On July 1st, the 182nd day of the year, pop-punk outfit Blink-182 released their seventh (some would argue eight because of Buddha) album, California. This is their first album with guitar play and singer, Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio, after Tom DeLonge left the band earlier this year. Upon listening to the album in its entirety, I was surprised to hear how mature the record was in comparison to their previous efforts. Long gone are the jokes about having sex with a dog, or ejaculating in a sock. Their mature sound grew out of their self-titled album in addition to their previous album Neighborhoods.
This album as a whole was very easy to digest, and I do not know if that is a good or bad thing yet. On one hand, the album was easy listening. Travis’ drummer was roaring throughout the record, embellishing and holding back when necessary while Hoppus’ bass work and Skiba’s guitar work played off each other nicely.
On the other hand, Tom contributed a lot to Blink guitar-wise that was not heard on this album. This album truly lacks guitar riffs of any sort sans “Bored To Death”. There are a couple good progressions here and there, but the guitar melodies and riffs that I associated with some of Blink’s biggest hits such as “What’s My Age Again”, “Dammit” and “First Date” were absent on this album. My main gripe with the album is the inclusion of so many “whoas” and ” nanana”s because it sounded like the band was trying to cover up for the lack of guitar riffs. After listening to the album though, I will admit that while it is not as ‘complex’ as previous Blink efforts, this album is super catchy and has great choruses.
“Cynical” is a great opening song; it’s on par with their opening songs on other albums. I love the fact they kept Travis’ “ahh” mess up in the song. Mark screaming is refreshing and I’m surprised he didn’t scream more throughout the album. It transitions quite nicely into the next song in the album, “Bored To Death”. This song is surprisingly the shortest on the album: just shy of four minutes. I like the reverb used on the vocals used at the end and the overall feel of the song. It rises and falls quite a bit and it sounds really good. Up next is “She’s Out Of Her Mind”. I don’t know if it’s the opening bass line or the chorus, but it has a very Take Off Your Pants And Jacket feel to it. I love the delivery of the pre-chorus and the vibe this song gives off. It reminds me of old Blink-182. The piano heard throughout the song is a nice touch as well.
The fourth song off of the album is “Los Angeles”, and it is part of what I like to call the California trilogy, a trifecta of songs that are titled after a location in California, if not California itself. Maybe it’s the chorus, which sounds VERY similar to “Centuries” by fellow pop-punkers Fall Out Boy, but the song was really catchy. The song starts off with a very over-produced bass note thumping in the background before the chorus kicks into a belting of the band asking when Los Angeles will save them. The bridge was a nice slow down and change of pace. “Sober” has a really catchy intro lyrically. Out of this entire album, this is probably the most infectious lyrically for some reason that I just can’t put my finger on. Aside from that though, the song did not really stand out for any other reason.
The next song, “Built This Pool,” is the first of two short pieces. It is very reminiscent of the Blink songs from yesteryear. I would personally like to see a fleshed out version of the song simply to see where it could have gone. “No Future” takes a modified version of the guitar riff from What’s My Age Again and re-purposes it for this song. I think it is something with the chord progression in this song, or the intensity with which Matt Skiba is playing, but this song really sounds like an Alkaline Trio, and not just because Matt is from AK. The drumming and the bass work also sound like they were from an Alkaline Trio song, maybe off of Agony And Irony.
“Home Is Such A Lonely Place” is one of the few acoustic songs that Blink-182 has in their repertoire. It’s a very refreshing song to hear in the midst of all the pop-punk madness. The spacey reverb has a very “I Miss You” feel to it though. “Kings Of The Weekend” is definitely one of those songs you blast in the car and drive down the highway listening to with all of your hands up. Unfortunately, the following song, “Teenage Satellites” felt very uninspired and didn’t really stand out in the album in comparison to other tracks. “Left Alone” has a really interesting call and response in the beginning, but I absolutely hate the guitar tone in the chorus. It sounds way too distorted and muffled. “Rabbit Hole” is another old school sounding song. Again, maybe it’s the prominent bass that I associate with old Blink songs, but I really like it. I felt that the guitar fit well into the song. “San Diego” is the second song in the California trifecta and it starts off a lot more subdued than Los Angeles. Lyrically, there’s a lot of hidden messages, especially since the band started in San Diego, the place they arguably ‘lost Tom’. “The Only Thing That Matters” is an aggressive punk rock sound from start to finish. The way Matt sings his part of the verse in this song is directly from Help Me, from Agony and Irony. “California” is the last song in the trifecta and it is the most subdued song of the trifecta. It builds up to the final minute of the song where the drums and guitar really come in.
In the efforts to drop the biggest tease ever, they provide a 30 second snippet called “Brohemian Rhapsody”. If there was ever a song to keep writing and going forward with, this would be it. I would love to hear more of it if they ever release more, or tease it for their next album if they go down that route.
The songs on this album were easy to digest and listen to, and after this entire review, and spending more time listening to the album, I think that is okay. What I didn’t like with the album was the production. John Feldmann absolutely murdered the mix and post-production on this album, and not in a good way. Everything sounds flat and boring. The bass can barely be heard, sans three tracks and the lack of variation with the chords and melodies is a real sore point for me. What that doesn’t take away from is the undeniable summer vibe this albums put off and how fun it is to rock out to when in the car or working out. I’d give this album a solid 6.5 out of 10.
Edited By Lauren Fabrizio