FOREWORD: As we all know the album leaked a few days ago. I encourage everyone to buy a legitimate copy of Neighborhoods come September 26 and support the band and the scene.
Though I’ve been able to listen to the album thoroughly already, I of course have it pre-ordered and will be paying for a legitimate copy.
In short, piracy is bad kids – don’t do it. If you love Blink, buy a copy.
Trying to write a review of an album you’ve waited eight years for is difficult.
It’s also difficult to articulate just how important a band Blink 182 is to me, how I felt about their break up in 2003 and how it feels to listen to new material nearly a decade later.
A lot of things have changed in eight years. The world has changed, and we’ve all changed too. Tom has beaten cancer and Travis survived a plane crash which killed a dear friend of the band.
To say this album is anything less than an event would be an insult to the band and what it took for the album to come to fruition.
Seven summers have passed since the last Blink release, and after the experimental self-titled album which divided opinion and marked their separation, my anticipation for Neighborhoods was massively tainted with caution and apprehension.
I can now say with confidence, that my fears were unfounded.
The Kings of pop punk have returned to the scene to reclaim their crown.
Blink 182 are back.
The bell that tolls 29 seconds into Neighborhoods’ opener Ghost On The Dancefloor signals the return of Blink 182. The bell seems to signify time, and time feels like a poignant theme on this album.
Blink may have been away for a long time, but the time has come for their return.
With a build-up resembling Anthem Part Two from Take off Your Pants and Jacket and a verse melody resembling Box Car Racer’s ‘There Is’, the album announces itself with a sense of wonder and scale.
The song has incredible depth and includes synths and keys which hark back to the band’s Enema of The State days. And, while comparisons are easily made to Angels & Airwaves, Travis Barker ensures the track is unmistakably Blink 182 with his complex signature beats.
Next comes Natives, which throws you a curve-ball with its M&M’s-style guitar lick. Imagine M&M’s with the dark themes of the self-titled album and you’re halfway there.
The dark verses led by Tom give way to a more upbeat chorus sung by Mark. Though it features almost equally dark lyrics, it’s a thrill to once again hear Tom and Mark signing on the same record.
Natives is followed up by the disjointed first single Up All Night, which was released well in advance of the album and which, for me, is one of the weak links on the album.
Also previewed before Neighborhoods’ release was After Midnight, which comes next. This track has a kind of dream, ethereal and romantic quality which is fairly Angels&Airwaves-esqe – but the track benefits greatly from Hoppus’ vocals in the chorus.
“We’ll stagger home after midnight, sleep arm in arm in the stairwell” croons the bassist, reflecting some of the album’s simple yet creative lyrics.
Snake Charmer, track five, sounds undeniably like Box Car Racer in its intro before sinking into a rather strange verse which wouldn’t sound out of place on older Korn albums, and the same can be said for the outro. The track is redeemed by its fantastic chorus however.
Track 6 is an instrumental interlude (Heart’s All Gone Interlude) and prompts the mildest reaction to all the album’s tracks. It’s worth it though, as it builds into the storming Heart’s All Gone – reminiscent of tracks from Dude Ranch or Cheshire Cat but once again with a darker tone.
Though the song was previewed before Neighborhoods’ release, but this is a new mix which only makes the track greater. In all honesty, the track wouldn’t have been out of place on Dude Ranch and that’s great for old fans.
Speaking of older fans, the next track Wishing Well is a gem for fans of Blink’s more traditional pop punk sound. I’d like to think the track’s title is a call back to Carousel, but I’m probably wrong!
In an upbeat, pre-2003 Blink melody, Tom sings: “Been gone a long time I kinda lost my way, I can’t find it.” Though we don’t know what the song was written about, all the album’s lyrics seem to bear the weight of Blink’s split and hiatus.
My heart was practically swelling by the time the track’s pre-chorus “da da da da da da da daa” came in harking back to the style of music that hooked me in all those years ago. A great all-round great pop punk song which sees Blink proving they haven’t forgotten where they came from.
Kaleidoscope is a great example of how Blink can continue to write pop punk in a new way. Its opening riff is unique and new, its verse melody and vocals from Mark are masterful and its chorus is catchy as you could hope for.
Bass strumming in the bridge reminds you of either Always from the self-titled, or Josie from Dude Ranch, depending on how long you’ve been a fan.
This Is Home could be the band’s love letter to The Cure, and I could easily imagine Robert Smith providing vocals for it (albeit in a slower version.)
It’s intro is somewhere between Just Like Heaven and Boys Don’t Cry, with a cool synth in the background. More bass strumming in the bridge is a joy to hear, and is just one part of Blink’s unique sound.
MH 4.18.2O11 is as traditionally pop punk as the album gets, and is my favourite track.
A simple chord sequence and an incredible melody is something that Blink have always mastered. Add to this some excellent and obscure lyrics (“Stop living in the shadow of a helicopter”) and pitch perfect vocals from Mark and you have a great pop punk song.
I think this track may have been influenced by Mark’s production duties with Motion City Soundtrack and it wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
Love Is Dangerous is clearly a ‘Tom song’, with many Angels and Airwaves attributes to be heard. Dual vocals in the verse sound fantastic though and differentiate Blink from AVA.
Fighting the Gravity may be Neighborhoods’ low point. A largely instrumental affair, Gravity is Blink in experimental mode. Surreal and ethereal, at least it gives Travis a chance to shine.
As closer Even If She Falls begins you’d be forgiven for confusing it with Not Now. The verse smacks of Box Car Racer and the chorus is incredibly catchy.
If Blink’s self-titled album was Tom, Mark and Travis experimenting with a new, more mature and complex sound, Neighborhoods is Blink 182 refining and perfecting that new sound.
This is Blink for grown ups.
I was 17 when Blink released the hiatus preceeding self-titled album, at the time I was uneasy with Blink taking such a drastic departure after TOYPAJ. Eight years later, Blink have produced an album which appeals still appeals to my younger self with its sonic references to earlier albums – but offers me something dense and complex to enjoy as an adult.
The terms ‘mature’ and ‘dark’ are used to describe new albums a lot, to the point of parody, but Blink are (in my opinion) the first band of the genre to genuinely come back with a more mature sound.
Blink can do songs with three chords and a great melody, but they have so much more to offer. Neighborhoods has depth, texture and complexity you won’t find on any other pop punk record.
All that’s left for me to do is a) thank Blink 182 for returning and for doing so in such style, and b) apologise to them for having little faith in their comeback.
As a lifelong fan I was nervous about their return. When you’ve produced so many great albums, can you really recapture the magic after such a lengthy hiatus?
Turns out you can, and maybe – just maybe, Blink are a better band for it.
Tom, Mark, Travis – welcome back.
|It's new Blink 182 material! The new album mixes new and traditional Blink 182 sounds||Hearts All Gone Interlude and Fighting The Gravity feel like a step back to the S/T|