By Jessica Kane
Blink-182 are standing defiantly on the precipice of an uncertain future. News of a new producer, a new singer, and a farewell to a founding member last summer left fans and cynics anxiously waiting to see if the band could pull off their next move. On California, the band shows that they are determined to preserve the soul of Blink-182 by marching furiously into the sun, drums blazing.
Accomplished producer and Goldfinger frontman, John Feldmann, was brought in to help the band find their way after the 2011 self-produced Neighborhoods. Feldmann handles the task beautifully. California is decisively Blink; a sparkling, bouncy, celebration of organized chaos.
Last spring the sudden departure of founding member, Tom Delonge, left the band scrambling to replace him in time to perform at a music festival. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba rose to the occasion and the three worked so well together that it led to Matt joining the band as a permanent member. On California, Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba harmonize like they’ve been doing it for decades and Travis Barker’s faithful drums hold each song together perfectly (to nobody’s surprise).
The vocal harmonies might be the biggest difference on this album, but the new combination is a welcome bit of warmth after the gloomy, melancholic tones of Neighborhoods. The trade-off of Tom DeLonge for Matt Skiba is clearly noticeable; both men have their own unique delivery and vocal range. Thankfully, Skiba is in no way trying to emulate Tom, he’s just here to be himself and have fun. Even though Tom is gone, the fallout between him and the band has a clear influence on California.
One of the few benefits of heartbreak is that it can lead to clarity. From the first track it’s clear the band has no interest in wallowing in the past. “Cynical” opens the album at top speed, swings the door open and insists that you get in the car. The album is like a road-trip full of sunshine, house parties, and the gathering of friends in various cities. Even the battle cry of “Los Angeles” feels like the build up to an epic post-apocalyptic party in an abandoned warehouse. Of course there are hazardous conditions along the way. “San Diego” deals with the departure of Delonge and the pain that a physical location can hold when it contains so many memories. The group formed in San Diego and now the city isn’t just a location, it’s a place in time that can never be returned to. On “Home is Such a Lonely Place,” the lyrics, “I wish that we could save today, But I know we can’t stay the same,” echo similar growing pains.
With growth comes maturity, and songs like “Sober” and the title track “California” show that the band is ready to face the future with humility, not self pity. However, don’t think they’ve abandoned their signature dirty innuendos just because they’ve learned a thing or two, as evidenced by the outro “Brohemian Rhapsody.”
Jessica Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. She currently writes for SoundStage Direct, her go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment, including VPI Turntables