Who said the 80s were dead? Angels & Airwaves have ventured into the unknown, bouncing gritty synth against equally gritty rock to create a sound we’ve waited 30 years to hear again. But was it worth the wait?
The four piece supergroup consists of Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge and Nine Inch Nails’ Ilan Rubin, with recently tentative roles played by Box Car Racer’s David Kennedy and Thrice’s Eddie Beckenbridge, but it’s unsure as to what extent they remain involved with the group. Their fifth studio album, ‘The Dream Walker’ has been born of yet another massive idea for AvA, becoming the soundtrack for DeLonge’s short animation ‘Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker’, due for release on 9th December. This immense concept will span not only the short film, but a live action movie, comic book series and novels, but it seems the album content has become somewhat of an afterthought. Uninspiring track titles and an inconsistent theme don’t make this the easiest album to listen to.
The atmospheric techy piano opening of ‘Teenagers and Rituals’ sets a nostalgic theme, while the soaring ‘The Disease’ establishes the movie soundtrack nature of the album. DeLonge’s unmistakable twang combines with groove-inducing techy guitars and Rubin’s impressive drum work throughout ‘Paralysed’ to create a new, and to some extent welcome, ethos of laid-back serenity.
Having said that, DeLonge’s distinctive vocals make it difficult to avoid comparison with punk giants Blink-182, and the contemplative solemnity of ‘Mercenaries’ and the punk defeatist essence of ‘Anomaly’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blink album. ‘Tunnels’, an anthem of refusing defeat and holding your ground, presents the best lyrical work of the record, for example “I’m Johnny come lately but I will not give up” and the infectious line “the look in my eye is one that can kill” – let’s face it, they’ve got Blink written all over them.
‘The Wolfpack’ and ‘Kiss With A Spell’ throw a sickeningly 80s vibe into the mix – imagine a pop-punk kid playing Pong at the arcade and you’re just about there. This is a brand new approach for AvA, creating meandering and reflective yet somewhat energetic synth-rock. If only for the length of two tracks, it certainly destroys comparisons with the other musical endeavours of each member – Nine Inch what?
However, ‘Bullets In The Wind’ echoes The Killers with a singalong quality to mirror the groove-a-long guitar work. At times, there are glimmers of true punk melodies hidden in there somewhere, but you have to wade through an awful lot of space rock atmospheric effects beforehand.
Perhaps this record would suit live shows more, as it’s too difficult to distance the tracks from their intended soundtrack purpose in flat studio-quality recordings. A tougher bass-line and more of DeLonge’s familiar twang would distance this from its movie companion, but nevertheless, a valiant attempt.
’The Dream Walker’ by Angels & Airwaves is released on 9th December on To The Stars Records.
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Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)