Music lovers everywhere were blessed with blink-182’s comeback album, California, which was released on Friday. The 16-track album contains glimpses into blink’s past as well as where they are headed with new guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba and producer John Feldmann. There are fast paced classic blink songs as well as a slower ballad. Of course, there are a couple of joke songs because would it really be blink if they didn’t joke around? California is what blink-182 4.0 is supposed to be. There was the Mark Trombino (producer, Dude Ranch) and drummer Scott Raynor era, the Jerry Finn (producer, Enema of the State, live album, TOYPAJ, self-titled) era, the self-produced era with Neighborhoods, and now we have the new member/new producer era.
One of the most important things about this album was that the band wasn’t trying to be something they aren’t. Blink is blink, they’ve been around since the ’90s and are widely well-known so it’s not like they are starting from scratch. With so many fans, however, the idea of living up to expectations was not something that they could ignore. Before hearing Skiba play with blink, I (and probably many other fans) was hesitant on letting former member Tom Delonge leave and be replaced. However, Skiba wasn’t replacing Delonge. No one wanted Skiba to be a Delonge 2.0 – and he wasn’t. He brought much needed energy into the band that was probably one of the reasons they were able to finish the album so quickly. Skiba’s vocals on California are distinctly his own, and traces of Alkaline Trio can definitely be heard.
The album begins with “Cynical,” a nod toward those previously mentioned expectations. It’s a faster tempo than the singles, and everything flows together so well. It’s like pieces of a puzzle finally connecting. Feldmann talked to Fuse about each track and mentioned that to start the album with this song, blink was letting everyone know that they were doing things how they wanted to. Everyone can be a critic, be cynical, but the point was that they weren’t going to make an album that they thought people wanted. They made the album that they wanted to make.
The first single, “Bored to Death,” was the single for a reason. The hook is unmistakably catchy and Skiba’s vocals in the chorus help ease nervous fans into this new era of blink. I went into more detail about the single in a previous post.
“She’s out of Her Mind” is a simple song, but simple is good. It could have easily fit into TOYPAJ with it’s fun lyrics and lacking anything that’s too heavy. The pop-punkness of this song makes it fun to sing along to. It’s a positive break from the rest of the album which is typically a bit darker.
Barker is a bit more hip-hop than the rest of his band and his interest in that genre definitely had its time to shine in “Los Angeles.” The eery and dark feeling in the beginning picks up where Neighborhoods left off. Compared to the rest of the album, it is by far the heaviest. Skiba takes total control of the chorus and he nails it. Listening to it for the first time, it only made me more excited that he was in the band.
Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump made a stop in the studio to help write the next song. “Sober” is easily my favorite song to sing along to and the song that’s most often stuck in my head. The line I’m a dandelion / You’re a four leaf clover has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. The clapping beat in the chorus along with the guitar riff is a bit FOB-esque and personally I love it. Mark Hoppus’ vocals during the second verse is so different from anything else on the album, I had to strain my ears to tell if it was actually his voice or not. This could have been the single just as easily as “Bored to Death.”
“Built this Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” are the two joke songs on the album. The former was one of those one-take kind of songs. Barker had originally prepared three minutes worth of drums and they kept his “Is that really it?” line in the track when he realized the actual length. The latter song has absolute killer guitar chords, and it’s a shame it didn’t go into an actual song.
“No Future” is probably one of the best songs on the record, instrumentally, lyrically, vocally. The title might have become the name of the album, but the band decided that calling their comeback album “No Future” might give some mixed signals. The song is one of the longest on the record, the reason being that Feldmann had the idea of targeting “a generation of ADD kids” who find it difficult digesting three minute songs.
The single ballad on the album, “Home is Such a Lonely Place,” is no “Adam’s Song” or “I Miss You” kind of ballad. This song really reflects the actual age of the band. They might sing about their teenage years, but in reality most of them are dads. The song addresses what life will be like when their kids leave. When you take into account the meaning, the entire song changes and becomes a lot more melancholic.
With the ballad behind us, it’s time to bring the pace back up. “Kings of the Weekend” is a simple pop punk, happy-go-lucky song that’s easy to listen to and will make a killer live song. The powerful guitar riffs is what gives it that classic blink feel. Thank God for punk rock bands.
“Teenage Satellites” was a music first, lyrics second song according to Feldmann. It follows the same groove as the previous song perfectly with a teenage-on-the-run-and-has-no-cares vibe. This is one of my favorite drum songs on the album because it isn’t too fanciful but carries the same epic drumming precision that’s in every Barker song.
My favorite part about “Left Alone” are the Skiba’s backing vocals while Hoppus sings the first song. It’s a perfect example of how well their voices fit together. Skiba takes control in this song and makes it his own. There’s no holding back, no hesitation. He had a big role to fill as guitarist and vocalist of blink-182, and after hearing this album, I know no one else could’ve gotten the job done right but Skiba.
“Rabbit Hole” contains my favorite meaning – refusing to let one bad thought spiral into a storm of anxiety and depression. As Feldmann mentioned to Fuse, at the end of song it brings back the image of the original blink rabbit logo. It’s absolutely impossible to not air drum when listening because Barker’s presence is especially evident in this track.
This is one song that I’m almost positive wouldn’t have made it on the album without Feldmann’s push. “San Diego” is filled with so many memories for this band, being the birthplace of blink and all. The toughest line in the song is And think of every person I ever lost in San Diego. It’s an obvious nod to their former member. The way the vocals overlap toward the end and the beat of the drums sends a chill up my spine that reminds me why this is my favorite band.
I found that “The Only Thing That Matters” is the most nostalgic song because the bass line in the beginning is the exact same bass from TOYPAJ‘s “Online Songs” only sped up a little bit. With that being the case, I feel like this is the third song to Josie (“Josie” in Dude Ranch, “Online Songs” in TOYPAJ and now this song). The back and forth of the vocals is also very Dude Ranch. The song has a homey feel to it that I’m sure will make any longtime fan feel good.
The title track has some of the smoothest Hoppus vocals, and the instruments are subtle enough to be heard but not to distract from what the song is saying. Living in the perfect weather / Spending time inside together. What a wonderful line. The whole song packs clever lyrics that contain nothing but honesty. It has a reminiscent feel, like looking through old photos. The last chorus packs a punch with some louder drums and then it gently fades out into the guitar heavy “Brohemian Rhapsody.”
That’s it. That’s California. I’m not in the slightest disappointed with what this band has given us. It made me more excited about the future of the band and about seeing them 5 (yes, 5) times on tour this summer. What was your favorite song? Thoughts about the album? I would love to hear what other people though.
Thanks for reading,