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by: Gabe Nye
It’s 2016, and everybody’s talking about Blink-182. After checking to make sure I was in the right year, I decided to give their new album a shot. After so many mixed opinions about Neighborhoods, and after the departure of Tom DeLonge, I wasn’t sure what to expect from California. Some people expected new band member Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) to bring a new level of depth to the band, while others recognized the influence that DeLonge had on the band’s music and had little hope for the new lineup. Now that I’m about fifteen listens in, I honestly still don’t know what to think about the record, or about Skiba.
The album starts off with some good music, including the single “Bored to Death” and one of my personal favorites on the album, “She’s Out of Her Mind.” Immediately, you can tell the difference in their sound. Most of this has to do with producer John Feldmann. Feldmann creates such a clean, polished sound for the record. At first, I enjoyed the cleaner sound. It gave the album a greater sense of maturity, as though the band was looking to take a step forward with this album, rather than maintain their punk plateau. As I continued listening to the album though, I realized that a lot of the tracks were just as fun and punky and emotional as their previous records. And that’s when the production quality started to bother me. I feel as though it retracts a great deal of the atmosphere, sound, and feel that Blink-182 writes for.
Granted, there are a few tracks where this sound definitely compliments the song. Darker songs like “Left Alone” or “Los Angeles” absolutely fit the production, and benefit from it. Darker, more mature songs aren’t a new thing for Blink, though. Tracks like “Adam’s Song”, “I Miss You”, and “Stay Together for the Kids” are memorable not only for their lyrics, but for the raw sound that they have. The distortion and rugged vocals add to the emotion. Taking this into consideration, I think that the production on California is fantastic (except for a few hiccups here and there), but should have been used on another band’s album. It makes me miss the Blink we all wanted.
As for the songs themselves, it’s almost as though the band’s haven’t changed. They’re still writing fun music, broken up by angst and loneliness and heartbreak. With drum fills straight from Dude Ranch, guitar riffs from Enema of the State, and lyrics that sound like their self-titled and Neighborhoods had a baby, the band is definitely still themselves, even with a new member. However, I still feel like this album falls flat. Their direction is clear, but their execution is subpar. While it’s hard to tell why this is, I think there are two factors that contribute to this.
The first factor is that they’re old. Honestly, we need to stop expecting forty year-olds to make punk music as well as they used to. It feels like they’re struggling to hang onto the band that they were, with some terribly shallow lyrics and joke tracks that don’t fit and completely fall flat in their humor. Another factor is the addition of Matt Skiba. Tom DeLonge brought a certain element of depth and edge that the band desperately needed. He balanced them so well. Skiba doesn’t seem to bring much to the table as far as content goes, though it might be best to hold our judgment until their next release, to insure that it is in fact him.
Overall I liked the album, I really did. It was fun, and I listened to it on repeat for a full day. So many great choruses to sing along to, some fun riffs and a whole lot of feel good music. While I think it doesn’t touch some of their previous releases, there are already tracks from the album that I’ve thrown into some of my various playlists. I only wish that the album felt more cohesive, and didn’t seem so shallow. It still earns 3.5 stars in my book though, and makes me glad that Blink-182 is back in action.
POP DEFLATORS RECOMMENDS: “BORED TO DEATH”