You can say what you want about Blink 182. Say that they sold out 10 or 15 years ago or that they’re nothing more than a band that reminds you of high school. You can say that they keep putting out the same, average material. But isn’t something better than nothing? It’s one of those questions a music fan has to ask themselves, and it’s a difficult one. Would we rather have our favourite bands just stop making music altogether, or risk them putting out monotonous records in formulaic fashion? It’s in many ways a rhetorical question, because artists ultimately get to make that decision - and not for our sake. Blink 182 have been back on the radar ever since the internet exploded when Tom Delonge left/quit/whatever really happened, and with their latest album, California, they intend to stay here.
“Cynical” opens the album, a short but fun track with basic pop punk construction, and some great fills from drummer Travis Barker. The album’s lead single, “Bored to Death,” didn’t reinvent the wheel, but with a catchy chorus, it still has gotten plenty of radio play, and plenty of people saying: "new Blink 182? Woah!" This song doesn’t really contrast Mark Hoppus’ and Matt Skiba’s vocals - on first listen, you probably didn’t even notice. While that might be a popular criticism as well, let’s be honest - if someone came in and was trying to sound like Tom DeLonge, it definitely wouldn’t work. We have to listen to this with fresh ears and as a stand alone record, even if it’s an album you swear you’ve heard before.
“She’s Out of Her Mind” is straight up, classic Blink, from the familiar sounding bass intro, to a very similar chorus and bridge. Tracks like “Rabbit Hole” and “No Future” contrast Skiba's and Hoppus’ vocals together in a refreshing way. Short tracks like “Built This Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” cling to an element of Blink 182 that is absolutely vital: their crude humour. After all, that is their schtick, and something that does separate them from other bands. “Home Is Such A Lonely Place” is a sweet, pop ballad, and a standout on the album, sounding like a happier “I’m Lost Without You”. It’s slow and simple but finds a way to work on an otherwise upbeat album. “Teenage Satellites” and “Left Alone” are more pop rock than pop punk, and it’s evident that the band tried to balance this style along with the more traditional pop punk sound throughout the record. Tracks like “Los Angeles”, and “California” don’t really sound like Blink 182 songs, but in a good, new way. “Los Angeles” has more of a darker, arena rock feel, until the bridge, which ties the track perfectly together, and “California” perfectly wraps the album up as a hybrid of all the elements of pop, rock and pop punk that this album explores.
We’re at this point where music has, depressingly enough, become a medium in which originality can cease to exist. However, I refuse to believe that it’s all been done before and that it's all just the same four chords. I believe that it’s maybe less about reinventing the wheel and more about finding something that works: whether it be a genre or style, whether it be lyrically or musically, and pushing the boundaries within those confines. Then again, what do I know. Blink 182 haven’t reinvented the wheel, but they’re still making honest, good music, which must count for something. I don’t think any of us can imagine the pressure that the band must have faced going into this album. From not having DeLonge on the album, to the people who are still hellbent on the opinion that every album after Dude Ranch sucks (but will still listen only to be a critic), California is an absolute achievement. If you listen to this album as a point of comparison to every other record they’ve put out, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you listen to this record with an open mind, and view it as the next chapter of an evolved Blink 182, then what’s not to like?