You’d be forgiven for not knowing blink-182 put out a new record two weeks ago.
Admittedly, I’ve only barely paid attention to what the band was up to the past 10 years. In that time, they put out just one record, which was 2011’s “Neighborhoods” – an album from which I haven’t heard a single track – and that was after having been on hiatus for four years.
But this new record is called “California,” and it’s their first without Tom, who left the band for a variety of reasons. In his place is Matt Skiba, who you might (or might not) recognize from Alkaline Trio.
I’d been led to believe this album wasn’t very good, but considering there was a time in my life when their music was practically what I lived for, I felt obligated to give it a shot.
There are moments in this album where I almost feel as if I’m 14 again, but it doesn’t linger, because without Tom’s endearing still-whiny-at-40-years-old voice, the band sounds a little more grown up. I won’t say ‘mature,’ because the album still has a couple of sophomoric gag tracks.
I’ve listened through this new album four times, and I like it more each time, but this isn’t the blink-182 you remember. Mark’s signature “pingy” bass riffs are still intact, and Travis’s tight drumming still drives each song along, but it’s definitely a different sound without Tom. It’s familiar but different, and Skiba is a competent replacement, although I can’t pinpoint what his unique contributions really are.
I loved blink-182. They were my favorite band throughout most of my teenage years, and intensely so. Yeah, we all had ‘Enema of the State’ and ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket,’ but I tracked down copies of ‘Dude Ranch,’ ‘Cheshire Cat,’ and ‘Buddha,’ which was no easy task in the early 2000s.
They were silly, fun and energetic. They were the reason I took up playing bass and wanted to have my own garage band. They were the reason I tried (and failed, haha) to be a “skater.” I even emulated the way they dressed. I guess that’s typical of kids at that age. But people change and tastes evolve. I don’t really listen to pop-punk anymore, but I can definitely still enjoy it, even if only to reminisce. Like most people, my musical preferences are sort of all over the place, but I guess I’ve mellowed out in my old age, haha.
And that’s what I find interesting. While a band like Weezer transitioned into “mid-life” seamlessly and with relative ease, blink has always been preoccupied with adolescence and embracing immaturity. But that charm starts to fade when you’re closing in on 45 and still singing about the antics of your teenage years.
So while it’s clear they’re trying to bridge the gap between where they were and where they’re going (some of their lyrics overtly say as much), they haven’t shaken that youthful punchy-ness entirely. And maybe they shouldn’t. That’s their trademark. It’s just gonna be hard to carry into their golden years.
That said, “California” is good a record. It won’t knock your socks off, and maybe it goes a little heavy on the harmonic “woah” choruses, but you’ll find yourself wanting to listen through it again.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the way we value art. We watch movies and play games, and then assess their value by assigning a number. It’s like saying, “Your work, effort, time and creative vision are worth this number. Next.”
Too often, we outright dismiss something without even taking the time to consider everything that went into making it. We’re all guilty of it – I know I certainly am.
Can you imagine pouring your heart, soul and mind into something, only to have some snot-nosed twerp or pretentious neckbeard on the internet blow it off – without even reading the actual criticism – because some reviewer gave it a less-than-stellar score?
Something just feels inherently unfair about judging creativity in this way.
I realize that a numerical score is what the lowest common denominator will best understand, but as a general standard, creators, artists and content producers deserve better than that. They deserve a real, honest critique.
Now, I understand that not everything – be it a book, song, movie, game, poem or whatever else – is truly created with expression/experience in mind. There are many, many works that are vapid and made only with the intent to cash in on a fad in the most lucrative way possible.
But that doesn’t mean our criticism has to be just as flat and one-dimensional.
Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of the death of one of my favorite musical artists.
Jun Seba, known professionally as “Nujabes,” was a Japanese DJ who combined melodies, blended notes, shaped sounds, and crafted music that I regard as profoundly special. He didn’t just make music I liked. It was more personal than that. Continue reading