First Listens: Blink-182's Neighborhoods

Categories: First Listens

Blink-182_-_Neighborhoods_cover.jpg

Any energy-based band returning to the fray after eight years -- especially one whose calling card was its immaturity -- will be a nervous prospect. Yet here is Blink-182, out today with Neighborhoods. Let's see how it goes.

Stream the album on Blink-182's website here.

Ghost on the Dance Floor
Synth strings. That's all I'm scared of? They're layered over a familiar guitar and drum blatter and thank god Tom DeLonge still only knows how to sing one song. The catchy one. And his backup harmonies have improved. Travis Barker can be trusted to do what he wants in the background and make everything sound more important than it is. A strong start for a death song by a life band -- it goes "I saw your ghost tonight/ It fucking hurt like hell."

Natives
Frenetic single-note guitar riff -- these guys haven't lost a step. The synergy is remarkable considering the bad terms they split on (canceled a benefit and DeLonge changed his phone number to avoid the other two), and how bad Angels and Airwaves sucked. It's been a grim year: no more White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem, R.E.M. When Hoppus comes in to sing the ultra-wordy, even-more-melodic chorus it's as close to rock-band magic as 2011 has offered.

Up All Night
Odd, thickheaded guitar riff shapes a truly weird song with a phasey, creeping intro and a chorus that doesn't exactly scream classic Blink, but is not difficult to imagine six years from now as classic Blink. This album's so good, so sane so far, that I hope they have records in six years to compare to this. The big-room harmonies on the tagline "And all these demons keep me up all night" convince me of something I've never advised: reverb = good.

After Midnight
Travis Barker looks like such street trash and whores himself out to so many bands that it's easy to forget he's one of rock's best drummers. His light touch and penchant for shaky double-time elements like the trilled hi-hats in these verses maybe used to be equaled by Green Day's Tre Cool, but that guy's tempos were always several rungs slower and he's settled into an on-off switch of "jaunty martial" or "mid-punk-tempo straight 4/4," along with his settled band's shitty new tunes. "After Midnight" has a fantastic chorus too -- this album actually feels safe to relax in. It's so consistently doing what it's supposed to, maybe even a little better for its age.

Snake Charmer
This is a little darker, whinier, more exotic and a perfect place for me to bemoan what you're all thinking: No, nothing here is funny. "Good girls they like to sin" I hope is a celebration; Hoppus says he's been listening to lots of "weird indie rock" so maybe he means the Hold Steady. With his slobbery new voice, DeLonge has obviously been rocking a lot of Say Anything.

Heart's All Gone Interlude
I'm used to bands growing up, because I review a fucking lot of them, but that's not the same thing as becoming more emo, and is often the opposite. In any case, a Blink-182 piano and squished guitar instrumental called "Heart's All Gone Interlude" is not something I was prepared for, nor should anyone be. For what it is, it goes somewhere.

Heart's All Gone
Reassuringly, when it gets there, it begins heartily -- with Barker's usual battalion of drums. This is a morose album to be sure, but lines like"let's drink ourselves to death" and "passed down from father to son" aren't far removed from the torn-house desperation of "Stay Together for the Kids," from their last album, when they could balance this stuff out with dickpoop.

Wishing Well
Ah, well, this is pretty stupid. Unlikely that anything else here will be as bad as this one, or contain a line as bad as "I reached for a shooting star/ It burned a hole through my hand." Another reminder than "maturity" is very easily confused for an attempt at bad emotional depth. DeLonge is too old for wishing wells and "la-da-dadada" choruses alike.

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