“I have no desire to go back and play in Blink-182 again,” guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge told Spinner.com in 2008.
The 2005 split of seminal pop-punk band Blink-182 was a well-documented meltdown of personalities, driven by newly divisive musical tastes and the sheer exhaustion that set in after so many years of recording and touring.
The band, however, found a way to come back together. The 2008 death of long-time Blink producer Jerry Finn brought the trio in contact again. A mere month later, a private-jet crash nearly killed drummer Travis Barker, leaving him with severe burns.
But these traumatic events led to renewed, albeit tentative, contact that slowly resulted in collaboration and eventually a new album, Neighborhoods.
Music is not easy to create. It takes talent, sure, but perhaps more than anything, it takes sheer chemistry.
It’s hard to say whether the chemistry in the band is back to normal, but Neighborhoods seems to indicate it’s not.
There’s really no other way to explain the disjointed feel of the album. Neighborhoods is, in many ways, a logical continuation of 2003’s self-titled Blink-182 -— it’s still more mature and more musically experimental than Blink’s classic, sophomorically silly pop-punk style that originally brought the band into the spotlight.
But unlike Blink-182, the experimentation and style on Neighborhoods doesn’t feel nearly as cohesive and purposeful.
Take the lead single “Up All Night,” for instance. The bulk of the song is a perfectly endearing, even catchy, treatise on the day-to-day struggles of life.
Why, then, throw in fragments of a meandering, Metallica-esque thrash riff? It’s almost as if DeLonge and company felt insecure about the verses and choruses standing alone and decided to throw on a flashy and unnecessary musical segment.
And why include an introductory interlude for the very average “Heart’s All Gone?” The roughly two-minute-long instrumental comes off more as something that Explosions In the Sky chose to reject than anything poignant or fitting.
The problem is that from a fundamentally musical standpoint, Neighboorhoods is a decent album. Nothing more, nothing less.
The band touts it as a further expansion of its experimental and serious side, but Neighborhoods sounds a little more like regression.
2003’s Blink-182 took bold gambles and paid off with tracks like the solemnly tragic “I Miss You,” the cleverly riotous “Feeling This” and the explosive, no-holds-barred “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Alas, a listen through Neigborhoods will leave you grasping in vain for potential classics.
That’s not to say the latest album is a failure. “Kaleidoscope” is a rare bit of inspired writing, one that deftly melds deep, crunching guitars with keyboards and a refrain that attacks with the galloping energy that one would expect from Blink.
And songs like “Ghost On The Dance Floor” and the industrial-tinged “Snake Charmer,” although not perfect, show off Blink’s willingness to wander out of its comfort zone, demonstrating a flair for the ambitious and experimental. The eclectic involvement of various effects and synthesizers helps to diversify the sound throughout Neighborhoods, even if it does come off more than a little like Angels and Airwaves.
On the flip side, some of the melodies (“Even If She Falls,” “MH 4.18.2011” and “Wishing Well,” among others) sound like they’ve been ripped straight out of B-sides from 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket -— definitely a look back instead of forward.
And so it becomes somewhat unclear who this album is really intended for. It’s not really for the Enema of the State crowd; lyrically, it’s far too dark, and musically, it’s too wonky. Then again, it’s not really for the Blink-182 crowd either. If you enjoyed that album’s brazen curiosity of the unfamiliar, Neighborhoods just seems tame in comparison.
But Neighborhoods is still a solid effort from a trio that wasn’t expected to write together ever again. The confidence and focus to move forward isn’t all there, but it’s a start, one that still manages to declare the return of the pop-punk kings to the rock world.
It’s easy to wonder what it was like for DeLonge, Barker and Hoppus to walk into the same studio together again. Most likely it was a little awkward, and maybe curious, cautious and optimistic all at once. A little like Neighborhoods, really.