Blink-182 Make Respectable Comeback on ‘California’
Although ‘California’ is a respectable, enjoyable comeback from Blink-182, the punk-pop veterans miss former frontman, Tom DeLonge.
Despite the fact that Tom DeLonge may (or may not) be focusing energies on UFOs, punk-pop band Blink-182 returns with California. Matt Skiba (The Alkaline Trio) replaces DeLonge on vocals and guitar. Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker remains. California‘s songs don’t supplant classics like “All the Small Things,” “Dammit,” or “What’s My Age Again,” but it’s enjoyable and well-rounded. Tom DeLonge missed, without a doubt…no offense Matt Skiba.
“Cynical” is a brief, fitting opener, referencing opinions about new-look Blink-182. Blink-182 prudently addresses the issue head-on. “Bored to Death” proceeds gloriously, opening with Barker’s signature drum groove. “Bored to Death” references past (“It’s a long way back from seventeen”), present, and future. The energetic standout jabs at Tom DeLonge:
“Save your breath, I’m nearly / bored to death and fading fast / life is too short to last long…”
“She’s Out of Her Mind” is feel-good, punk-pop in the classic sense. Not a surefire hit, the record provides ‘similar satisfaction’ to previous hits. “Los Angeles” isn’t deep or transcendent, but musically checks off many boxes, propelled by Barker’s superb drumming.
“Sober” amplifies pop sensibilities, co-written by Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump. The results are pleasing to the nth degree. The anthemic chorus is the biggest selling point. The vocal production and tradeoff between Hoppus and Skiba are particularly effective here.
Following the ridiculous 0:16 interlude “Built This Pool” (“I want to see some naked dudes / that’s why I built this pool”), “No Future” follows ‘optimistically.’ Despite the fact that “they don’t care about you,” this pessimistic anthem rocks. If little is surefire about California, “No Future” is fun and exhilarating; sufficient for a season. “Home Is Such A Lonely Place” contrasts “No Future,” but retains the pessimism. Mellower, the attempt at being kinder and gentler is appreciated if flawed.
“King of the Weekend” steps up the game, increasing the energy level and oomph. Explosive and up-tempo, “King of the Weekend” is a rare moment showcasing new-look Blink-182 ‘locked in.’ “Teenage Satellites” is cleverly penned, yet familiar.
“We are a slow descent / forgotten astronauts / we are an avalanche / we’re just an afterthought”
How many songs have used teenage plight as inspiration? Numerous. Ultimately, successful without being mind boggling.
According to producer John Feldmann, the initial fear of the inclusion of “Left Alone” was its perceived similarities to single “Bored to Death.” “Left Alone” does sound in fact similar, but also ranks among California’s best moments. The chorus is catchy and memorable. The brief “Rabbit Hole” embodies the spirit of punk-pop, thanks to its quick tempo and the “great equalizer” – the f-bomb.
After asking “Los Angeles” to save them, Blink-182 opt for “San Diego,” where Hoppus met Tom DeLonge and the original Blink-182 was formed. Compared to “Los Angeles,” fair or not, “San Diego” is deeper and more meaningful. Clearly, the personal nature of “San Diego” makes it pop out of California more than other songs.
“The Only Thing That Matters” kicks up the tempo, packing a mean punch just under two minutes in duration. Title track “California” follows, serving as the album’s penultimate track and final full-length. There’s more maturity – Blink-182 have ‘grown up.’ Fittingly, interlude “Brohemian Rhapsody” concludes California:
“There’s something about you / that I can’t quite put my finger in.”
All in all, California is respectable – a well-rounded comeback album from Blink-182. There are some issues. The biggest issue goes by the name of Tom DeLonge, who is clearly missed despite Matt Skiba’s excellent contributions. The other issue is that despite hearkening back to the past, Blink-182 is missing that extra “oomph.” The current members are 40-plus, so naturally, there’s heightened maturity. Still, California finds the punk-pop phenoms aging.
Gems: “Bored to Death,” “Sober,” “No Future,” “Left Alone” & “San Diego”