After a six-year hiatus Blink-182 have returned, just not as we know them. Splitting up in 2003 after fights between guitarist Tom DeLonge and the other members, Neighborhoods marks the band’s first album since the dark and inconsistent self-titled album, and is a further step into a heavier, slower, more complex sound. This is a fitting move, and the influence of drummer Travis Barker’s plane crash is prominent throughout the album with death, age and isolation being the key themes in this layered, bold and unfortunately flawed work.
The album opens with ‘Ghost on the Dancefloor’, a track that discusses feeling alone in the universe — a far cry from the fast and frantic sound the band are so famed for. DeLonge brings a maturity to the lyrics, no doubt influenced by his post-Blink side project Angels and Airwaves. From here the album picks up, with ‘Natives’ and single ‘Up all Night’ returning to the more ‘traditional’ Blink sound, while retaining the theme of growing up, something most prominent in the track ‘After Midnight’ which may very well be the band’s best. Lyrics like “We’ll stagger home after midnight/Sleep arm in arm in the stairwell” show the band still have the ability to resonate with their imagery, even if it’s a trait they slowly lose as the album goes on.
And here is where the problem lies. While the album features a heavier sound and darker themes, the lyrics are too inconsistent in quality to keep the listener engaged, whether mentioning how “God invented chills” or that they “cut up sharks”, you cannot help but hear the struggle of Blink’s attempts to move on with their sound. This can be seen most clearly in the second half of the album, as the lyrics get weaker and the sound begins to vary more, pop synths weaving in and out of guitars to create a new sound for Blink, but alas a mediocre one.
Blink-182 have made their most ambitious album to date, and for the most part it seems like they have succedeed, creating a complex album that — while it will not be the arena material for the band’s upcoming tour — will provide a satisfying and engaging listen for those who give it the time to grow. Blink are back, and for that we should be grateful, even if it’s just not quite as fun anymore.