alifornia, the new album from pop-punk legends Blink-182, is everything a comeback album should be. It blends punk guitar riffs with pop melodies and maintains the spirit of ‘zero fucks given’ that Blink are famous for. California sounds more like their old sound than anything they’ve had for a while, but it doesn’t feel regressive.
The forerunning single from the album, ‘Bored To Death’ (BTD) which came out in May, suggested a broodier, more mature direction for the band. The opening track ‘Cynical’ initially fools us into thinking the whole album is going to follow this serious theme, however, 28 seconds into the song hyperactive drums and guitars abruptly kick in, assuring us that Blink-182 will never really grow up. And thank god for that.
Fans might have been concerned that with the exit of founding member and predominant voice of Blink-182, Tom DeLonge, the band would never compare to their younger years. You can put your concerns aside. California is brilliant. Mark Hoppus has slipped effortlessly into role of lead vocalist, supported by Travis Barker on drums and newcomer Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio on guitar and vocals.
The album is a wonderfully energetic collection of some of Blink’s best, most mature writing to date. It also includes some seemingly meaningless and immature interludes such as the 17 second long ‘Built This Pool’ and the 30 second long closing number ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on which Hoppus sings the single line “there’s something about you that I can’t quite put my finger in.”
Blink-182 will never really grow up, And thank god for that
But jokes aside, California carries with it an important message. This band might have been, gone and come back several times. They might have lost and gained members. They might have done some growing up along the way, but as ‘Teenage Satellites’ and ‘Left Alone’ tell us, they haven’t forgotten what it was like to be a teen; misunderstood, misrepresented and brushed aside. They are no longer kids themselves, but they want to assure us that they haven’t left us behind; instead they have become the leaders they called for in ‘Anthem part. 2’ back in 2001. However, do not be mistaken in thinking that Blink have gone all soft and want to be everyone’s Dad. No, they’re the kind of role models that won’t sugarcoat the truth, as the upbeat ’No Future’ tells its audience bluntly: “let the music seal your fate, yeah, you can run but life won’t wait, yeah, they don’t care about you”, Hoppus sings. Translation: in the real world no body is going to give a truck about your future so stop complaining and go and make it happen for yourself.
‘Bored To Death’ is the band’s first number one single in a decade. Guitar riffs reminiscent of their earlier sound are welded with the sound of anticipation and looking forward. The lyrics offer an ironic juxtaposition to this as Hoppus laments the struggles of growing up and no longer being seventeen. “It’s a long way back from seventeen, the whispers turn into a scream, and I’m not coming home”, he sings.
With themes of young love, partying and mental health, Blink remain as accessible as ever
‘She’s Out Of Her Mind’, ‘Sober’, ’Kings Of The Weekend’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’ provide the album’s catchiest pop melodies, reflective of the fast-paced recording process that pop-punk producer John Feldman insisted upon the band. With themes of young love, partying and mental health, Blink remain as accessible as ever. ‘Los Angeles’ and ‘San Diego’ are the heaviest, darkest moments on the album. With the album title being drawn from the band’s home state, these songs create a more negative, and perhaps more realistic description of the sunshine coast; a sobering reminder that nowhere you call home can you also call paradise.
California is their first number one album in over a decade. Maybe this is down to working with their first new producer since the death of their long-term producer Jerry Finn. Or perhaps the album’s success is a result of the fact that music charts seem to be making room for this genre again, and therefore bands like Blink-182 are being better received than they have been for years. Whatever it is, Blink-182 are back. Their lineup may have changed, but they know how Blink-182 should sound, and that is what California is. Welcome back the kings of pop-punk.