California

Blink-182

BMG Rights Management, 2016

http://blink-182.com

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/18/2016

Out of the California-based bands that are infamous for getting gleefully and frequently naked, the Red Hot Chili Peppers has always been my act of choice. But I’ve got to give Blink-182 credit; their seventh disc, an ode to my hometown, is a surprisingly delightful pop-punk romp that even dabbles in maturity at certain points.

With Tom DeLonge off chasing UFOs (and experiencing much friction with his former bandmates), the trio of frontman Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker is rounded out here by guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio. Even amid the fracas, the songs here are refreshingly tight, taking what the band has always done well – big, catchy choruses, throbbing drums and high-voltage guitars – and injecting some attempts at lyrical growth. Take opener “Cynical,” which launches out with Hoppus’s distinctive voice sounding slightly tentative as he says, “There’s a cynical feeling saying I should give up / You’ve said everything you’ll ever say.” But it’s a moment of self-doubt that doesn’t last too long: there’s a brief moment of silence before the lightning-fast drum and guitar assault kicks in and Hoppus delivers his snarky kiss-off of a refrain: “I’m sorry I’m not sorry now!” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It’s easy to see how Blink-182 established their pop punk reign in the ‘90s, spawning the likes of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, and All Time Low with their sometimes ridiculous but always highly accessible template. And they show no real signs of fading on California, their first to feature producer John Feldmann in place of longtime collaborator Jerry Finn. Lead single “Bored To Death” is an infectious jam, dynamic in its build and sprawling with harmonies. I’ve woken up with it stuck in my head for the past few mornings, so it’s got that going as well.

The Blink dudes are at their best when they’ve got all the pistons firing, like on the rowdy ode to an “antisocial angel,” “She’s Out Of Her Mind,” the slick and thrashing “Rabbit Hole,” and the all-too brief glimpse of a love song, “The Only Thing That Matters.” But to their credit, they do explore some slower tones, going full power-ballad on “Home Is Such A Lonely Place,” which strikes a similar vibe to their “Adam’s Song” hey-dey. “California” tries this to a lesser effect – it captures the languor of its namesake state, but also some of the mundaneness as well. Meanwhile, “San Diego” engages in a bit too much navel-gazing; it’s utterly catchy (despite directly swiping the riff from “Bored To Death”) but the lyrics reach for meaningful and instead settle for meandering and melodramatic (“Sometimes I feel like I’m the oxygen between / The cigarette and gasoline / I can’t sleep ‘cause what if I dream?”).

But in true Blink-182 fashion, they manage to wedge in some full-on ridiculousness to counterpoint the broad proclamations: see end-cut “Brohemian Rhapsody,” which turns out to be a 30-second, all-out explosion of guitars and drums with the Auto-Tuned quip, “There’s something about you / That I can’t quite put my finger in.” I was hoping for even more bang for the buck, especially with such an excellent title, but it’s feels like an earned way to get a laugh at the end of a rollicking disc.

California does well at striking a nice balance between humor and self-growth; though it can be heavy-handed at times, it’s still the sign of a band trying out new things rather than retreading the same path. While some of the tracks land better than others, there’s enough diversity of material here that it stays entertaining throughout. And while this won’t fortify you with any real lyrical depth whatsoever, it’s certainly a delicious, sticky-sweet Popsicle of an album guaranteed to keep you rocking.

Rating: B

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