Ah pop/punk, those two words that never seemed particularly easy bedfellows. Before Busted and Avril Lavigne claimed the term as their own, Blink 182 were probably the biggest pop-punkers on the planet, making their name with daft little songs marked by lavatorial humour and videos in which clothes mysteriously seemed to fall off. They were never the most revolutionary of bands, but they were quite fun on their day.
With Blink 182 now on an ‘indefinite sabbatical’ (i.e. they’ve broken up until someone offers them a obscene amount of money to reform), lead singer Tom DeLonge has teamed up with guitarist David Kennedy (formerly DeLonge’s colleague in Boxcar Racer), former Distillers bassist Ryan Sinn and the ex-Offspring drummer Atom Willard to form a veritable pop/punk supergroup.
Anybody who’s seen or read a Tom DeLonge interview over the last couple of months will have heard of Angels & Airwaves as he’s been incessantly talking them up. He’s described it at various times as “the best music made in decades”, “it will change the way you’ll listen to music in the future” and “extraordinary”. So, you’d expect something pretty special, right?
Well, while Angels & Airwaves are pretty good, don’t pick up We Don’t Have To Whisper expecting a revolutionary sound designed to shatter your worldview and change your life. On the other hand, if you want something to fill the gap while U2 are recording are their new album, look no further. For this album is so close to Bono and the boys that it’s a surprise to find it wasn’t recorded underneath a Joshua Tree., You almost expect to find DeLonge wearing wraparound shades while haranguing George Bush about the Third World debt.
It’s certainly miles away from Blink 182, being serious, intense and foreboding at times – there’s a theme of life during wartime running through the album with titles like The War and Valkyrie Missile. However, DeLonge has gone out of his way to make this more life-affirming than depressing. At its best, We Don’t Need To Whisper is a euphoric, inspiring listen, as demonstrated by the excellent The Adventure. It’s the sort of song that you want to play loud while driving very fast and feel glad that you’re alive.
The aforementioned Valkyrie Missile is another impressive moment, a slow build up featuring an organ sound and ghostly voices asking “is there anybody out there” before exploding into life with a guitar riff that The Edge misplaced somewhere during the recording of The Unforgettable Fire. The positive message of the song is reinforced by the chorus of “Take a chance ’cause I know you want to” and despite the song running for nearly 7 minutes, it never outstays its welcome.
However, one problem with We Don’t Need To Whisper is the sheer similarity of the songs. In small doses, it’s great, but over the course of 55 minutes it becomes a bit wearisome. There’s no great diversity here, with every song featuring that Edge-like guitar riff, stomping drums and DeLonge’s sometimes rather whiney vocals. Occasionally there’s some experimentation with synths, as on the introduction to the crunchy Do It For Me Now, but soon that familiar guitar riff kicks in and we’re back to the usual territory.
This lack of variety means that songs like The Gift and Good Day plod on rather drearily with DeLonge’s vocals here becoming particularly irritating. It’s a shame as when they hit top form, such as on the anthemic The War or the standout track It Hurts, the sounds works very successfully indeed.
Ultimately, if you were left cold by Blink 182, then you may well be pleasantly surprised by Angels & Airwaves as they have a very different sound. Although DeLonge’s vocals remain a acquired taste, he copes with the stadium rock sound very well. While there’s no really bad tracks here, the lack of variety here leaves this rather an indifferent listen.