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September 25, 2011

In a Different 'Neighborhood'

I felt like I had to do this. Blink 182 was my favorite band for half a decade, pretty much all of high school. And a lot has changed since their last album with them and with me, and I'd like you to know that I am bit rusty at this review thing but I'm going to give this one my best shot. (P.S the versions that I will be posting on this blog may get taken down because the album isn't out yet and the ones that I have found sound different than the versions than I have. Let me know if they get taken down in the comment section below) (P.P.S I found a website that was streaming the entire album, I didn't download the leaked version. Because that would be illegal. And I would never want to do anything like that)

Given that the above music video is working, you can already hear how different Blink sounds. Yes this is a far cry from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. I've read a bunch of reviews about how much darker the album is than all their other albums and I would just say that they've matured. This is a logical progression from their self-titled album and personally this is the Blink 182 I like the best.

I was introduced to the self-titled album first. My parents didn't think any of their other albums were appropriate so I didn't really get a chance to truly get into them other than their few radio hits until I went to Ashland, Oregon in 7th grade for a field trip. Literally the entire way there, the entire way back was playing that album on repeat, staring out the window making story arcs between the songs and trying to reconcile the sexualized side of "Feeling This" with the fact that I had still only ever held hands with a girl. I think I had a different perspective because of this early exposure. To me the moments when Blink 182 truly stood out was not during their joke songs but the moments when they turned serious. Blink 182 was brilliant because there was no pretense to their music. They were making immature music for immature kids and that afforded them the freedom to talk about love in a way that didn't seem over the top and cheesy. So when the self-titled album came out as their attempt at being serious it came from a very believable perspective of a few guys who got tired of pretending that it was still all peaches and gravy. But even so there was still a certain amount of joy and pleasure that was inherent in the way they went out to explain it.

This joy seems entirely absent from their new album. "Neighborhoods" seems to come off as a violent scream against a world that has moved on from the 90's. The world is in a different place, the band is definitely in a different place after the deaths of their close friends, and the listeners somehow have to carve out a niche somewhere in their as well. For that reason, "Neighborhoods" can sometimes come out as forced. Especially during songs like "Wishing Well" where Tom Delonge shows off his knack for catchiness with some "dadadas" during an overly buoyant chorus. It's entirely out of place when juxtaposed with lyrics about "Going to the grave and back."

It's a very strange dynamic because after listening to the entire album the listener is struck by a feeling that the band is chafing at the limits of power chords and pop-punk progressions. It's almost as if the band chose to confine itself in this rigid structure to emphasize the monochromatic world they've begun to see around them. For instance in "Natives" one of the immediate standouts of the album, they're using the exact same chorus progression from "Dammit" and when you put the two songs side by side they stand in stark contrast. Same power-chords, same catchy melodies, but there is a desperation that wasn't there during the times of "Dude Ranch." There's more rebellion contained in this album than any of their other releases as Blink and even in their side projects. The album comes off as gleeful anarchy, like partying until the house burns down.

The album does contain quite a few duds."Love is Dangerous" comes off as repetitive and juvenile like angsty pre-teen poetry. "Fighting the Gravity" stands as one of their more experimental tracks but it's just dull in comparison to other songs on the album. But there is still something that feels like home. The final song on the "bonus" version is "Even if She Falls" and there's something beautiful about it. Delonge is singing about the same unrequited love that he's been singing about since the beginning but after listening to an album about how the world is burning and everything feels hollow, feelings really haven't changed. There's simple piano in "Kleidoscope" after the snarling punk thrash of "Heart's All Gone" and somehow that's reassuring.

So much has changed in the 8 years since Blink has put out a new album. There's an unspoken longing for The Clash to come out at every punk show, you desperately want the singer of The Doors cover band to come close to Morrison, you hope the ecstacy will make you forget the amount of brotanks at a electronic music festival. Somehow in that space of nostalgia and disenchantment there lies a feeling of mutual empathy, of belonging to something that was. Even if the memories have become fuzzy and the feelings have faded, one still has to hold onto those small moments of true feeling and clarity. "Neighborhoods" explores that desire and all the emotion that comes with it. The record stands out starkly from anything any of the members have done and it's a record that I can't stop listening to.

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