Angels & Airwaves – Lifeforms
Released: September 24, 2021
Tom DeLonge // Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard
David Kennedy // Guitar, Synth
Ilan Rubin // Drums, Vocals
Matt Rubano // Bass, Vocals
There’s a lot of hype and anticipation that comes with your favourite musician’s return to the music scene and to say my infatuation with Angels & Airwaves‘ comeback has been huuuge would be an understatement. Their last album, 2014’s The Dream Walker opened my eyes to a new way to emotionally connect with music and I’ve been pining for the return of AvA since those songs slowly dropped off my radar. When news broke of guitarist David Kennedy‘s return to the band, the hype grew larger and for the past couple of years we’ve had teaser song after teaser song drop – ultimately leaving us with over half the album released as singles already – but with every new song, came a new profound love for the direction Tom DeLonge, Ilan Rubin, David and newcomer Matt Rubano would take and now that the rest of the album has finally landed within my grasp, it’s time to dissect it all and find out if it was well and truly worth the seven year wait…
Kicking off festivities is ‘Timebomb‘, a track us hardcore AvA fans have heard poorly filmed versions of from the band’s recent live shows throughout the US, but even though we already had a taste for it – it still packs a different punch hearing the studio version after all this time. In terms of an album opener, it isn’t as strong as the next track ‘Euphoria‘ (more on that in a second) but it’s got all the quirky things we know and love from this group such as uptempo synthetisers, Tom’s iconic twang/mispronunciations and that futuristic future rock sound AvA have perfected since their conception way back in 2005.
‘Euphoria‘ was released on May 20th and four months on, it still slaps like day one. For the ill-informed, this is your unique Angels & Airwaves sound – the iconic Tom DeLonge guitar strums combined with the loud, anthemic synth throughout draws you in and captures your attention immediately from the opening bars! Tom’s vocal twang is on point and the chorus sing-a-longs still make you wanna scream along with every spin. I can’t wait to catch this in a live setting because it takes you back to the early years of this band with their debut album We Don’t Need To Whisper. Large sounding instrumentals and lyrics that are infectiously catchy and fun to belt out. ‘Spellbound‘ dropped not too long ago and upon first listen, it wasn’t what I expected to hear from the band, but fast became an instant favourite because of their approach to go against the norm and release a song they wanted to. The focus of this song was all on bassist Matt Rubano and his sexy basslines which made this disco-esque/synth single an addictive earworm. Big fans have commented on the similarities in sounds between this song and The Dream Walker, as well as the Chasing Shadows EP. Bit of old with a bit of new that just worked so well.
‘No More Guns‘ on the other hand, ventures away from the signature sounds of the album (and singles) in favour of an upbeat bop that feels somewhat out of place musically. I can’t put my finger on the influences, but it’s like an updated version of swing songs from the 60s blended with a touch of pop punk and Tom’s “Nursery Rhymes on Crack” ideology (if you’ve seen Ernie Ball’s Pursuit of Tone, you’ll know what I mean). The lyrics in the chorus go: ‘woah oh, no what can you say / we’re gonna play with our guns today / woah oh, like do that tonight / shoot up the streets gonna die tonight’ and it suits the sound, but doesn’t suit the band. It’s new territory for Angels & Airwaves and I’m not sure where it sits with me yet…
‘Losing My Mind‘ was another one of those songs that hit differently upon first stream, but after giving into it two or three times later, you couldn’t help but remain hooked. The first taste of this disco-inspired sound the band have honed in on with this release also marked the introduction of “Disco“, a new DeLonge alter-ego related to “Boomer” from blink-182‘s ‘First Date‘ music video. Both the music video and song worked perfect for the delivery of what the band were hoping to achieve on this one and the end result makes it one of the best songs to be released from the album (or in years). ‘Automatic‘ is a fast-paced acoustic track with synth and plenty of sing-a-long moments through the chorus. It’s fun, with elements of the band’s career from start to finish (kind of like the best bits if you will) all rolled into one. You’ll be hooked from first listen, guaranteed. I also have a feeling this one may have been conceived during the We Don’t Need To Whisper Acoustic EP recording sessions because it’s not too far removed from ‘The Adventure – Acoustic‘ in terms of sound and background synth and effects.
‘Restless Souls‘ takes us on a journey back in time through Angels & Airwaves back catalogue with hints of their cult fav release I-Empire (2007) and Love (2010) largely being the inspiration behind the sound of this track. It’s definitely one that showcases Ilan Rubin behind the drums, but lyrically, it’s got that AvA charm of delivering messages of hope, clarity and perseverance – something Tom manages to achieve so effortlessly. How’s this for a trip back – ‘Rebel Girl‘ was first released on May 1st way back in 2019 – just as the band started their comeback to the music scene. The 80s vibe no longer sounds out of place when compared to later released singles like ‘Losing My Mind‘ and ‘Spellbound‘ – but the duration from single drop to album drop has slightly aged this one in my opinion. Granted it was the first song released from the band in three years, two years on top of that, it’s definitely been long enough to either drop it from the album or rework it in some way shape or form for Lifeforms.
‘A Fire in a Nameless Town‘ takes me back to 2013’s Stomping the Phantom Break Pedal (remember the background sound in the ‘Surrender Remix’?) – well it has been given a kinda/sorta Stranger Things makeover and placed in the background of this anthem which has all of AvA‘s singers lending their voices throughout, making the chorus’ sound louder, fuller and so much more wholesome, especially when Tom is belting out the words: ‘go, I don’t mind, I’ll wait here / if you search for yourself dear / don’t forget us this time / please stay here, one more night’. Just try and stop yourself from joining in, it’s infectiously catchy and you’ll be humming it to yourself randomly down the track. Guarantee it.
Much like ‘Rebel Girl‘, its follow-up single ‘Kiss & Tell‘ dropped in early November 2019, so we’ve been sitting on this upbeat love song for almost two years – but the difference between this hit and the aforementioned, was that the signature sound of this banger fits perfectly amongst the rockier songs on Lifeforms. The second you hit play on this one, you instantly recognise it’s an Angels & Airwaves track – and that in itself is an incredible feat for how this band stays relevant after so many years out of action. It’s fun, colourful, emotional and shows off each member’s musical abilities without forcing it down your throat. Tom, Matt, David and Ilan shine in their own sections and we truly get an idea of how well this new era of the band play together on this song alone. Say what you will about it but it still slaps after all this time and just leaves you wanting more from this album, so much so I’m going in for another spin!
Putting aside delays, an elongated promo campaign and almost the entire album dropped as singles before release day – Angels & Airwaves have dipped their feet back into the alternative music scene with a safe, yet daring (at times) approach, combining signature styles with old-school inspirations that’ll please the biggest of fans and draw in a new crowd who may not have been on board before. With the world turning to shit around us, Tom DeLonge and co. have delivered an inspirational album full of hope, positivity and motivation to usher us through the challenges we’ve faced over the past two years so we’re ready to run full speed into the next phase of our lives.
Angels & Airwaves – Lifeforms tracklisting
4. No More Guns
5. Losing My Mind
7. Restless Souls
8. Rebel Girl
9. A Fire in a Nameless Town
10. Kiss & Tell