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


News: Radio 1 Rock All Dayer takes over the airwaves

Today, the usually pop-oriented BBC Radio 1 have been taken over by rock and alternative music.  So far Twin Atlantic joined Nick Grimshaw on the breakfast show, blink-182 played an acoustic set in the Live Lounge with Clara Amfo, All Time Low hung out with Scott Mills, and Neck Deep were due to join Greg James on the air from 5pm.

This evening Daniel P Carter’s rock show will be joined by co-host Annie Mac and taken over by seven bands performing live sets.  The show is set to be absolutely fantastic; check out the line-up:

7pm – Moose Blood

7:25pm – Against The Current

7:45pm – blink-182

8:05pm – A Day To Remember

8:40pm – Creeper

9:05pm – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

9:35pm – Asking Alexandria

The line-up is pretty diverse, ranging from pop-punk to post-hardcore to punk and plenty in between.  I’m personally most excited to hear from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, an absolutely brilliant band I have yet to hear perform their debut album, Blossom, live.  Coming a close second in terms of excitement is A Day To Remember: I absolutely love their new tracks Paranoid and Bad Vibrations, so I’m hoping they perform both of those songs.  It will also be interesting to hear blink-182 perform live without previous member Tom Delonge.

I always enjoy when Radio 1 put on days like this, which showcase the best of alternative music to a more mainstream audience. If only they happened more often!

What’s been your highlight of the Radio 1 Rock All Dayer so far? What bands are you most excited to hear tonight? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

So far in 2015: the year of band break-ups

If you’ve been keeping up with alternative music news, you’ll know that so far, 2015 has been full of band members leaving or getting kicked out.

The controversy all started on January 22.  Asking Alexandria frontman Danny Worsnop quit the band to focus on his new project, We Are Harlot.

This break-up seemed pretty amicable, with little mud being slung.  A new vocalist has replaced Danny, but their identity will remain secret for now.  In future Asking Alexandria have plans to tour extensively across North America and the European festival circuit.

Following that, on January 26, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker announced Tom Delonge had left blink-182.  His aim may be to pursue solo music projects, including his band Angels And Airwaves.

This led to a bit of confusion, with Delonge writing on Instagram that he hadn’t left the band.

This was swiftly followed by another interview with Hoppus and Barker/  They slammed Delonge’s attitude and dished some serious dirt about their 2004 hiatus.  Talk about messy.

The band had originally planned to enter the studio on January 5 to start working on their next album.  However, this date has been and gone, so the prospect of new music from blink-182 does not seem likely at the moment.  Loyal fans will be keeping their fingers crossed, though!

Then, on February 9, Bullet For My Valentine bassist Jay James announced his exit from the band, which he has been a member of since 2003.  This split appears amicable, but with rumours of disagreements about what direction their fifth album should take, it’s possible that this fuelled his departure.

2015 hasn’t been a promising start for alternative music fans, has it?  Maybe it’s because of the lingering “new year, new me” sentiments left over from New Year’s Day.  Let’s hope that these departures lead to bigger and better things for everyone involved.

That’s all for today, and just so you all know, I won’t be posting my usual update on Monday as I’ll be at an Enter Shikari gig!  I’ll be posting my gig review on Tuesday instead – see you then!

Currently listening to: HolyPVRIS

#tbt : top 9 albums from the 90s you need in your life

Hey everyone!  Looks like it’s time for another throwback Thursday, and today I want to look at my favourite 90s albums.  The 90s were an amazing time for the punk, rock and metal world, with bands such as Foo Fighters, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Biffy Clyro, Blink-182, and Linkin Park forming during the decade.

A lot of the albums released during the 90s have gone on to become cornerstones of modern punk, rock and metal; if you’ve never listened to Nevermind, for example, most people would look at you like your head was on backwards.

Plus, even if you only listen to music from the noughties onwards, chances are that your favourite artists were influenced by, or grew up listening to some of the albums I’m gonna list today.  So, let’s start the countdown!

9: The Razor’s Edge – AC/DC

Honestly, the members of this band probably sweat pure rock and roll.  Whilst not their best album, The Razor’s Edge produced a whole host of anthems which could easily fill stadiums.  Plus, the slow-burning opening to Thunderstruck is enough to send shivers down my spine.

8: Dookie – Green Day

From start to finish, this album is an explosion of angry pop-punk.  What’s not to love about that?  In fact, I don’t think I even need to say any more about Dookie.  Go listen to it, and let it speak for itself.

7: Enema of the State – Blink-182

This album is pure, unadulterated awesome.  Plus, the singles it produced – Adam’s Song, What’s My Age Again? and All The Small Things – have become anthems even hermits that never listen to the radio are probably well aware of.

6: Showbiz – Muse

This album is quirky as hell, and that’s why I like it.  Showbiz turned out to be a pretty good indication of what direction Muse would be going in; that direction being completely throwing out the rule-book and creating completely original music with every album.

5: Parklife – Blur

This list wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of Britpop.  Parklife and Girls and Boys are instantly recognisable even 20 years on, and the whole album in general is infectiously good.

4: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

When I decided I was going to write this post, ITAOTS was one of the first albums I considered for it.  It’s weird, yes, and the lyrics are pretty difficult to get your head around on the first listen, but gems like Holland, 1945 and King of Carrot Flowers Part 2 & 3 combined with the weirdness is what makes this album great.

3: Nevermind – Nirvana

I bet you saw this one coming, didn’t you?  To be honest, I’m not a massive fan of the rest of Nirvana’s discography, but Nevermind is legendary and pretty damn difficult to fault.

2: The Colour And The Shape – Foo Fighters

Quite frankly, this album has it all, and is probably one of the Foo’s best albums.  If you can listen to this album without singing along, or at least tapping your foot to bangers like Monkey Wrench and Everlong then you have more willpower than I do.

1: System of a Down – System of a Down

This album just goes to show that System of a Down were at the top of their game from the very beginning.  I saw SOAD at Reading Festival last year: they closed the set with Sugar, and it was one of the highlights of the day.  If you don’t have this album on your iPod, then I’m seriously judging you.

Currently listening to: I RememberA Day To Remember