Mark: Do you know what the best part of falling in love is?
Tom: The sex?
Mark: It's the oral sex.
--Blink 182, The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show: The Enema Strikes Back, 2000
Tom Delonge's definition of the "L" word has certainly evolved since this exchange on Blink-182's live album. No longer just a motivation for engaging in fellatio, it is now part of the very fabric that holds us together as humanity. Although I would argue that these two definitions are not mutually exclusive, Tom will now only define human connections in the frustratingly abstract. After already having to sit through two shitty Angels & Airwaves albums, I for one miss his former brevity.
LOVE, AVA's latest offering, is a concept album that traces different meanings of the word through sonic orchestrations that touch on the many different elements inherent in that most elusive of human emotions. Predictably, it is every bit as self-important and tactless as you'd expect from an AVA record. Like We Don't Need to Whisper and I-Empire before it, the atmospherics soar to glorious heights while the songs start to feel the weight of the pretension put upon them.
Yet somehow, it's quite good.
Yes, on LOVE, the AVA manifesto actually comes across sincerely. For the first time, I understand what they're trying to do. And it's really pretty.
I'll admit that the album is front-loaded with the most creative songs, but the entire track listing stays sincere even if the sound gets a little diluted at times. "Young London" is appropriately urgent and hormonal, while "Shove" is intimate and brazenly honest. "Flight of Apollo" is a bit brash, but when it shines it's like looking directly at the sun. There's all the usual amateur symbolism, keyboard presets and delay effects, but for some reason they actually seem to be in some type of juvenile harmony here.
Even though AVA's delivery has always been a bit cringe-worthy, on LOVE this innocence actually gives strength to the album. At times you can genuinely feel how Tom is left baffled and overwhelmed by the fragile beauty of life itself, as it leaves him inarticulate in wonderment. He's like a child at Christmas; even if you know he's being naive you still get swept up in his enthusiasm. Unless it's been a particularly bad day at work, you wouldn't smack your son across the mouth just because he got excited by the shiny decorations around the house, would you? However, instead of sitting quietly to play with his new presents while the rest of the family watch Only Fools and Horses for the tenth time and try not to hate each other, Tom Delonge is stomping his feet in excitement because it's snowing outside.
Yes, I'd hit him too. It's such a shame that AVA have to be so tactless, because some of the songs on LOVE are really touching. Even though they have always tried to convey honesty in their music, their aesthetic is just too much to stomach for anyone past the age where they believe in Santa. It's pure, but almost obnoxious in its innocence.
Take the title for instance. "Love" is in itself such a charged word that to tackle it so bluntly invites the idea of farce. The last time a sentiment so profoundly mislead was uttered it came from Brick Tamland in Anchorman deciding "I love Lamp." He didn't know what it meant, but it meant enough for him to say something stupid. If you've ever read any of Angels & Airwaves' press, you know that Tom Delonge is equally quotable.
Nonetheless, I'm actually trying to defend this album. If you can get past the complete and utter lack of subtlety, there's a lot to enjoy. Although maybe not as inspiring as Tom says it is, some songs are quite evocative, and almost all are put together with the uttermost conviction in their ideas.
Plus, it's free.
However, despite everything I like about this album, there's still that one definition of love that isn't explored throughout the 11 tracks. It's the one that Blink had already mastered, and the one we all adore them for.
Although Blink's crude humour wasn't as pretty as the soundscapes that AVA wish to paint, it was more real. On LOVE you really can't fault Tom's sentiment, but you also can't help but remember that the joie de vivre he struggles to encapsulate with AVA was already captured so effortlessly with Blink.
Without wishing to take this out of context, here's a quote from Choke by Chuck Palahniuk that pretty much sums up exactly what I mean:
Even the worst blow job is better than say, sniffing the best rose...watching the greatest sunset.
LOVE is definitely a cool album that is quite stunning in places, but its lofty and abstract projections avoid the most realistic definition of the word. I'm not saying that Angels & Airwaves should make pornography (fingers crossed for their upcoming feature film) but rather that there is still something to be said for the spontaneous vulgarity inherent in human emotion. That's why for all its merits, a beautiful Angels & Airwaves sunset will never be as good as a sloppy Blink-182 bl... Oh, I'm sure you get the idea by now.