-Blink 182 are stuck in the past on “California.”
Blink 182 were always the most overtly silly out of their mainstream rock contemporaries. While Green Day was making Big Political Statements, My Chemical Romance was making concept albums about death, Panic! At the Disco was experimenting with psych pop and cabaret, Linkin Park was making humorless school shooter edge music (and later an apocalyptic concept album, their only good album), Sum 41 was ripping off Green Day with more Big Political Statements, and The Offspring was already sounding old and past their time by 98, Blink 182 were sticking to what got them popular: catchy, fast, four chord pop songs about sex, partying, teenage love, jacking off, etc. High school music. That is, until the band imploded and went their separate ways: Mark Hoppus hosting a VH1 show, Travis Barker collaborating with rappers, and Tom DeLonge trying to be an Important Artist with his band Angels and Airwaves. (Important to him meant just sounding like an even blander U2.) I’m going to be honest, Tom DeLonge has always been my least favorite part of Blink. I’ve always preferred Mark Hoppus’s voice, and Tom’s inflated ego led to the band trying to be more serious, as evidenced by the bland “Neighborhoods.” This was the band who made a song called “I Wanna Fuck a Dog in the Ass.” Blink should never have been anything more than fun 3 minute pop songs. Not only that, but Tom himself lacked the songwriting capabilities to make really dynamic music. So when word came that Tom left the band (replaced by The Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba), and that Blink were coming out with an LP titled “California,” a tribute to the state I want to live in, I was excited, thinking I was just gonna get some catchy, summery, youthful Hoppus led pop songs.
…And that’s what they tried to do, but at 16 tracks they don’t bring the melodies consistently, and 5 Seconds of Summer and Good Charlotte producer John Feldman delivers the single worst production job I’ve ever heard on a rock record. Travis Barker’s drums, technically impressive as they are, don’t even sound real. They sound like the “Rock” preset on some $100 keyboard that some dipshit bedroom metal project would use: sterile and lifeless. I want to hear sticks slapping cymbals, I want some husk, some grit to the drums. That’s all sucked away in favor of perfect cleanliness. The guitars are that same blocky, bright tone that’s showed up on almost every mainstream rock record since 2004, where the bass is missing in action, and again, there’s no grit or imperfections. Coincidentally, the complete opposite of punk. Worse though, are the vocals, which are autotuned to the point where all of the richness is taken out of Mark and Matt’s voices. “California” is an album where the band is in inhuman rhythmic and melodic lockstep. It is technically perfect, but it still sounds like shit.
There are four good songs that rise above of the production hackjob, the opening three tracks and the 17 second “Built This Pool,” where the lyrics go:
“I wanna see some naked dudes
that’s why I built this pool.”
Too ridiculous to not be enjoyable.
The opening three tracks are good simply because Blink brings the tunes, and a catchy song is a catchy song no matter how bad the production is. (At least in my mind.) Elsewhere though, it appears they became allergic to a good melody, as the songs are consistently boring and drab: the opposite of what I expected this album to be.
“California” is an absolute trainwreck that is so poorly produced it’s appalling, and so badly written that it’s boring. I guess you never know what you have until it’s gone, as I was even starting to miss Tom DeLonge. At least he would do something interesting, or laughably bad. Something. Because even a Tom DeLonge shitfest is better than this.
Standout Tracks: “Cynical” “Bored to Death” “She’s Out of Her Mind” “Built this Pool”