this new blink-182 song is, uh, not good
When blink-182 made their first album with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba replacing Tom Delonge, 2016’s California, it was the first time in their career that they ever really looked backwards. People may have always considered them a band whose music was geared towards kids, a band you “grow out of” and then only listen to later for nostalgic value, but blink-182 themselves pushed forward with more experimental albums like the 2003 untitled record and even their 2011 comeback album Neighborhoods, both of which saw them successfully looking far beyond the youthful pop punk they’re usually associated with. But California saw the band — now all in their 40s — trying to re-create the sounds and the toilet humor that put them on TRL at the turn of the millennium, and the result was an awkward, overproduced (by John Feldmann) mess. When Mark Hoppus said the new album would be “a lot more aggressive,” “darker in theme and tone,” and “more like the untitled record where we are trying to experiment more,” it sounded very promising. They got California out of their systems and now they were going to pick up where they left off and make the kind of interesting, inventive music that secured them a legacy beyond pop punk and got them Robert Smith approval… or so it seemed. They just put out the album’s lead single, “Blame It On My Youth,” and from the sound of this song, the promise of a darker, more aggressive, more experimental record was an empty one. This doesn’t sound very different than the overproduced, soulless songs of California at all.
In case the title didn’t give it away, the band is once again reveling in their own nostalgia and it’s not a good look. While some of blink’s contemporaries (from Bad Religion to Jimmy Eat World to The Get Up Kids) have been examining ways to age gracefully or look at the modern world with a wiser perspective, Mark is singing about being a kid watching television re-runs and listening to “Safety Dance” and then starting a punk band. It feels like what Weezer did on “Back to the Shack,” and as with that song, it’s not enough to fondly remember your glory days and sing about it. When you’ve set the bar as high as blink-182 did with the classic run of Dude Ranch, Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and untitled, you need to make some effort to raise the bar again or at least match it. Here, blink-182 sound like they’re on autopilot.
Even if you look past the uninspired lyrics — it’s not like blink-182 were ever poets or anything — “Blame It On My Youth” is held back by awkward, overpolished production in the same way that California was. Mark and Matt’s natural voices are too strong for this much vocal production, Travis’ drums are missing the crack they have on blink-182’s best records, and the guitars sound faker than they’ve ever sounded. Blink also, instead of channelling the punk roots they’re singing about, channel the bombastic “whoa-oh”s of the M.O.R. alt-pop that you hear on what’s left of rock radio or at 8 PM at Firefly Festival. Maybe I’m just being selfish — terrible, hugely popular bands like The Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds of Summer have namedropped blink-182 as an influence, and blink-182 are pretty lucky to be so relevant within today’s pop music for a ’90s pop punk band, so maybe it behooves them to write “whoa-oh” pop rock songs that Chainsmokers fans might like. But blink-182 have also influenced some of the best indie rock and punk bands around and they’re finally in a position to make a record that could keep them popular while turning them into re-appraised critical favorites. The way that, say, Paramore did. Maybe “Blame It On My Youth” is a red herring and the rest of the new album will veer closer to Mark’s “darker, more aggressive, more experimental” description. Let’s hope so.
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