When Tom Delonge called up band mate Mark Hoppus in 2005 he put an end to Blink 182 with the simple statement “I’m not doing this anymore”. After five studio albums and 27 million plus record sales across a thirteen year period the end came as painfully as a knife to the throat and young people across the western world were left empty. The band had been plagued by fights and creative differences for long enough. It was over.
Of course we never gave up. As fans we prayed and we hoped. For many of us the reformation of Blink 182 was something we yearned for completely. It was a dream we never thought would come true.
I can’t explain how it felt to see those words in 2009. I was sitting at a computer near the college cafeteria and as I kept reading, “we’re back”, “we’re back”, I felt four years of heartbreak heal in a moment. I cried a little. I think many people did.
Getting there was a journey, what with Travis’ near fatal plane crash and the apparent hatred the band felt towards Tom, and the time since hasn’t been easy either, the cancellation of this year’s European tour disappointed fans in a way we didn’t want to feel again, but on Monday the first Blink 182 album since 2003 finally dropped.
The arrival of “Neighborhoods” excited me, but it worried me too. I had looked forward to it for so long that the anticipation was almost ingrained into me, and having that come to an end was an unnerving prospect. The worst feeling of all was the one I got when the first track began playing; I felt nothing. I felt the same for the album’s entire duration. I felt the same for a while. Writing this review has changed that for me, but I’ll leave the explaining for later.
The release of their self titled album in 2003 marked a change for Blink 182. No longer were the songs filled with toilet humour, jokes about farting, aliens, and masturbation. Instead Mark and Tom were singing about darker, more adult themes like bullying, domestic violence, and relationships gone rotten. The new subject matter heralded the appearance of a “new” Blink 182. It lost them a lot of fans, but it gave them a much needed chance to prove themselves.
Of course maturity wasn’t as new a thing to the pop-punk princes as many people thought. It had been there all along in songs like “Stay Together For The Kids” on Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, and Cheshire Cat’s “Cacophony”.
The run up to 2011’s Neighborhoods posed many questions; were the band going to return to their roots, or were they going to follow on from the last album with the mature sound that had since filtered into +44 and Angels & Airwaves? Of course with the whole band aged between 35 and 39, and the obstacles that have faced them since them since the breakup in 2005, it seemed a lot more likely that they would plump for catastrophe rather than comedy.
And there-in lies the strength and the weakness of Neighborhoods; the darker side of the album works really well with the punky sound that we all love, but at times it swallows it whole.
The album opens positively. “Ghost On The Dance Floor”, which led to Travis calling up Tom because it reminded him of how he felt about the death of DJAM, is all about the sadly familiar experience of hearing a song you shared with a loved one that has since passed on. The track marries Blink’s separate gifts well; with Travis’ precise and powerful drumming, Tom’s chainsaw-esque guitar, and Mark’s strong bass sound, all preceded by an 80s style keyboard beginning. This theme continues on “Natives”, a song that includes one of Mark’s best sequences on the whole album; “I’m just a bastard child/ don’t let it go to your head/I’m just a waste of your time/maybe I’m better off dead/You turned us loose in the night/I’m fucking Jekyll and Hyde/we’ll have the time of our lives/although we’re dying inside”.
“Up All Night” is the record’s first real problem; it seems over produced, something that a lot of fans disliked about Angels & Airwaves, and this really stands out. At times the song seems unfocused, switching between sounds that don’t quite fit together, and the use of Mark’s vocals only on the chorus seems like a real waste.
On the whole the album is mostly positive, only lacking in one or two places, with moments of pure brilliance that really shine through. Earlier on in this review I mentioned that the album sparked no immediate emotions in me, but writing this made me concentrate on it, and experience it fully. I went eight years without a Blink 182 album, receiving this after so long demonstrated, at least to me, that despite my love for the band I don’t really need them anymore.
Neighborhoods is a near perfect return for Blink 182, it moulds together all that makes the band great, and god willing that combination will be something we see again and again, in many more albums.
Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/406-blink-182-neighborhoods