Review: California

blink-182 had a major challenge on their hands when it came to releasing their latest record, California.  Following the departure of Tom Delonge amidst a storm of controversy, their latest record had to prove that the band could survive and thrive without him, and with Matt Skiba as a replacement.  Lead single Bored To Death got the marketing for California off to a good start: if you haven’t heard the track yet, you can watch the video below.

There was a lot of controversy when Bored To Death was released amongst both old-school and newer blink-182 fans.  Some older fans found the track reminded them of the band’s earlier work, whilst others claimed that the title described how they felt whilst listening to it.  I’ll admit that I’ve never exactly been a die hard fan, but I can’t help but love their most popular tracks, and I believe that California has taken the band’s original spirit and polished their sound to suit their growing and maturing audience.

The fact is, without wanting to sound harsh, the members of blink-182 aren’t getting any younger.  To me it’s very inauthentic when older bands attempt to write the same songs as when they were teens and young adults, so a maturing sound and lyrical content is exactly what I want to hear from this band.  Hearing middle aged men – some of them parents – sing about high school drama really doesn’t do it for me, so I’m glad California has avoided this trope.  The band does sing about their younger years, but with a more reflective and nostalgic tone rather than attempting to imitate those times.

I really enjoyed the combination of Matt and Mark’s vocals throughout the album.  Matt doesn’t sound anything like Tom Delonge, but I think if blink-182 had chosen a soundalike replacement they would have received a lot of flack.  Plus, Matt’s credentials as vocalist and guitarist for Alkaline Trio meant that he fit right into the band’s trademark pop/punk-rock.

Admittedly, there are a couple of elements to this album that stick out to me, and not in a good way.  The heavy autotune on Mark’s vocals during opener Cynical feels totally unnecessary to me. Plus, there are a lot of na-na-nahs throughout which gives the impression that the band got bored of songwriting and used fillers to plug the gaps.  Whilst blink-182 are well known for their jokey immature humour, the penis and fingering jokes in Brohemian Rhapsody and Built This Pool aren’t my style, and fall a little flat.  What was I saying about the band maturing again?

I also think that California could have done with fewer tracks: the 16-song record clocks in at just over 42 minutes long, and blink-182 could have put their message across in 12 or 13 songs.  The tracks also aren’t particularly easy to distinguish from each other, but there are a few elements (such as gang vocals and heavily edited drums) which help some individual tracks, such as Sober and the title track, stand out from the crowd.  Songs that fit well together are also a sign of a well produced and cohesive album, so this isn’t an entirely negative thing.

Overall, my review of California is a mixed bag.  Whilst I like the band’s nostalgia, energy and more polished sound, it’s been over two decades since their formation and part of me wonders whether their punk-rock flame is starting to go out.  It’s possible that blink-182 just aren’t the band for me, so I’ll leave the final verdict up to you guys, my altrocklife audience, as I’d be interested to hear your views.  Let me know what you thought of California on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Highlights: Los Angeles, Kings Of The Weekend, Left Alone