It’s harder for me to take Blink-182 seriously now than when they were running around naked in the “What’s My Age Again?” video or when I watched in sexual envy as they collected bras onstage at a Warped Tour long, long ago. Here they push their “punk”-pop sound into maturity bringing us their fifth, but first joke-free, album. All three are about thirty, married with kids and still sing about high school girl problems. Quick side note and source of pride: Tom DeLonge and the original drummer both went to my high school. The point is that I have and love all their early, pre-MTV material including their debut Cheshire Cat and Dude Ranch. Back when they began to gain exposure with “Dammit,” they still sounded surprisingly fresh in a quickly evolving late ’90s sound. The production quality back then wasn’t half as good as it is now, but these Southern Californians had a soul, a kinetic purpose in their music, if you will. Then came MTV’s Diary, successful yet overly formulaic albums most noticeably 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. Selling out is bound to happen with talented, expandable bands like Blink. But the point of abandoning your previous formula is to sound better. I might be overly biased in this instance because I know how much better and wholesomely original they once were.
Blink-182 boasts ambition with its few alterations. There are long piano solos on tracks like “Violence” and “Down.” Mark constantly plays call and response, echoing Tom’s nasal punk delivery. The first single, “Feeling This,” sounds schizophrenic, and this suite-like structure is an improvement for the boys. In this, and even more so in “Violence,” they are able to display patience at times as they abandon their prescribed catches on more than the occasional middle 8 break. That doesn’t mean it works, though, as “The Fallen Interlude” presents the three recent graduates of puberty trying to take on jazz with drum solos and a coffeehouse sound. It reminded me of that scene in Spinal Tap when Christopher Guest is playing classical piano for Rob Reiner. “That’s beautiful, what’s it called?” Reiner asks. “Lick My Love Pump,” responds Guest. Earlier Blink works showed struggle and passion. This is a devolution for Blink. Simply taking out the jokes and self-titling the album to show growth is like ordering a Diet Coke with your Biggie sized extra value meal to watch your weight. The album seems like a big prank without the nakedness or perverse lyrics to back it up. I admire their attempt to move forward with a few of the songs, but they can do much better.
In the end, Blink bites off more than it can chew with 14 songs that take a loose, mediocre form. At times I heard undermined ambition, while at other times it sounded like good Sum 41 (is that an oxymoron?). It seems as if they are trying to “find themselves” now more than ever before, which is odd for a band that is a decade and five albums strong and closer to a midlife crisis than receiving any type of diploma in the near future.