For anyone who knows me personally, you know how much I love Blink 182. Virtually all of their albums have had some sort of importance in my life. I've said it before, but Blink 182 made me love music. The first time I heard a Blink 182 song, I was mostly listening to whatever my parents were listening to or country music. I now hate most country music, and that's because of Blink 182. They opened me up to new ideas. Sure, it was juvenile and the musicianship wasn't blowing any minds, but it was something I hadn't really ever heard before.
It's been well documented the struggles the band has gone through over the last decade or more. Tom DeLonge having all of his various mental breakdowns; the band moving on, even if Tom can't accept it; Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker deciding to replace Tom with Matt Skiba (formerly of Alkaline Trio). Once Mark and Travis decided to move forward, they immediately began writing a new record, which would become California. I, along with thousands of others, were anxiously awaiting to hear the next new song from the new lineup. We got that in the first single, Bored To Death. It sounded similar to Mark and Travis' side project +44. There was very little to hear in the way of Matt Skiba, which was smart on their part. Show off something familiar. The second single, Rabbit Hole, had more from Skiba, but still felt like a Mark Hoppus song.
And that's one of the problems of this record; it feels more like a +44 record than it does a new Blink 182 record. A record should have a flow, a coherent flow throughout that makes the songs feel like something more than a mixtape. This record is missing that flow. There are some solid tracks, like Bored To Death, but most tracks lack... something. And, as much as it pains me to admit, it may be Tom. For years, we may have taken Tom and all of his ego for granted. I've always liked Tom's voice and writing, but I thought of Mark as the one who had the better melodies. It seems a Blink 182 without Tom isn't really Blink 182 at all.
The record is equal parts "love letter" to California (as the name implies) and a cynical mess. In fact, one of the stronger tracks on the record is the first track, aptly titled "Cynical". It makes sense that Mark and Travis would be a bit bitter after they've been through the last few years trying to get a record made. Especially if the rumors that Tom kept working on his own projects (Angels and Airwaves, books, movies, etc.) instead of working on new Blink stuff. That could be incredibly frustrating, especially with the amount of pressure fans are already putting on them to deliver.
Something else Bink 182 is known for is being obscene and vulgar. Especially on their early records, there were the short "joke" tracks that were meant to be offensive and funny. California has two of these tracks, and they are kind of depressing to hear. Not only are they not funny, they're sad. These are now men in their mid-40's who either don't know what's funny anymore, don't want to be too obscene, or feel like they had to put something in and didn't really try to hard. It's not really something I expected to hear, and it bummed me out when I heard them.
This record could have been so good. It could've been the return to form for Blink 182. It could've been Mark and Travis' big middle finger to Tom, proof that the band can, and should live on without him. Instead it left me wanting the old Blink back,. That may be selfish, and it may be unrealistic, and I shouldn't have come in with such high expectations. I guess I can take solace in knowing that there are still some incredible tracks on this record, and I still have 6 other Blink 182 records to go back to.