Originally published in The Hindu Metroplus in October 2011.
Being one of those bands many teens grew up listening to, returning to the fold and coming back in style was definitely not too troubling for Blink 182. And while the band has claimed in several interviews that their current rapport remains as “fragile as before”, the punk rockers first original album in eight years – ‘Neighborhoods’ – has a good mix up old-school skate punk, as well as the pop rock elements which were originally conceived by the California trio.
On ‘Neighborhoods’, there’s clearly an earnestness with which Blink want to return to their roots, but also picking up where they last left off with the self titled album from 2003. Synth-laden parts are clearly a post-Angels & Airwaves necessity for vocalist and guitarist Tom Delonge. He fills in on vocal duties on most tracks, but bassist Mark Hoppus gets his chance as well. Drummer Travis Barker’s complex beats have always been considered an unexpected element for music that’s essentially pop punk, but this remains one of Blink’s long-standing USPs, one that can hardly be criticised.
Lyrically, there is a stringing together of ideas and experiences that are commonplace to existence in a suburban neighborhood. Tales of growing up with love, heartbreak, friendship and enmity are poised against the essential teenage credo of living for the day. “We’ll have the time of our lives/Even though we’re dying inside” ends the main refrain for the curiously-titled song ‘Natives’. Curious, because Hoppus and Delonge sing of leaving home and going it alone on what is the second song on the album.
Catchy riffs and precise stickwork produce the intended dance punk effect in songs such as ‘After Midnight’, and on ‘Snake Charmer’, it seems danceable as well, if you mean slam dance and mosh pits. Delonge continues the story of heartbreak and distrust with this rhyme: “That’s how it was all to begin/cause good girls they like to sin/way back at the starting line/when Eve was on Adam’s mind”.
As much as there’s the emo Blink 182, in the anthem lead single of ‘Up All Night’ and the even-more infectious ‘Heart’s All Gone’ there is a return to the classic fast paced punk rock that is reminiscent of their Cheshire Cat era. Appealing to old and new fans proves to be a challenge, though. On ‘Kaleidoscope’, Hoppus sings “Get another stamp in your passport/wash your breakfast down with some red wine/delete the progress on your game/try to fall asleep while your ears ring/from the loudest songs on your mixtape”. Muddled as it may seem, we must remember that Hoppus is trying to reach out to at least two different generations using these references.
Towards the end, ‘This is Home’ (“Police cars bring cuffs and loaded guns/kids scream, but laughing as they run”) and ‘Mh 4.18.2011’ (in which Hoppus happily sings “the worst is yet to come/save your money for hired guns”)go straight for the gusto of teenage angst and broken home-raised kids.
What is missing is the fun and joy punk as well, which the band have certainly captured before – remember ‘All the Small Things’ – and instead, we find the trio immersing themselves in the darkest of feelings.
‘Neighborhoods’ contains the (continued) reflections of the band members growing up in tumultuous yet heart-racing conditions. Littered with notes of broken hearts and homes, it attempts to stay on the same page with the current crop of punk rock bands , most of whom (ironically) cite Blink 182 as a formative influence.