The kings of modern pop punk have returned! However, it’s no longer the Mark, Tom and Travis show. blink-182 Version 3.0 (let’s not forget about Scott Raynor) arrives with a cloud of scepticism. It’s no doubt that Matt Skiba is more than capable of filling the boots of the departed Tom DeLonge, yet you can’t help approach ‘California’ with caution.
Whilst 2011’s comeback album, ‘Neighborhoods’ was a rigid, incohesive set of ideas, ‘California’ instantly shows solidarity between the trio and producer/co-writer John Feldmann. At its core, is a full, resonate sound that thrives on bold and catchy songs. ‘Bored To Death’ sets the tone early on with its “oh oh oh oh”’s. Although that first single made Skiba look like a guest vocalist, on tracks such as ‘Los Angeles’ and the tender ‘Home Is Such A Lonely Place’, he comes into his own and compliments Mark Hoppus’ self-deprecating vocals.
Elsewhere songs such as ‘Sober’, ’No Filter’, ‘Kings of the Weekend’ and ‘San Diego’ make good use of the pop-rock template that has been honed by many who Blink paved the way before. The use of big choruses is a consistent and favourable trait. Whereas ‘Rabbit Hole’ is vintage Blink through and through. As a whole, the record embraces blink-182’s pop sensibilities with a maturing eye. It sees a band that is content with what they’re doing and not too worried about evolving.
Nevertheless, ‘California’’s downfall is that at 16 songs deep, with only two of them serving as humorous stop-gaps, it challenges your attention span. Sure it’s easy to criticise an album’s length, but with a style trapped in a summery pop-punk bubble, it’s difficult to differentiate one track from another. Undoubtedly later cuts ‘The Only Thing That Matters’ and ‘San Diego’ are delivered with an abundance of urgency, yet somewhat arrive after the bands style has become tiresome.
Beyond the length and slight lack of variation, ‘California’ is a fun record. It’s a cohesive effort that doesn’t stray too far from its comfort zone. All three members serve their purpose to the best of their ability. Hoppus has stepped forward as the leader with Matt Skiba leaving his mark throughout. Whilst the ever-impressive Travis Barker lives up to his reputation for being one of the best stickmen in the game.
‘California’ does it best to reassure you of a bright future for blink-182 with a familiar but fresh approach.
‘California’ by blink-182 is released on July 1st on BMG.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)