Lucky for Blink, they’ve got an alluring narrative on their hands, even if it’s one that’s provided some headaches. Back in March 2015, Alkaline Trio vocalist-guitarist Matt Skiba served as a fill-in for DeLonge when he was unable to play a pair of club shows at Barker’s own Musink Festival. The old trio splintered through a war of words -- DeLonge wanted to commit more time to non-Blink activities, while Hoppus and Barker wanted to move ahead and sound less like U2 and Coldplay. Skiba stuck around, and eventually began writing and recording their seventh studio album. The DeLonge drama in the rearview, there’s a newfound bromance in Camp Blink. And besides, this isn't Blink's first lineup-shift rodeo. Barker replaced original drummer Scott Raynor in 1998, leaving him as little more than a footnote on the legacy of Dude Ranch, en route to superstardom. This time around, will clean slates and positive energy translate to success in the studio?
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Personality clashes aside, DeLonge and Hoppus’ divergent vocal styles always provided an interesting foil on Blink albums. With Tom’s trebly sneer replaced by Skiba’s grainy deadpan, Mark’s limited-range, karaoke-friendly vocals are in danger of fading into the scenery. Fortunately, Skiba has made a career out of sharing lead vox (with Alkaline Trio bassist Dan Andriano) so there’s reason to hope for enticing vocal trade-offs, even within the same songs. And Skiba isn’t a flashy guitarist; in fact, it’s almost maddening how many killer choruses he’s slung over the years with a limited bag of tricks. With him and Hoppus trading hooks, the new Blink recordings could present a bigger stage than ever for Travis Barker’s drumming, and as history suggests, drum he will. DeLonge’s arena-pining riffs are gone, so Barker will have plenty more space for his flashy fills and pummeling beats-per-minute. And don’t forget his 2011 solo album or his production acumen -- and re-listen to “I Miss You” if you’re ready to peg him as a punk drummer.
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Toss in pop-punk super-producer John Feldmann, and the sum of Blink’s parts could equal a rewarding whole, an album that pushes the band’s narrative out of the gossip pages and back into present-day relevance. Plenty of their contemporaries have followed a similar career arc, reaping the rewards of pop-punk's early 2000s commercial boom, then returning to their core fanbases once the cash cow grazed elsewhere. There’s something to be learned from the blueprints of New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World and (to an extent) Skiba’s own Alkaline Trio, though Blink doesn’t have to stick to those scripts entirely. With one foot in the glory days and one in the present, they can make it happen. They’ve got next-genners like 5 Seconds of Summer in their corner who, along with that Feldmann connection, can make us wonder if photos like this represent something we’ll hear on the new album. Skiba can breathe new life into their stage presence, both on his new songs and while singing Tom’s part on “All the Small Things.” A successful Blink album in 2016 is different than a successful Blink album in 2002. It’s up to them to take it from there.