Monday, October 17

Blink-182: Neighborhoods Album Review

It's no secret that Blink-182 disappeared from the public eye soon after the release of their 2003 self-titled album. That disc saw the trio starting to drift into the more somber, anthemic music, with, for better or worse, more instruments outside of a guitar, bass and percussion, and more than just four or five power chords per song. After the '03 hiatus, guitarist Tom DeLonge formed Angels & Airwaves, an extension of 2002's Box Car Racer side project, which came out around the start of the tension between Blink's members members. Meanwhile, bassist Mark Hoppus and insanely talented drummer Travis Barker hopped on over to form +44, and released a CD in late 2006. While there were some additional side projects, those were the two biggies. And I'm mentioning them here because after a 2008 plane crash involving Barker, the members of Blink reunited in early 2009, and finally, after what's seemed like a lot longer than the 31 months from reunion announcement to actual album, the group released Neighborhoods on September 27. And the album certainly borrows heavily from the trio's side projects, which isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes it definitely is. In any case, let's take a track-by-track look at the group's sixth studio album. Be warned, though, there is virtually no humor on this record, so don't go in expecting Enema of the State part two. [Note: This review includes the four tracks from the Deluxe Edition album, because hey, more is better, right?]

Ghost on the Dance Floor: The biggest complaint I have of this album is that Tom sounds way too much like his Angels & Airwaves self on this CD. This song does as good a job as any at emphasizing that--just take a listen to this, then listen to "All the Small Things" (and enjoy the hilarious video), and the difference is incredibly noticeable, and not in a good way. That being said, this is still a pretty good song which DeLonge has said is about sharing a song with a deceased loved one, and makes for a fine opener. 4/5

Natives: This one makes a strong case for best song on the album. A Hot Cup always enjoys when Tom and Mark both handle vocals on a track, and they do so well on this one. From the intro--highly reminiscent of old-school Blink (particularly the song "M&M's") to the reference to Jekyll and Hyde to Travis's insane drumming, "Natives" is extremely catchy. 5/5

Up All Night: This is the lead single of the album, and again, it's a strong showing with Mark and Tom trading off vocals. The main riff definitely sounds like it would be right at home on Box Car Racer's album, and while I didn't particularly enjoy it at first, it does grow on you. Maybe not the best choice for a lead single, but at least the next one is starting to get some airplay, too. 4.5/5

After Midnight: If any song is going to be a mega-hit from this album, it's "After Midnight." It's simple, straightforward and even a little sweet with its lyrics, and also has probably the catchiest chorus on the album. This was one of four tracks the band wrote during a last-minute session before the album was released, and while some of those other tracks aren't quite as powerful, this end result--which also happens to be Barker's favorite track--is fantastic. 5/5

Snake Charmer: This is another part of that writing session, but this one makes less of a lasting impression. It's allegedly about the Book of Genesis, specifically the story of Adam and Eve, but the end of the song's odd transition to the next track doesn't really serve a purpose, and after the strength of the first four tracks, this one's a bit of a dud. 3.5/5

Heart's All Gone Interlude: Just like "Down" on the '03 album had its own interlude (though that one came after the song it was named for, whereas this one comes before), "Heart's All Gone" gets the breakdown treatment. The end result is about the same as it was in 2003--a funky keyboard-heavy track that doesn't add anything to the album. 1.5/5

Heart's All Gone: Fortunately, though, the CD gets back on track after the two-minute interlude with the throwback "Heart's All Gone." Hoppus has described this at a show as "a new song that sounds like an old song." He's absolutely right--I thought we were back in the 90s with Dude Ranch when I heard this one. And that is certainly not a bad thing. Barker's drumming is top-notch here once again. 5/5

Wishing Well: A cute little number with cool imagery in the chorus (and "da-da-das" too), "Wishing Well" might be one of the more simple songs on the album, but that's a compliment. Probably the best song only featuring Tom. 4.5/5

Kaleidoscope: This is where some of the lyrics start to sound a bit forced, as if Blink is trying to be too clever. "Stop banging away on my kaleidoscope/stop draining the color out of my scene...Stop blocking the driveway with your car/put the butterfly in the bill jar." Not entirely sure what that means (if anything at all), but it's alright as far as a toe-tapper goes. 4/5

This is Home: There's not a ton to say about this song; the lyrics are decent but the rhythm is pretty forgettable. Nothing great, but not the worst on the album. 4/5

MH 4.18.2011: DeLonge said this title reminds him of a virus, but unfortunately it's not the most infectious thing on the album. It's not a bad ditty, but again, the lyrics fall flat, specifically the line "Stop hiding in the shadow of a helicopter." As a current resident of Southern California, I can safely say helicopters covering the area in darkness is not a common occurrence, so I'm not sure what this line is supposed to imply. 4/5

Love is Dangerous: This one's another chance for DeLonge to show off his "arena rock" chops. Again, it's not bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to the early dominance this album showed. But when you compare it to the next track, it's one of the best things ever. 4/5

Fighting the Gravity: Ugh. This is just awful. It sounds almost like another interlude, except it goes on for nearly four minutes. Just a lot of noises and random sounds while Hoppus repeats "This makes no sense" ad nauseum. It makes no sense as to why this was included on the record, even if it was only the deluxe edition. I understand Blink wanted to take some risks with this album, but this was the wrong way to do it. 1/5

Even If She Falls: After the travesty that is "Fighting the Gravity," really anything else would be a good follow-up. Fortunately for the album closer, "Even If She Falls" is does a good job of closing things out. It's not a great closing track in the sense that it brings the album together, closes on an epic note, etc., but it's a catchy number and reminds us that Blink can still make good music, even if it doesn't involve farts, wieners, and poop. 4/5

Overall, waiting eight years for an album is tough, especially when the creators of that album were pioneers in the punk/pop-punk scene in the late 90s and early 00s. But that Blink is mostly dead and gone, and a more mature, anthemic sound dominates this record. If you're a fan of the side projects I talked about before, this album will absolutely please you, but there are very few moments on this CD that make you want to get up and start rocking out like some of their earlier stuff did. My best recommendation is to skip the deluxe version and pick up "MH 4.18.2011" separately if possible, because the other three are "Snake Charmer," "Heart's All Gone Interlude" and "Fighting the Gravity," which are arguably the three worst songs on the entire album. But the first four songs especially (with "Heart's All Gone" added in as well) show that Blink is far from incapable of making good, solid music that's enjoyable to listen to. They may never dominate the industry again, but they can certainly survive.

Overall Score: 4/5

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