What the Dickens is this? Weren’t Blink 182 the ultimate frat party trio who, when they weren’t taking off all their clothes in videos or on stage, were releasing albums with the scholarly titles of Enema Of The State and Take Off Your Pants And Jacket?
Well, the album titles haven’t gotten any more erudite – I’ve always thought eponymous album titles betrayed a serious lack of imagination – but listening to this, their sixth album, you’d be hard-pushed to know that Blink 182 were anything other than a bunch of serious rock musicians dedicated to their art.
In fact, the signs are there from the CD booklet alone. Meticulously put together and resembling a Warholian pastiche, the booklet has notes detailing the lyrical inspiration for each song, what it means to each band member, and the recording techniques used. The latter, in particular, verge on the nerd-ish at times (how many people are really going to care that what type of drum flange they used?) but overall, this kind of letting the listener in on “the secret” is something that bands should do more often.
Blink 182: serious? That just doesn’t sound right. Luckily for them, the music really does…
On this album Blink 182 have unfolded their creative wings to a hitherto unimaginable span. There’s still the backbone of pop-infused punk but the vertebrae have been injected with all sorts of outside influences. I Miss You has a fantastic, busy, funky drum loop and, get this, liberal use of piano. In fact, a plethora of instruments are employed in this dark pop song, culminating in a big chorus that shows that Blink have not forgotten the art of the radio hit in their new-found guise.
If it comes as a surprise (at least before hearing it) to read in the liner notes that I Miss You is inspired by The Cure, then it’s a veritable shock to hear old lipstick face himself, Robert Smith, singing the verses of All Of This towards the end of the album. Predictably, All Of This is a gothic-tinged pop song that uses strings and guitar effects to impressively moody effect. What next? Bauhaus playing with The Offspring?
If this all sounds like Blink 182 have gone and done a Chili Peppers by putting their clothes back on and going soft, then rest easy, because there are plenty of loud, (s)punky numbers on offer – it’s just that they’re now a whole lot more than three chords and a four-four beat. Obvious has a brooding, heavy intro and cascading guitar riffs; Violence flicks between bizarre, spoken jazzy verses and anthemic punk choruses; while the band’s exhortation that Go “deserves to be played loud” is enthrallingly spot on.
The album ends with I’m Lost Without You, a six-minute plus track that took over half a year to evolve apparently, and features plenty of piano, pensive vocals and a mad drum solo at the end played on two kits. It has to be said that Travis Barker’s drumming on this album is a particular highlight, whether it’s in the punk-out moments or the cool, laid-back vibe of The Fallen Interlude, recorded with Sick Jacken from hip-hop band Psycho Realm. Blink 182 may not be The Beatles but then Mr Barker is not exactly just a Ringo…
In recent interviews, Blink 182 have been saying that this album is a natural progression from their other work and that it’s galling if critics only take them seriously now. The fact is that this is a quantum leap from their previous albums, both in attitude and musicianship, and that it would have been a joke to have regarded them as anything other than immature brats before (albeit ones with a good ear for a tune and 10 million album sales to their name).
It seems that this is one case where being in side-bands (The Transplants and Box Car Racer) has really added new dimensions to the main group’s music. Whether they like it or not, Blink 182 have grown up. The question is, can they count on the fans to do so as well?