Album Review: “Neighborhoods” by Blink-182
By Kevin Terrell
Released September 27, 2011
Blink-182? The guys that ran naked through L.A. for fun and closed out the 1999 MTV VMAs in a blaze of sparklers and dancing migets? Yeah, they’re back to together and touring in support of their new album Neighborhoods, released on September 27. So how’s the new sound? In a word: confusion.
Some quick background is necessary. In 2005, armed with a bottle of painkillers and a book of “The 100 Most Obvious Metaphors in Music,” singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge grabbed Blink manager Rick DeVoe and left in a huff to try and change the world with lasers and synthesizers as Angels and Airwaves. Missing their angstiest muse, signer/bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker were left to rely on their earnest but erstwhile punk roots, slogging through European pubs and basement venues as +44. Then in 2008, Barker narrowly survived a Learjet plane crash that claimed the lives of four people. With a renewed sense of purpose, the band reconciled and the result is here, a 36 minute, 34 second “lets try to make this work.”
The album opens with a fade up on Barker mid-session, like we walked in on him practicing in a garage. Cue the synthesizers, which mercifully fade back behind DeLonge’s plucky guitar before the beat kicks up. The rest of “Ghost on the Dancefloor” actually works, and the chorus might be the best hook on the album. The follow-up “Natives” is even better, for pace if not for lyrics. Barker lays down the most intricate rhythm of the album, as if proving just how many beats he could’ve gone with. The heavy first single, “Up All Night,” is the closest thing to reconciliation between Hoppus and DeLonge, who trade off lines of dark lyrics before meeting at the lamenting, down-stroked chorus.
The album is forgettable for most of the remainder thanks to DeLonge’s breathy crooning and blah imagery, bad habits he picked up with Angels and Airwaves (stuff like “the waves on the shore,” “I see a city with lights,” and, did he just say “I’ll catch a shooting star”?) The +44-eqsue “Heart’s All Gone” is the blaring exception – a post-punk romp that allows Hoppus shake the dust off his aggressive take to vocals. Barker’s drumming is its own food group. His playing is the most technical and assertive of his rock career, and the producers wisely turned up the volume.
The trio has emerged from their split as three “individuals,” so afraid to step on each other’s creative toes they occasionally sound like they’re playing three different songs (“Kaleidoscope”). But at times they forget to still be mad at each other with positive results (“Even If She Falls”). The fact that three aging skaters from Southern California can still sell out areas is a testament to just how popular they were in their prime. But then the unlikely happened – Blink-182 outgrew Blink-182 before we did.
Key tracks: Ghost on the Dancefloor, Natives, Up All Night, Snake Charmer, Fighting The Gravity