Twice now, it’s taken life-threatening experiences to rebuild the bonds between the members of Blink-182. Their return from hiatus in 2008 was brought about after Travis Barker narrowly escaped death in a plane crash where he sustained burns on two-thirds of his body, but seven years and two wobbly releases (2011’s ‘Neighborhoods’ and 2012’s ‘Dogs Eating Dogs’) later, the friction had returned.
By 2015, Tom DeLonge was out the door again, though he claimed he still had one foot still in it (“Never planned on quitting, just find it hard as hell to commit,” was his line) and after some legal to-ing and fro-ing, Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba filled their vacant singer-guitarist role for 2016’s angst-tinged ‘California’ and 2019’s experimental whirlwind ‘Nine’. Then, the threat of tragedy loomed large again when vocalist-bassist Mark Hoppus was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, and with that, the Mark, Tom and Travis Show jolted back into life. A reunion tour has been rapturously received.
On their first record together for over a decade, the trio seem to look at the sad truth at what made them reunite with regret – “I wish they’d told us/It shouldn’t take a sickness/Or airplanes falling from the sky,” Hoppus laments on the wistful acoustic title track; DeLonge poses a heart-ripping question: “Do I have to die to make you miss me?” It’s the emotional apex of an album doused in sentimentality.
There’s gooey nostalgia aplenty on the sunny ‘When We Were Young’ and the just-sweet-enough ‘Fell In Love’ – arguably Blink’s most mature love song ever, while ‘You Don’t Know What You’ve Got’ beautifully contrasts the dread of “long weeks of impending doom/Stuck in life’s waiting room” while Hoppus had cancer with a jubilant chorus fizzing with the spirited feeling of looking at life with new eyes. It’s mostly endearing rather than saccharine, and somehow they’ve managed to bottle the simplistic joy this band has of being back in the same room and rediscovering the fun of rocking out together.
Speaking of rediscovery, ‘One More Time’ is, sonically, something of a full circle moment. Bringing Skiba on board did help to push Blink’s sound in refreshing new directions, but the return of DeLonge also heralds a return, perhaps unsurprisingly, to a pop-punk sound mined from yesteryear. Returning to their home turf is sometimes more successful than others – ‘Dance With Me’’s gloriously sticky “Ole ole ole ole, yeah, we’re doing it all night long” hook is instantly memorable and is silly enough to have been a relic from Blink’s most popular era act, while opener ‘Anthem Part 3’ storms in with a fuzzy, warm wall of guitar, pounding drums and a real sense of victory about it.
The issue is, however, that it’s perhaps lacking in variety. Although the rocket-fueled, lightning-paced ‘More Than You Know’ and the gently atmospheric closer ‘Childhood’ do offer changes in pace, there’s only really subtle things differentiating many of these songs from each other. Sometimes, the hooks aren’t as strong as they could be, meaning that certain tracks, especially in the album’s second half, aren’t exactly begging to be remembered. Indeed, there’s probably a much more concise edit of this 17-track collection, which may well be more appropriate for the relative simplicity of what Blink-182 tend to do.
Towards the end of the album, DeLonge asks a question many listeners will have in their minds as they hit play – “2023, who the fuck are we?” They aren’t all that far away from who they’ve always been – three friends wanting to make some noise and have a riot of a time doing it. Although they’re not exactly revolutionising pop punk, this was likely never the goal. Chances are, the fans just want the old Blink back anyway, and in 2023, they’re just as fun as ever.
- Release date: October 20, 2023
- Record label: Columbia Records
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