Blink-182 joined numerous bands in the quest back into music with the end of its six-year self-imposed hiatus and the release of its sixth studio album, “Neighborhoods.”
The issues that drove the Southern California pop-punk band apart were set aside in the wake of a 2008 plane crash in which drummer Travis Barker was one of two survivors and remained in the hospital for several months with severe burns.
However, what happened during the years Blink-182 was apart and during the process of their reconciliation is reflected in the new album, displaying a more serious side that is not usually associated with the band.
The album is a reflection of the maturation and experimentation of the band’s outlook and sound, the beginnings of which were evident in their last album, “Blink-182,” released in 2003.
Much of the teen angst and irreverent sense of humor seen on previous albums has transformed into reflection upon more adult issues.
Fortunately, the album, although more artistically experimental, still retains the essence of Blink-182.
The first song, “Ghost On the Dance Floor,” begins with drum patterns and heavy cymbal play that can be easily recognized as Travis Barker and is then followed by a mix of synthesizers and guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge’s catchy riff and vocals.
Although DeLonge’s voice sounds closer to his tone as the Angels and Airwaves frontman than a member of Blink-182, the sound does not last.
Bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus and DeLonge take turns singing the choruses, verses and harmonies in each song on the album.
The deliberately overdone diction and slightly nasal tone of DeLonge’s vocals pre-Angels and Airwaves is delightfully present in “Wishing Well” and “This is Home,” but his voice takes on a smoother, more refined quality in “Up All Night” and “Ghost On the Dance Floor.”
The alternation of vocals, combined with the radically changing sound from song to song, creates a diverse album that acknowledges the band’s previous work while also allowing a matured sound.
The second song, “Natives,” is reminiscent of the old school pop-punk sound that was Blink-182’s signature.
However, like every song on the album, the lyrics serve as a dark contradiction to the upbeat tempo, with lines such as “we’ll have the time of our lives, although we’re dying inside.”
Darker lyrics are especially prominent in “Up All Night” and “After Midnight,” both of which were released as singles before the album was released.
These songs in particular seem to reflect the band members’ feelings in relation to the hiatus, Barker’s accident and DeLonge’s struggle with addiction to painkillers. Such feelings are evident in the lyrics “I can’t find the best in all of this, but I’m looking out for you, cause you’re the one I miss, and it’s driving me crazy.”
The hidden gem on this album is “Mh 4.18.2011,” which contains classic Blink drum patterns courtesy of Barker and features Hoppus on lead vocals with DeLonge singing harmony.
The fast tempo and the breakdown combined with lyrics like “stop living in the shadow of a helicopter” make this song a prime example of the fusion of a classic upbeat Blink-182 sound with mature lyrics, epitomizing what Blink-182 is today.
The greatest disappointment of “Neighborhoods” is its length. The original edition only has 10 songs, which seems much too short to die-hard fans that have waited years for this album.
The deluxe edition of “Neighborhoods” contains four additional songs that should be included in the original album, because they offer a smoother progression between the radically different styles of each song. Of the four songs, “Snake Charmer” and “Even If She Falls” stand out due to unique riffs and catchy lyrics.
I strongly recommend that Blink-182 fans spend the few extra dollars to buy the deluxe edition of “Neighborhoods” for a more complete grasp on the story in the album.
Although each song has a distinctly different sound from the others, Blink-182 implements the experimentation of sounds well.
Rather than sounding disjointed, the various styles somehow work and only add to the mood of the album.
“Neighborhoods” is a surprisingly great album that will hopefully allows Blink-182 to break back into a music industry in which their genre is grossly underrepresented.