fuck this song is, we can’t let the guys get away with “She’s a girl dressed in black from another world/Lives and breathes like a girl from another world” without saying something. Harsh I know, but rules are rules and last but not least, do I have to bring up the music video again??? ‘Blame It On My Youth‘ is up next and this is going to divide fans. Upon release, I was, well, disinterested in this song, until I gave it about 2 weeks rest and a few solid spins afterwards. Once you take yourself out of the shock factor of hearing a new blink-182 song and trying to compare it to their earlier work, you find yourself digging the throwback references (e.g. the Men Without Hats song ‘Safety Dance‘ and ‘Bored To Death‘, the first single from their last album). It’s a laidback, summer jam (which was unfortunately released prior to the start of Australia’s winter) with some exceptional drumming from Travis Barker which almost every single fan who ripped into this song neglected to address or mention. There’s also more elements of the album Neighborhoods in this song which need to be given the credit they deserve. I see where and how the band tried to bring back pieces of their older work (the drumming in this is almost identical to that of ‘After Midnight‘) and so if you wanted old blink with a touch of their new direction, you should be all over liking this song by now.
‘Generational Divide‘ is fucking awesome. Fast and furious pop punk with a “fuck you” attitude directed towards those of us who constantly ripped into the band for their progression away from what we knew and loved them for. Much like ‘Brohemian Rhapsody‘, I couldn’t believe they used a great riff and drum combo on such a short song, but given the meaning behind the song its purpose, I’ve accepted it for what it was and given it the big old tick of approval, whilst hanging my head slightly in shame for being one of those “critical mother fuckers” hell bent on having his opinion heard. Next up is ‘Run Away‘ which begins with a slower-paced intro complete with drum beats and a piano that takes us up to the chorus where the song really opens up with all three members showcasing their talents at once (instead of the spotlight on just one member and what they’re singing/playing etc). Lyric-wise, this is the most planned and thought-out song on the album so far with what seems to be plenty of attention given to making sure it sounds like a full song and not something filled with repetitive lyrics. It’s smart, upbeat and alluring. There were heaps of complaints about the use of autotuning on previously released songs, I can safely say Mark Hoppus sounds like Mark Hoppus on this one and Matt Skiba steps up with his singing duties offering more personality, rather than just background filler. Comparison wise (I guess I’m doing this on all of the new songs now) I’d say it’s like a blend of ‘Bored to Death‘ and ‘Bottom of the Ocean‘ from California Deluxe. It’s definitely new blink, but the better kind of new blink.
Holy shit, the comparisons have to stop for a second because we have blink-182 covering NEW GROUND!!! ‘Black Rain‘ is seriously unlike anything I have ever heard from this band in the 22 years I’ve been listening to them and it FUCKING RULES!!! Goddamn, I can’t praise this song enough! It is fast. It is catchy. It has meaningful lyrics. There are stop downs, yelling, harmoniously melodic vocals and properly placed synth. Travis Barker showcases why he’s the fucking GOAT and finally, I say this out loud, Matt Skiba kills it. The standout lyrics are in the chorus which goes: “Tragedy/erase my memory/now all I see is this black rain/ohhh tragedy/you took my everything/ohh now all I feel/all I feel is pain” which serves as the heart and soul of the song. The best way I can explain this one is it’s like an action-packed, stadium rock/pop punk/alternative rock genre-crossing/experimental orgy that just fucking works so well, I am gobsmacked. I truly am impressed with this song and that coming from me obviously stands for something. Brace yourself for that one my friends! ‘I Really Wish I Hated You‘ slows things down again for a melodic, pop-rock track which, despite being defined as a new era blink-182 song, it’s not like anything from Calfornia, but more of a new addition to the band’s musical progression. It focuses more on Mark’s vocal performance and is essentially a breakup song that can be used for a partner, family member or close friend… I wonder if this is about a certain former guitarist maybe!? ‘Pin The Grenade‘ picks up the tempo again for a faster-paced rock song which I’m saying is the opposite to the previously played breakup song with this one being more of an in denial about breaking up track, especially when the chorus goes: “hey wait, pin the grenade/if you don’t love me lie to my face/hey wait, get out of my brain/if you don’t love me lie to my face”. There are those background synth sounds throughout, Travis drumming away like a total champ and, well, that’s probably the best parts of this one. It was good in theory but just missed the mark for getting me across the line. ‘No Heart To Speak Of‘ comes across more like a +44 song than anything we’ve heard of so far (and before you say it, I know the band nowadays is pretty much +44 but this is the closest thing we’ve had to songs from When Your Heart Stops Beating in a long time). This borders more on the rock side of the band’s progression with Skiba’s vocals being used properly in the chorus, resulting in plenty of moments that make you want to belt out a line or two. Unfortunately, Mark sounds a little too overproduced for my liking, which is the only downfall of this song. It ends with Barker doing a nice little drum freestyle that’s not only welcomed, but great to finally hear again. ‘Ransom‘ starts with (yet again) an autotuned Mark Hoppus saying “say the word and I’ll be there” which immediately put me off because we’ve heard this man’s voice on the album so far and know there is no need for it but all of those feelings disappear around the 43 second mark when the pace and instrumentals are fucking turned up to 11 and this slow and steady song turns into a moshpit inducing belter! This is the punk side showing its face again for another short and sweet offering that’ll get your blood pumping, only for it to end by the time you really get into it. The repetitive lyrics are forgiven because of that action-packed middle-to-climax section that was unexpected, yet completely arousing.
