Let's just all forget that Neighborhoods ever existed.
Blink-182 without Tom DeLonge is a frightening prospect, just as it is with any band once a main member leaves or is kicked out. California, their seventh album, is their first minus DeLonge and a record that fans were anxiously awaiting while constantly asking “where are yeeeeeewwwww” regarding DeLonge’s departure, à la the band’s classic ‘I Miss You.’ It is sentiment that could have been fitting with this record but man, the new Blink lineup has hit a home run.
After the disappointing Neighborhoods in 2011, there wasn’t a lot of hope surrounding another release from Blink-182 regardless of whether DeLonge was involved or not. Fast-track to him leaving for many, many bizarre reasons, Alkaline Trio vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba was a solid choice to fill the void. California doesn’t even feel like a new Blink record – it’s as though they had this album stashed away in some sort of time capsule from the early 2000s. It’s an extension of the band’s iconic aura, even sans DeLonge.
Having never listened to Alkaline Trio, Skiba’s vocals were a new pattern for me to get used to. It didn’t take long at all since Skiba’s range in regards to fitting alongside Mark Hoppus is instantaneous. It’s actually hard to distinguish from the two in some songs, especially the chorus of lead track ‘Bored To Death.’ Skiba obviously doesn’t have DeLonge’s unique vocal tendencies and pronunciation, but it does come out in moments – perhaps just a given for any new vocalist in the band.
Blink-182 has been a band that I’ve enjoyed for at least nine years, and listening to California brings back so many memories of discovering them through turn-of-the-millenium records Enema Of The Stateand Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. Way back when, I’d spend a majority of my time in my room dancing and singing along to the likes of ‘All The Small Things,’ ‘First Date,’ ‘Always,’ and ‘Feeling This,’ which is exactly what I felt like doing with this album during the first listen. ‘She’s Out Of Her Mind’ and ‘King Of The Wasteland’ are instant classics from their repertoire, harnessing the ability to summon my inner teenage self in an instant.
This nostalgia also taps into California‘s subject matter – three over 40-year-olds singing about teenage worries, woes, and loves keeps Blink-182 as Blink-182. They’ve always been the band to voice their feelings on past experiences of growing up. “It’s a long way back from seventeen / The whispers turn into a scream” from ‘Bored To Death’ is one, but it’s ‘Teenage Satellites’ that stands above the rest with Hoppus and Skiba narrating young teenage love: “I’m kind of nervous of the consequence / As we climb over the neighbour’s fence / The longest summer’s nights are numbered / Like I’m the only one you’ll ever need / We’re left abandoned in the deep end;” “We tumble through the night / We burn so bright / We’re teenage satellites.”
Of course, no Blink-182 album would be complete without a couple of nonsensical songs about naked guys and fingering: ‘Built This Pool’ and ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’ fulfill this need. How old are they again? Making music like this, it doesn’t really matter.
California is out now via BMG