Blink-182 - California

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:10 Release Date:2016-07-01

California is the newest album by 90s pop-punkers Blink-182, and their first without Tom DeLonge after an oft-antagonistic relationship within the band finally led to his formal departure a year ago. It’s never easy to lose a member of your group, even more so when it’s a three-piece. Comparisons aren’t always fair, but they’re also unavoidable.

The first thing I noticed is that most of the songs have the squeaky clean pop-punk melodies, harmonized choruses, and snarky lyrical irreverence that define the genre, as if they were following a formula which makes the whole album sound, well, formulaic. If you are a fan of that 90s/00s vibe, jump on your board with both feet and start draining those beer bongs. On the other hand, there’s little to distinguish this band from their peers, especially with renowned producer and former Goldfinger member John Feldmann at the controls.

Perhaps Feldmann, famous for producing albums for 5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low, The Used, and a bunch of other acts, is too good at what he does. In this case, he essentially makes Blink-182 sound more like every other band in the skate-punk/Vans Warped Tour pipeline than ever before.

Cynical blasts off as a straight-up punk number full of unapologetic lyrics, while 'Kings of the Weekend' harks back to the band's glory days. 'Sober' gloms on to the old sound as well with funny lyrics that emphasize the need to avoid drunk-dialing, and 'Rabbit' does the same, this time bemoaning getting older. So far, so good as far as it goes, right?

Not so fast. 'Home is Such a Lonely Place' is a slow number that is also one of the most generic; a song intended for lighter use at concerts and montage scenes in a teen drama, and really takes the air out of the room. Title track 'California' breaks the formula up a little, with the pleading chorus, “Los Angeles, when will you save me?” It’s an indication that the band hasn’t quite found the perfect balance between the original members and that which Skiba brings to the party, but also evidence that some changes are afoot.

In the final analysis, California is a transitional album, one that plays it safe. The band checks off the boxes, which should leave most fans satisfied (if not blown-away) and for the first album from Blink-182.0, I’d say that’s sufficient. 

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