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Music Review: Blink-182 – Neighborhoods

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I was an Angels and Airwaves fan before I ever listened to Blink-182. A friend introduced me to Angels and Airwaves (AVA), and after I fell in love with the space rock-romanticism of AVA, I started listening to some of Tom Delonge’s hits in his older, more popular band, Blink-182.

That same friend introduced me to +44, the band that Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker created after Blink-182 split up. As I listened to the songs of Angels and Airwaves, +44, and Blink-182 on YouTube, I read the comments (always a mistake for the intellect) and gradually put together the pieces of Blink-182’s ugly breakup and demise.

Then I remembered the tears of friends who were devastated when Blink-182 broke up in 2005. It came as a surprise to everyone, I think, when Blink-182 reunited in late 2008. By that point, I was glad to see them get back together, because I had become a fan of Blink-182’s clean, emotionally-charged songs like “Adam’s Song,” “I’m Lost Without You,” and “Not Now.”

I didn’t, and I still don’t, care for the juvenile humor and profanity that has made Blink-182 popular among thousands, so I pick and choose which songs I listen to. It’s a strange phenomenon, but that’s what single Mp3 downloads are for. Clean albums are for people like me.

My AVA/+44/Blink-182 friend sent me a link to “Up All Night” when it came out this July. I was pleased to hear the reunion of DeLonge and Hoppus—back in the power-chord rhythms and angst-filled tones of Blink-182—but tempered with a few years and the experience they’ve gained from their other projects.

I listened to the whole Neighborhoods album on the Blink-182 Neighborhoods site on September 27. The album is what I expected: some touching moments, driving rhythms, new sounds mixed with old, and the profanity and f-bombs that won’t go away because they’re Blink-182.

Hoppus said that each member brings a “very different aesthetic, talent and sound to the band.” He’s absolutely right about their artistic differences, but to their credit, the music is never disjointed. Through two listens of the album, I never got the feeling that the trio were not on the same page. The music is coherent and good; it is neither a betrayal or their old style nor a rehash of old material. It’s fresh and recognizably Blink-182.

Thematically, Neighborhoods is, as another reviewer said, the natural continuation of Blink-182’s 2003 self-titled album. The confusing struggle between the sexes, the dangerous nature of love, the horror and wonder of the human condition—it’s all there to listen to, eight years later, from Delonge and Hoppus.

I’ll mention a few highlights:

  • “Ghost on the Dance Floor” is a great opening to the album. The bass line, synth, and somber vocals provide the perfect backdrop for this mournful goodbye—this acknowledgement of a loved one whose memory remains with us. “Ghost on the Dance Floor” hits the emotional nail right on the head.
  • “Natives” is a dark, cynical track reminiscent of +44’s album. The quick lead guitar riffs, and Mark’s low tones in the chorus, resonate with the self-absorbed isolated loneliness of a number of previous Blink-182.
  • “Up All Night,” which I have to mention again, was the perfect single for this album. The lyrics on the human condition that we all live under provide the perfect foundation for the song. It’s a driving anthem that exemplifies the new Blink-182 sound with the familiar.
  • I appreciate the “Heart’s All Gone Interlude,” because I love the use of interludes in albums, even if “Heart’s All Gone” itself disappointed somewhat.
  • “Snake Charmer” has surprising Biblical references to Adam and Eve as Tom sings about dangerous women—“good girls who like to sin.” It reminds me of “Easy Target” and “All of This” from Blink-182, but with darker lyrics, and religious and mythological diction.

Overall, I give the album a 3 out of 5. I still can’t stand the profanity that is a mainstay in Blink-182’s music, which docks points from them in my book. My friend once called their lyrics “a broken clock that is still right twice a day.” That comment might please the angst-filled ears of Blink-182.  I enjoy that broken clock, which occasionally hits a profound note with high gain and a Travis-Barker drumbeat. Blink-182 recaptures their edgy stride and swagger with Neighborhoods.

Now I’m waiting for Angels and Airwaves’ Love Part II on 11/11/11.

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