Neighborhoods, Blink-182’s first album since 2003’s self-titled affair, comes out this week to feverish anticipation by longtime fans.
As everybody knows, the band went on an extended hiatus around the end of 2004, with bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker forming their own band, +44, while guitarist Tom DeLonge spread his creative wings with Angels & Airwaves.
After years of speculation and whispers about getting back together, the band announced that they were getting back together at the Grammy Awards in 2009. Neighborhoods has been delayed a few times in the span between that announcement and its release this week, which made anticipation for the record climb and climb with each subsequent delay.
But fear not: one listen to the album makes it clear that it was worth the wait.
Album opener Ghost on the Dance Floor is the typical Blink-182 album opener – DeLonge’s guitar matching up with Hoppus’s driving, memorable bass and vocal melodies while Barker slams the drums like a man possessed. DeLonge’s voice has a shimmery sound to it, and his breathy, emotive delivery definitely calls to mind his work in Angels & Airwaves, but the song still manages to retain the signature Blink sound (despite the synth).
Natives starts with a rapid-fire, machine-gun guitar riff by DeLonge, before exploding into a frenzy of punk energy that gives the song one of the more “old-school” feelings on the album. Hoppus’s chorus of I’m just a bastard child/Don’t let it go to your head/ I’m just a waste of your time/Maybe I’m better off dead is infectious, and elevates the song to “album highlight” status.
First single Up All Night, with its electronic touches and crunchy main riff was the band’s first new song in quite some time, and fits in well as the third track on the album. It leads into After Midnight, a song that has one of those ear-candy Blink-182 choruses that you’ll find yourself singing all the time. A more straightforward song with a minimalist guitar and bass rhythm is aided by Barker’s technical drum touches, but the song’s power lies in its melodies. The guitars, DeLonge’s voice, Hoppus’s voice, it’s all top-notch and “vintage” Blink.
It’s important to note here that this is a “different” sort of Blink-182 album. They’re all much different people now than they were ten or eleven years ago: in addition to all being fathers, they are entrepreneurs. Hoppus has a TV show, Barker has a plethora of various musical projects, and DeLonge still owns his own clothing label (Macbeth). They don’t sing silly songs about high school, girls, and juvenile humor anymore.
Replacing those themes on Neighborhoods are messages of despair, darkness, and, occasionally, death. In 2008, Barker was in a fiery plane crash with close friend DJ AM, who survived the crash but passed away later that year of an overdose; they also endured the loss of longtime producer/friend Jerry Finn. As a result, the songs on this album are layered and complex, compared to some of the more throwaway aspects of past Blink albums.
Sonically, they have more to say now as well. Snake Charmer has an eerie feel to it, ethereal guitars and synth noises creeping up and finishing out the song with an atmospheric sheen that makes it one of the album’s highlights.
Heart’s All Gone, one of the more “punk” songs on the album, is paired with the gorgeous Heart’s All Gone Interlude, a two-minute introduction to the song that gives it an added emotional quality. By the time the original song kicks in, it’s confrontational and aggressive, a jarring change from the melody and more somber tone of the interlude.
Wishing Well could have been on Take Your Pants Off and Jacket, DeLonge’s refrain of La da da da, da da da da sounding transplanted from the early 2000s. The song’s chorus is among the best on the album, as well.
Hoppus-led songs like Kaleidoscope and MH 4.18.2011 bring his melodic voice to the forefront, while DeLonge mans backup/chorus duties. If there’s one issue with Neighborhoods it’s the abundance of DeLonge-led songs, while Hoppus is usually present in the background. It would have been better if they had split lead vocal duties, but the handful of Hoppus-fronted tunes are among the best on the album, MH 4.18.2011 in particular.
This is Home and Love is Dangerous bring back the band’s newly-introduced synth-based sound, which may turn off some longtime fans but actually brings with it a new sense of direction for the band. This is Home in particular has a familiar sound to it that calls to mind some of their past work, too.
The album ends with the experimental Fighting the Gravity and Even if She Falls, a memorable song that serves as a solid album-capper.
In all, Neighborhoods is a solid post-hiatus album from a band many figured wouldn’t ever get back together. It’s been a long time since Blink-182 released new music, and with Neighborhoods they’ve proven that they’re still quite capable of creating some memorable music together. While a few songs on the album aren’t as grabbing as others and the synth makes some veer too closely to Angels & Airwaves territory, as a whole Neighborhoods is a better-than-expected album by the band.
Pick it up if you’re into the sounds displayed on their versatile self-titled album from 2003, as it’s more like that record than the early albums.
Catch Blink-182 on the Honda Civic Tour alongside My Chemical Romance and Matt & Kim at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday, October 8th.