With all the angst of Dads reliving their suburban youths, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker are back with the addition of pop-punk stylings of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. Yet for all the attempted return to the skate-punk heavy riffs, Barker’s exceptional speed and drum breaks, and Hoppus’ nostalgia-fuelled vocals, Blink-182 remains a band haunted by the spectre of Tom DeLonge. The album is less an experiment into what one assumes the progression to be from Hoppus’ and Barker’s +44, and is more about what Blink-182 without DeLonge has become.
However, what California lacks in vigour, it makes up for in its lyricism. “Torn apart like the broken hearted, light it up with the fire we started, misery loves company” being a prime example of the difference that Skiba brings to the band, in lieu of DeLonge’s boyish witticism. The lyrics of ‘Misery’ too, recall the iconic skate-punk bands of yesteryear, resonating with Good Charlotte’s track of the same name. California is darker than the band’s previous album Neighbourhoods, and at least appears much more nostalgic for the return of a youth that without DeLonge’s infamous wine, is present in the band no longer. Although the album may not hold the promise and success that Neighbourhoods brought forth, the latest addition to the Blink discography remains to the band’s ethos.
California may well be the most experimental album Blink-182 have ever released, and does run the risk of disunity and unexpected turns
Skiba’s addition to the band satisfies the lifelong fan but perhaps at times his screams in ‘6/8’ take the band into places that prove cacophonous to the often energetic tones of the other songs on the album. His spoken word part of this song feels like a switch to an entirely separate band. But again, this is a totally different album, and overall Skiba’s addition to the band outweighs the potential clashes. California may well be the most experimental album Blink-182 have ever released, and does run the risk of this kind of disunity and unexpected turns.
In comparison, the beginning exchange between Hoppus and Skiba in ‘Bottom of the Ocean’ provides probably the best example of how exciting this vocal pairing can be when it works. Holistically, the new 12 songs released in the deluxe edition of the album do not work. That is not to discredit the songs individually, but it leaves the listener thinking of what could have originally been an exceptional album, with select songs like ‘Bottom of the Ocean’ featuring in the first release. What California, and the additional 12 songs on the deluxe album prove is that Blink-182 did not die with the birth of DeLonge’s Angels and Airwaves.
Holistically, the new 12 songs released in the deluxe edition of the album do not work
Although California solidifies the days of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket as being in the past, the band show no sign of halting anytime soon, and are undoubtedly progressing in lyricism and musicality. The album may prove over-produced and missing a degree of pop-punk rawness, but I am hopeful that the upcoming UK shows of the current tour capture the talent of the band where the studio album did not.