Blink-182 - California (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Blink-182

California (2016)

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California is another aging pop punk release from the kings of the genre. Whether or not that interests you is a different story. For the most part, Blink-182 is the only band who have been doing so consistently without too much experimentation.

Much better than 2011’s Neighborhoods, it sees Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba actually wanting to play music together. The enjoyment is apparent regardless of the success of the song. Founding ex-member Tom DeLonge offered a more serious contrast to Hoppus’s playful adult youth. However, in later years, the two styles grew further apart eventually hitting the breaking point. Skiba, on the other hand, compliments Hoppus in just about every way. Too well maybe. The vocal harmonies are spot on and the guitar is unfortunately underplayed.

Hoppus is clearly running the show, which is as it should be. Very much in the vein of side project ( 44), it occurs when there is less pushback from other members. Barker maintains his place as one of the best drummers playing music right now while existing in his own universe. His reliable stick work is the most technically appealing aspect of a band based in universal simplicity. That means Hoppus’s bass and Skiba’s guitar can construct basic melodies until they start retreading, which happens a little too often. Although Blink-182 sounds reinvigorated and Hoppus and Barker’s relationship with Skiba does go back years, they are still finding a groove with each other. Skiba’s lyrics provide a darkness Delonge’s did while still ceding to Hoppus’s sometimes generic straightforwardness. A little more input could have beefed up and grounded some of those verses before exploding into their giant choruses.

Pop punk in general should get stuck in your head and there’s no one better at that than Blink. Sometimes a good thing (“Rabbit Hole”), sometimes a bad (“Teenage Satellites”), and sometimes it’s a triumphantly bland song that still lodges into your brain (“Kings of the Weekend”). At its strongest, California’s quicker numbers show what is possible for the forty-something’s. “Bored to Death” knocks it out of the park becoming their biggest hit in years. “The Only Thing That Matters” and “No Future” are legitimately great tracks spotlighting the correct balance of growing up but not too much. They’re releasing arena pop made for teenagers attempting to connect with older fans. For every sixteen-second “Built This Pool,” there’s a slow song like “Home Is Such a Lonely Place.” For every “Brohemian Rhapsody,” a “Los Angeles.” Sadly, the “mature” ones produce the worst results and, at sixteen songs, the album is bloated. Producer John Feldman was not the best choice either. His glossy production works to a fault, but years spent co-writing with bands like 5 Seconds of Summer seem to have dulled his songwriting chops. Hoppus, a more than qualified producer, probably could have done a fine job himself.

California isn’t a perfect record, nor does it need to be. It displays a band getting back on the right page with great energy yet struggling a bit to find equilibrium. Still, Blink-182 provides another angst ridden nostalgia trip, which is something they’ve done constantly for two full decades.