I guess this is growing up….
I can’t think of a more polarizing band than Blink-182. One half thinks its radio garbage that only scene kids and Myspace queens loved, then the other half found something deeper in the lyrics “It’s labor day and my grandpa just ate 7 f*ckin hotdogs”. Like them or not, Blink was a massively successful band in the early to mid-2000’s, then self-imploded, then reformed for a couple years, put out a forgettable record “Neighborhoods”, then most recently had one of the founding members quit to go chase UFO’s. Yes this is real I did not make that last part up.
So after finding a replacement (Matt Skiba, Alkaline Trio), Blink-182 (or some weird half incarnation of the band), decided to put out “California”. To debut the new line up, to show kids that hey, Blink-182 still rocks, they are still punk, and they still make awesome tunes. Well this album didn’t say any of that. Instead what we get is an auto tuned monstrosity of generic bubble gum radio hits. This also isn’t an uncommon phenomenon to occur amongst “once punk now radio friendly” bands. (See: Fall Out Boy, A Day to Remember, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At the Disco, Good Charlotte).
The toughest thing to swallow is that at one point in time Blink-182 showed actual maturation. “Self-Titled” showed a departure from their previous care-free, silly, and pop-punk rooted “Take off Your Pants and Jacket”, and instead showed influences of Fugazi and The Cure. But with “California” the cycle reversed. It actually didn’t just reverse, but it also retreated.
So Blink-182 finds themselves singing about being 18 and being in love with a high school girl that has “Bauhaus” stuck in her head. Pandering ever so slightly to a crowd to show that even though they are still playing radio-friendly hits, they still are rooted in that “goth” and “emo” influence. When Blink panders this way, or when they are making songs about being a teenager, it doesn’t come off as sincere, it’s the exact opposite. How could three 40 something year old dudes still think they could pull that off?
The album hits an all-time low (thank you, I know) with the song “Los Angeles”. A trying effort to wax poetic about, you guessed it, Los Angeles, California. Skiba and Hoppus trade vocals as they plead “Los Angeles, when will you save me?” a line that might actually mean something, if it wasn’t drenched in auto-tune and glossy production. It’s a song curated directly for radio play, a song curated directly to be played at Hot Topic and Zumiez and while you are browsing over-priced acid washed jeans at Hollister.
Blink-182 isn’t talent-less. They play their instruments well, Travis Barker still brings interesting and somewhat original drumming, and Matt Skiba all in all was a positive addition to the band. But all of that doesn’t excuse this over-produced monstrosity of an album that a band of 20+ years put out. Shame on you Blink-182, or maybe shame on me for expecting something better than this.
by Andy Wilcox (@wilco204)