Blink-182’s return with California is a great balance of not straying too far from their roots, while also avoiding stagnation. In what I would call their best album since 1999’s Enima of the State, Blink takes advantage of their new lineup and increased lifetime experience to craft a unique album that straddles the line of preserving a nearly 30 year old sound without ignoring what has happened in the music industry since the band formed in 1992.
Lyrically Blink-182’s 7th studio album starts off immediately in a way that directly addresses the controversy surrounding the band, namely the loss of Tom DeLonge. You can read everywhere about different sides and opinions on this exit, but the past is past and for better or worse, Matt Skiba has now taken the role of guitarist and co-lead singer of the band. As the opening song (Cynical) speeds up and Barker’s wild drumming kicks in, the stance of the remaining members seems to come out loud and clear with the lines “What’s the point of saying sorry now (not sorry, not sorry, not sorry, I’m not sorry)”
Notably, the loss of DeLonge does seem to have changed the band’s sound from that of their previous full length album, Neighborhoods. When DeLonge began releasing albums with his side project Angels & Airwaves, he explored a more moody and spacey sound. I think the beginnings of that sound can even be heard on Blink’s self titled album, but in Neighborhoods they came across loud and clear. California retains none of that influence and instead chooses to operate at a different frequency that allows them to operate in familiar territory without cloning their previous work.
Though this year seems like it may be shaking out to be a revival of the second wave genre, it has long since been out of the spotlight and to lose this sound that was so influential in my growing years would be a bit of an artistic tragedy, and yes, I do realize that is a funny sentence to use when describing a genre known for its sophomoric outlook on life. Nevertheless, it feels a sort of poetic justice that some of the largest progenitors of this genre in the mainstream would be influential in its revival the second time around.
Their first single, Bored to Death, is a great example of what 2nd wave pop/punk sounds like in 2016. While the genre tropes do exist in full force, the sound is not that of the early 00’s. Blink-182 manages on this track to remind people who they are without aping who they have been. With its darker tone, and subject matter, I think it also addresses the idea of aging rockers returning to the scene of their younger lives. It is a cynical look at their endeavor that reeks of honesty. The repeated chorus lines, “Back on earth, I’m broken, Lost and cold and fading fast ,Life is too short to last long” are a bleak outlook that works with the genre and the band’s age without simply posing the angst of their younger years.
Many of the other tracks on the album seem pensive in their chase for nostalgia, both in their harmonies which invoke a feeling of familiarity without feeling lazy and also lyrically and tonally with their longing for old relationships and places obviously full of memories. Part of my enjoyment of the album stems from the melding of the band’s nostalgic tracks and the listener’s nostalgic reaction to this band and their music. This wistful longing for things past is something Blink leans heavily on which in turn leaves the listener with the type of bittersweet emotions that stick with you even after the music stops playing.
Thankfully, not every track of the album is dependent on sadness as “She’s Out of Her Mind” proves. A fast and fun ditty about being in love with a girl who is a little bit crazy has one of those choruses that will get stuck in your head for days. The sarcasm of lines like, “She’s not complicated at all” feel more comedic than mean-spirited. This track and others such as “Sober” and “California” that prove that the Blink-182 humorous perspective is still represented in the current lineup. Speaking of humor, it has been years since Blink-182 has put out joke tracks an on LP and along with the humor in the previously mentioned tracks, two songs, “Built This Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” exist as the stupidity you deserve for listening to a Blink album–this I say with all due respect as a fan of the genre.
I keep coming back to this album even after a week of constantly listening to this album multiple times every day. Something about the skillful blend of old and new somehow invokes freshness and old memories at the same time. This is an album that will stick in my head for a good long while and will invoke happiness and sadness in my heart with each listen.
ULTIMATE SCORE: 5/5 Stars