The music scene of 2016 has featured far more than its fair share of tragedies. The untimely deaths of rock royals David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, and Nick Menza, alongside that of the more recent pop icon Christina Grimmie, the retirement of Swedish DJ Avicii, the ongoing feud between Kanye West and Taylor Swift…amongst these bold headlines, one could be forgiven for labelling the year an annus horribilis. In spite of this, or perhaps even to compensate for it, the last seven months have seen the release of a multitude of phenomenal albums across all genres. The five albums listed in these upcoming article series are not empirically “better” than the rest; rather, they mark five very different albums, as well as one EP, which are incredibly satisfying listens, deserving of celebration.
6. California – Blink-182
Blink-182 is a band needing no introduction. Bursting onto the California pop-punk scene in 1992, their back catalogue contains such a plethora of radio hits and energetic deep cuts that it would be easy to assume the band’s best days were behind them. Their last full-length, 2011’s Neighbourhoods, suffered from an unfortunate combination of unrealistically high hopes and overproduction, and all but cemented for me personally that the band who wrote Enema of the State was no more. I approached this album with healthy doses of skepticism and intrigue.
As it turns out, the replacement of founding member, guitarist, and vocalist Tom DeLonge with Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba injected new life into the band. The quality of the vocals in particular on this album are a step up. Gone are the mid-to-high pitched whines of a man pushing forty, desperately trying to cling to his youth; they were replaced instead by a melody, resonance, and two-part harmonies. Indeed, this is a facet of the biggest change on the album: the maturation of the iconic Blink-182 sound. Each track manages to synthesize the elements which made their 90s tunes classic, with the modern sensibility and themes prevalent on Neighbourhoods coming to a perfect middle-ground.
No track better exemplifies this than lead single ‘Bored to Death’. The bass is high in the mix, the drums are bombastic, laying down a beat more reminiscent of hip hop than punk, the slowed chorus harks back to romps of yesteryear, but the vocals are more lamenting than whiny, with a hint of auto-tune. Additionally, the backing track is glossy, and there’s a string section enhancing the melancholy atmosphere of the verses, leading into each chorus with a crescendo. Lyrically, the song is about “navigating through [a relationship] when things get real murky”, according to the band, but one can detect a hint of self-awareness in the chorus: “Save your breath/I’m nearly bored to death/And fading fast/Life is too short to last long.” In addition to being the band’s most morbid refrain since 1999’s ‘Adam’s Song’, it seems to both play on the current YOLO trend, as well as the band’s own philosophy as they age. They’re no longer 23 and trying to act like they’re in freshman year (to borrow the band’s most famous lyric) and they’re happy about it. The toilet humour the band is known for does show up, in the form of short tracks like ‘Built This Pool’ and ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’ for 47 seconds of silliness, but it’s no longer the focus of their music – a surprise, given that they marketed an album called Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
Is this album musically accomplished? No. Is this album going to set a new precedent for the genre? Not a chance. But is it a remarkably energetic listen? The answer is an unequivocal yes. The album’s July 1st release date wasn’t just playing on the 182nd day of the year; the band may have aged, but they’ve always written music for having carefree fun in the sun. They may well prefer the golf course to the skate park these days, but at heart, the band is about celebrating all the small things.
Favourite Track: She’s out of Her Mind
Text by Aidan Lindsay, photo borrowed from chorus.fm