Angels and Airwaves - I-Empire (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Angels and Airwaves

I-Empire (2007)


In my review of the last effort from Tom Delonge's Angels and Airwaves, the majority of my complaints revolved around the sheer excess of each song. It seemed like the album was less focused on producing a coherent work and more interested in shedding the "baggage" of Tom's more jejune former band. Each track creaked under the weight of production tricks and lengthy introductions; hooks were buried under masses of extraneous sound.

With I-Empire, it may seem like little has changed. Tom still backs his nasal but endearing vocals with music nicked from the Edge, the Police and the Cure and the songs still seem designed to be sung with arms outstretched and eyes closed. Still, there is a remarkable economy of sound. Songs have decreased by just a minute or two apiece, but the difference is surprising. The opening song, "Call to Arms" clocks in at five minutes but the song begins promptly and the hook works.

A similar comment could be made about the album's first single, the mercifully concise "Everything's Magic." The song rather ostenstatiously borrows a bass line from the Cure's "Close to Me" -- perhaps one of the more distinctive lines in recent memory -- but it still works. The Edge-esque guitar line combined with an urgent pace makes for a memorable and fun song.

"Love Like Rockets" takes a little while to get going, but works quite well. "Sirens" has a "Do Do Do" moment, but works because it trades some of AvA's musical hubris and trades it in for the kind of simple pop melody that punctuated Tom's earliest material. Perhaps "Secret Crowds" is the most satisfying track as it feels like the band finally cuts loose a little with rhythm guitarist David Kennedy trading his echo pedal for some welcome crunch. It's among the best songs Tom has written in quite some time.

Just over a year has passed since We Don't Need to Whisper, and I'm pleased to report that things are looking up. The reconfigured band is definitely tighter, and Tom's songwriting seems more comfortable and fluid. It stills lacks the stark clarity of Blink-182, and still sounds like the kind of band Tom would have mocked in his prior days. But that said, I-Empire is a better album, and Angels & Airwaves is a better band.