Blink-182's New Album: What We Do (and Don't) Want to Hear
New music from Blink-182 version 2.0 (Blink-183?) should be reaching our ears very soon. The long-running SoCal pop-punk band -- plus Matt Skiba and minus Tom DeLonge -- has been teasing new tunes for a while. They recently promised some by the time April is over, which means we have four days or less to ready ourselves for the first new recordings since their malcontent original guitarist was replaced by the co-frontman of Alkaline Trio. Bands don’t often have linchpin moments 24 years into their careers, but for Blink, that’s exactly where they are.
So how can Blink-182 be its best self in 2016? We recently took the same deep dive into Green Day’s forthcoming album and a lot of those points bear repeating. Both California bands have followed similar career trajectories, benefiting from pop-punk’s mainstream boom (shout-out to the 2002 Pop Disaster Tour) and having to grapple with its fallout. Even if Hoppus, Skiba and Barker put their heads together for “Dammit”-meets-“I Miss You”-meets-“All the Small Things,” it’s unlikely they can score a crossover hit. Despite 5 Seconds of Summer’s best efforts, pop-punk guitars hardly ever make it to top 40 these days. The cultural trends that supported both bands’ past mainstream success have come and gone, more or less outside of their control. What Blink can control is writing a meaningful record that galvanizes its fanbase -- those who are still passionate and those on the fence about diving into Blink's first album since 2011.
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?
Check out "Pretty Little Girl" from Blink-182's last official release, 2012's Dogs Eating Dogs EP:
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.
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.