There is no easy way to write this review. Many of you clicked here hoping to read a straight-up bashing of anything Blink-182 related; you won't find it here. I have been a fan of the band for 6 years, and have never wavered even in all their "unpunk" practices. To me, it's the music that matters, not the commercialism behind it. If you write good songs, I will listen to them.
Blink-182 has gone through a metamorphosis, hinted towards through some of the deeper tracks off Take Off Your Pants And Jacket like "Stay Together For The Kids." The band has begun to probe their dark side, and I for one am glad they did. Poop and pee jokes only go so far. This album is as close to a reinvention of sound that Blink-182 could go through without being a wholly different band.
Opening track and first single "Feeling This" has been floating around the internet for some time now, and I know that I laughed the first time I heard it. The whole thing seemed ridiculous - Mark answering every vocal line with an enthusiastic "I'm feelin' it!"? A cowbell breakdown? Tom singing more like Chris Broach then Ben Weasel? Somehow, though, the song stopped being funny in my eyes and I really took to it. It's an innovative track with hooks aplenty, and fewer things are more fun than playing air cowbell in your car.
The album gets heavier immediately with "Obvious," a Tom-sung number with a thick guitar line, reminiscent of Box Car Racer. But this [and many other tracks on this album] succeed where Box Car didn't - these are fully fleshed out and better written, whereas the Box Car CD felt like a bunch of leftover ideas Tom had that Mark rejected. The band seems to be a functioning unit now, and songs like this prove it.
The next standouts come back to back with "Violence" and "Stockholm Syndrome." Both teeter at the brink of insanity, with Travis' drumming driving these songs to places never before seen in this band. Mark's vocals in the bridge of "Stockholm Syndrome" are the best he's ever done, both note-wise and lyrically. The bass and guitar as well as the vocal interplay between Mark and Tom is a perfect balance of blinding rage and focused melody.
One of the songs everyone will be talking about is "The Fallen Interlude." A slightly over 2-minute DJ Shadow-esque number used almost as an intermission between the halves of the album. While I'm sure you'll never hear this live, it's really compelling and well-programmed.
This leads us to "Go," a Mark-sung number that has also been floating around on the internet for the better part of a year. I'd peg this as the probable second single due to the strong vocals and catchy chorus, but the song isn't even 2 minutes long. It's nice to know the band knew when to quit on the song instead of making it more radio-friendly by beating it's chorus into the ground. Hoppus' repeated a capella yells of "I don't wanna know!" are as raw as his vocals have ever been, and show a maturation not present before.
"Easy Target" has an opening riff that reminds me of old Social Distortion, which is ironic since Hoppus references "Mommy's Little Monster" in the chorus. It's simply a really good punk rock song, with no other gimmick. The song then segues into the other track everyone is abuzz over, "All Of This," sung by the Cure's Robert Smith [with the chorus sung by Hoppus and Delonge]. I can't believe the song works as well as it does, but the melancholy ballad is perfect for Smith's voice.
Hoppus contributes another gem in "Here's Your Letter." The straight-ahead song once again showcases his stronger vocals and lyrics than Tom's; one of the only downfalls of this record is that the overwhelming majority of the disc was written by Delonge. While his songs are good, Mark's tracks are easy standouts across the board.
This album has changed Blink-182 from a pop-punk band who had worn out their welcome to a power trio with something worthwhile to say. The instrumentation on here is more lush [with the use of strings, bells, and synthesizers at numerous points], the vocals and lyrics more developed, the genericism is virtually gone. The band could have easily made another cookie-cutter pop-punk album; they've obviously seen how many bands are copying their formula and making a killing at it. But they're better than that, and it shows.
On their self-titled album, Blink-182 wrote good songs. Really, really good songs. And I am listening to and will continue to listen to them. Revoke my punk card if you must; I never wanted it anyway.
One of the most essential albums of the year - the rebirth of a band that many wrote off as long-dead. Look for this to be the start of a promising career in music for Blink-182, assuming you can forget about the fart jokes.