Album Review: Blink-182 – California

Published On July 13, 2016 | By Haydon Benfield | Albums, Music

Blink-182 have never been a band in danger of going down in history as purveyors of high-art.  Not that the group ever had any such pretence about them, after all this is the group who gave us Family Reunion – a song composed almost entirely of expletives – and whose most successful album was titled Enema of the State.  They were too clean-cut and polished for the punk-purists, and too crass and out there for polite society, which made them the perfect pop-punk poster boys.  They mixed three-chord punk energy with catchy and quirky melodies, while deftly shifting the lyrics between the comical and the poignant.

Blink-182 - CaliforniaAfter their day in the sun in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the band went on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ in 2005 as creative tensions grew amongst the members.  A reformation occurred in 2009, which lasted until 2015 when Tom DeLonge left permanently.  With recording and touring commitments already made, remaining founding member Mark Hoppus – along with long time member, Travis Barker – decided to keep Blink-182 going, and so enlisted Alkaline Trio frontman, Matt Skiba, to replace DeLonge.  Replace isn’t quite the right word as on California, the group’s first release with the new line-up, Skiba is confident enough to not seek to replicate DeLonge’s vocal or guitar style at every turn.

There is plenty to tie California to the Blink-182 that came before, unsurprisingly not the least of which is Hoppus’ vocals and bass work, which feels so familiar on opening track CynicalCynical starts off as a nice confessional about anxiety and depression, but veers off before things get too serious.  This is territory that is revisited with Rabbit Hole, which manages to blend mature content with a juvenile twist that rendered early Blink so charming.  While Skiba steers clear of copping DeLonge’s style, he does make a decent showing on Bored To Death and Sober, with the melodies feeling very much like those fans from the ‘90s would be familiar with.

Los Angeles features a tension within the music that is worthy of further exploration, and verges on being something extraordinary despite the lyrics being a little pat.  Kings of the Weekend feels stale, like a remembrance of past glories, and Teenage Satellites and the titular California are just plain bland; a blandness that many are attributing, and perhaps justifiably so, to John Feldman’s production and writing input.  Old school Blink skits get a look-in with Built This Pool and Brohemian Rhapsody, but these feel like an attempt to reassure the listener that this is Blink-182 and not some other, lesser, pop-punk band.

And really, that is California’s fault; it feels like it was released under the Blink-182 name because that name brings an established audience.  If California were released by a lesser known band it would hardly get a look-in, because it really doesn’t pass muster.  There a glimpses of Blink-182’s past charm and brilliance, and hints of new, powerful, band waiting to start out, but none of it fits with the Blink-182 nameplate.

3 / 5 stars     

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One Response to Album Review: Blink-182 – California

  1. RockBrigade says:

    Interesting review, about what I expected, I guess. Was fairly sceptical about this album but I have to say, ‘Bored to Death’ (which I believe is the lead single) is an excellent song.