So, it comes by no surprise that I would fall in love with Blink 182’s newest album California and looks like I’m not the only one. Rolling Stone deemed that “the band is aiming to recapture its golden-age sound on” and I couldn’t agree more. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the album stands on its own, without the help of former lead vocalist/guitarist Tom DeLonge.
Sore subject, I know. All I would ever want is to hear that ear-drum piercing tone most famous on the second verse of the band’s hit “I Miss You,” “WHERE ARE YEWWWWW”. But, Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba does an incredible job “[coping] some lead vocal duties with a gruff edge that complements Hoppus, and doesn’t attempt to copy the irreverence of his predecessor Tom DeLonge”.
But, what can you expect? California is a road sign that signals where an older Blink 182 is setting its sights on. Bassist/singer, Mark Hoppus, and drummer, Travis Barker, are no longer teenagers and created an album through an adult lens reminiscing on the past.
Let’s give the band some credit where it ‘s due— fresh off a new lineup, and a new member, Blink was able to create a record with similarities from their peak period (aka their albums from 2001 to 2003).
Skiba’s harmonizing works with Hoppus and their chemistry is apparent on “No Future,” a song where Travis’ drumming is also showcased. Barker continues to kill it, most likely smashing his kit in the opener of “Cynical” and bringing back the intensity and urgency of their early material, as the first track heard on the album. For the first time, in a long time, the band sounds like one cohesive unit.
Did things change? One would be stupid not to recognize the aspects that have been compromised in this album compared to those in the past. Blink 182 has grown up, and instead of their lyrics telling the escapades of a trio running through the streets naked (about “Whats My Age Again” and its music video), you have adults who are looking back to their youth through a current- adult lens.
I think the biggest example of this shift is in one of their best songs on the album, “San Diego”. I find that there is a myriad of ways one can connect and interpret this track but to deny that it is heavily rooted in the past would be ignoring the beauty of the song. There are many connections to the passed, as noted in this track-by -track tour of the album.
“Skiba’s right at home, the mix of mid-tempo balladry and a driving hook recalls one of the band’s finest moments in “Adam’s Song” and there’s even a few self-referential nods in there. “We can go and see The Cure” nods to Robert Smith, who duetted with the band on 2003’s ‘All Of This’; while the line “can’t go back to San Diego,” the city in which the band was formed some 24 years, is an innermost confession that the entire world surrounding the band has completely shifted. It’s also easy to see the song’s level of instant accessibility be partially credited to Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, who assisted in writing the song.”
You can’t blame a band for evolving with that life throws at them. Isn’t that what music is about at the end of the day? Allowing it to follow you through all scopes of life and if you’re lucky, create something that connects individuals?
Perhaps “California” was not groundbreaking in its production or nuanced sound like earlier albums, but it does represent something far greater. This record shows that the future of Blink 182 has to do with enjoying performing the music one makes, and one thing no one can deny is that Blink 182 knows how to have fun and in turn, creating an incredible environment for their fans.
If you’re interested to hear how Hoppus and Skiba wrote each track, be sure to watch this video via Blink 182: ‘California’ – Track by Track.