Neighborhoods

After 8 long blinkless years, the guys of blink 182 are back with their new album Neighborhoods and dare I say that it’s near perfect, perfect for blink anyhow.

I know we can all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing that dark Tuesday after noon in late February of 2005.  Who would have known that the world was about to change in a very drastic way. I was sitting in class at Youngstown State University when I got a text from my friend Jessica. “Did you hear about blink?!?” You have to keep in mind that these were the days before facebook, twitter and push notifications. If you wanted to find out about something you had to do it the old-fashioned way and actually go to a website or search for something. Kids today don’t realize how good they have it. The news rocked my foundation. Blink-182 was splitting up. The band I had followed since the days of Dude Ranch and who I had seen no less than 6 times was going their separate ways. It took everything I had to keep my composure for the remainder of class. I went home later that day and wrote to my girlfriend of the time who was spending 6 months as an exchange student in Australia. She of course didn’t get the significance of this blow, and I quickly found myself with no one to turn to for comfort.

It cannot be understated how instrumental blink was in forming my musical tastes and stalling my maturity. My old punk rock friends always gave me shit for liking them so much. They called them “sell-outs”. Basically a band lost its cool factor the more people know about them and the more they became “main stream”. Yup total sell outs. I mean any band who improved their quality of recording and expands their audience might as well just put their soul up on eBay to the highest bidder. I never got it. Wasn’t the point of being in a band to get your music out to as many people as possible? Well blink did just that, taking the pop punk rock scene by storm, and not just any storm, but like a Category 5 I will destroy you world storm. They sold millions of albums with Enema of the State and their subsequent albums and toured the world over a few times.

So many of their songs resonated with me and really guided me through the often tricky waters of adolescence. If anything, blink just represented fun. At any of their shows or anytime they were in front of a camera the guys were always cracking jokes, and usually bad ones at that. It’s probably where I got my sense of humor. Over the years I drove as far as 6 hours one way and paid anywhere from $45 to $1 to hang out with the trio for an hour and a half.

All of these memories were now running through my head. The thought that I would never see another blink show, or buy another album was too much too bare. The next couple of years were a dark and lonely time with only Green Day to turn to make the days somewhat bearable.

In 2006 I was beginning to come to terms with a world without blink. Then Tom Delonge’s new project, Angles and Airwaves, came along. I actually really dug their debut Album “We Don’t Need to Whisper”. It was a definite departure from blink with a big grandiose synthy stadium rock sound. My only real problem with the band was that it looked like Tom really thought they were Angels sent here to save the music industry. Then came Mark’s response to AVA, +44. The name apparently came from a discussion Mark and Travis had in England about the future of blink when things were really starting to go south. The international code you dial for the brits is +44. Ya think Mark was still upset with things? Actually, long before +44 released its first and only record the song “No It Isn’t” was released. It featured  the vocals of Carol Heller, Vocalist from Get the Girl, who was originally the third member of the band in its early days. The released coincided with Tom Delonge’s birthday. Suffice it to say the song is a brutally honest in telling of Mark’s feelings about Tom and the breakup. At that point I thought for sure that Blink was done and dusted for good, and then tragedy struck.

Travis Barker, drummer extraordinaire, was involved in a near fatal plane crash in South Carolina where he suffered severe burns along with his good friend DJ AM. The crash actually claimed the lives of four others on board. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it takes a tragic event to bring people together and bring out the best in them, but that’s exactly the effect it had. I remember reading the article on Twitter, oh how the times have changed, and thinking to my self, “Thank God he’s alive, and I bet that Tom is going to give him a call”. As 2009 rolled around rumors started to circulate around the web that guys were in fact talking again. You can imagine that I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I was filled with hope, excitement and anticipation. Could it be? Then this happened.

and just to confirm that they really were

Yup the first 17 seconds was enough evidence for me!

The old blink was back! Except it’s not the old blink. Mark, Tom and Travis have all been through a lot over the past 8 years; kids and family, new projects, near death experiences, the loss of friends (namely DJ AM, and blink’s old producer Jerry Finn, both who died suddenly and unexpectedly) and a 5 year hiatus. From all of these experiences blink-182 is not quite the same band, in fact they’re actually better and their new album “Neighborhoods” is their strongest effort by a clear mile and then some. It seems that a break might have been just what blink-182 needed, not that we need another one. Please for the love of all the small things we don’t need another one.

When blink released their self titled album in 2003 it was a vast departure from the toilet humor and sing songiness that people came to expect from blink. It showed a different side of blink, a more serious side. To this day it remains my least favorite album. It’s not that it’s bad, because there are some really strong songs and it was nice to see the guys take a new direction, but it just seemed like they weren’t quite comfortable with that new direction. Listening to the album kind of felt like wearing an uncomfortable suit. Even though It might look really good, something just feels off. With Neighborhoods the guys have settled into their “suits” and I’m happy to say that they even have a quick change of dickies  shorts and T-shirts standing by.

At the beginning of this increasingly lengthy post I said that the album was near perfect, at least for blink, and I stand by that assessment. I’ve listened to it a few times over now and my first listen was on my bike during a spectacular thunderstorm last night. The album is a well-balanced blend with all three members translating their experiences over the past 8 years into song. The big 80’s synth sound from AVA is ever-present and actually opens the album’s first track “Ghosts on the Dance Floor”. The driving fast guitar rhythms laced with electronic elements from +44 are well represented on tracks like “Natives” and “Heart’s All Gone” and Travis attacks the drums like the creative mad scientist genius drummer he has always been. The lyrics are some of blink’s strongest and most profound. It showcases the growth and maturity level that was present on their 2003 release but this time around they’ve struck that perfect balance between being serious but not taking your self so seriously. You won’t find any sing songy happy-go-lucky songs or toilet humor on this record, but I don’t think anyone really expected that. Blink has been through a lot and the guys have earned their serious suits a few times over. Still, the songs are catchy as ever and though the subject matter is serious, there is still a sense of that light-heartedness of blink of old that was missing on band’s last album.

In summary blink-182 has come a long way and I hope they still have a long way to go. “Neighborhoods” is a near perfect progression for blink-182. It represents where they’ve been, where they are and where they want to go next. Admittedly, I’m a little die-hard and biased. But I really think you would be doing your ears a disservice by not giving this record a listen. Blink-182 is back and better than ever.

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~ by glennikin on September 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “Neighborhoods”

  1. Great review Glenn! Love me some Blink-182!

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