‘On Some Emo Shit‘ has ballad written all over it at the beginning, but it opens up for a big scale rock anthem during the chorus. As you should know by now, I’m a sucker for a ballad, especially ones like start off slow and open up ten-fold by the song’s end, and this is a winner in my eyes. I can hear some similarities in the guitar tones towards the end which sound like some (only a couple) of tracks from the Enema phase, but they’re almost drowned out by the newer influences they’ve picked up from California and beyond. That Epiphone Tom Delonge Signature ES-333 is back again for this one too so if that gets you excited, then you’re gonna like this one too. ‘Hungover You‘ is a slow jam and (I’m guessing) the theme is being “caught up over a former friend with benefits” song? You know, how you have something going with someone that’s unofficially official then they up and leave/ghost you? Well, that feeling you get when you’re thinking about them, best represents what this song is about. With lyrics like: “it feels like last night you came over/now I wake up hanging nowhere/I’ve got my head hung over you/I guess I’m still hung over you”, it’s easy to back up these claims. Because of that (and the relatability) I’m giving this song a BIG thumbs up. Finally, they’re writing about more relatable topics instead of teenage issues and experiences. ‘Remember To Forget Me‘ continues with that slow paced tempo for NINE‘s climax and I think it works perfectly as an album closer. The electric guitar has been swapped out for a couple of acoustics, a piano and minimal drum beats to begin with until the electronic drum beats/traps kick in before the epic, all in finale that has Travis smashing away like it’s his last album ever. Some bands tend to throw a song that doesn’t fit well at the very end of their albums and blink did this with ‘Brohemian Rhapsody‘ on California, it’s great to see they’ve rethought ending with a joke song this time around (or at all, there are no humorous tracks on NINE) and it wraps up the experience with a whole-hearted offering that’ll get you ready to hit replay the second it finishes.
Real talk. I really thought I would hate this album, but, something has happened that’s incredible to witness and admit right here, right now… blink-182 have managed to win me back with this collection of songs and I am completely dumbfounded by their ability to do just that. While California was their first release with this new lineup, it was marred by all of the drama, criticism and hostility that followed Tom’s ousting and their public fighting. However, this album is properly planned, thought out and presented in a way that showcases what they can really do when all of that drama is put aside and their musical talents and professionalism are in the spotlight instead. I urge you, listen to this with an open mind, opinions aside and just hear what is going on. I guarantee you’ll be won back to Team Blink much like I have with what I’m going to say is an album that’s on par with the likes of Take Off Your Pants And Jacket or Dogs Eating Dogs (minus a song or three throughout). Well done boys, I didn’t think it was possible but I am once again frothing for the future of blink-182…
blink-182 – NINE tracklisting
1. The First Time
2. Happy Days
5. Blame It On My Youth
6. Generational Divide
7. Run Away
8. Black Rain
9. I Really Wish I Hated You
10. Pin the Grenade
11. No Heart To Speak Of
13. On Some Emo Shit
14. Hungover You
15. Remember To Forget Me
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