Blink-182 - Neighborhoods
Legendary punk pop trio put out an impressive new album. About time, too.
Comeback albums are often approached with a sense of caution and scepticism, and for pop-punk legends Blink-182, it's no different. 'Neighborhoods' is the trio's first album in eight years and the first since their reformation in 2009. Whilst some fans may want the band to return to their classic sound; fast-paced, humourous pop-punk songs, for the band themselves, 'Neighborhoods' is a case of progression and picking up where 2003's 'Untitled' effort left off. 'Ghost on the Dance Floor' opens up the album in an upbeat fashion with distinctive drum work from Travis Barker, whilst Tom Delonge equally distinguishable voice gives the impression that the band never went away. Musically, it sets the foundation of Blink-182 being just a band, not a punk band or a pop-punk band.
Throughout they take a confident approach, both in terms of style and structure, as they explore and experiment with each song. Lead off single, 'Up All Night' is punchy yet lyrical sombre number with dwindling guitars and the familiar and comforting vocal combination of Delonge and bassist Mark Hoppus. Whereas 'Snake Charmer' contains a long introduction, atmospheric verses and a thriving Delonge led chorus. For those who are familiar with his other band, Angels and Airwaves, the use of spacy, experimental guitars and extended intros are the norm, but for a Blink-182 record it's unusual, and at first you can't help but feel a little uneasy about it.
Nevertheless as the record moves along, it becomes clear this a band that are refreshed and are confident in their ability. 'After Midnight' is one of several highlights with its brash, anthemic chorus that has a strong feel-good factor, and subtle use of lyrical sincerity. Another highlight is the astonishing, somewhat breathtaking interlude/intro to 'Heart's All Gone;' a slow, cathartic approach that builds up that bursts into the main track; a frantic and fast explosion with Hoppus leading the way on vocals but it has be said that Barker's drum work thoroughly deserves to be highlighted.
Although it seems the band have, to an extent, abandon their pop-punk origins, there are plenty of upbeat moments here to enjoy; 'Wishing Well' has a playful “La da da da da” hook that will easily get stuck in your head. 'This Is Home' is equally as fun and upbeat, with Delonge taking lead on vocals and providing neat guitar work simultaneously, whilst 'Natives' is one of the stand out tracks as it's thriving energy, strong structure and hook-y chorus is a brilliant combination and certainly has plenty of longevity.
The initial ten tracks on 'Neighborhoods' showcase a band who are willing to change and move forward in their sound and overall approach, and the four additional tracks on the deluxe edition enhance this. 'MH 4.18.2011' is another upbeat number with an impressive blend of harmonies, and 'Even If She Falls' ends the record on a high note with its steady tempo and bright chorus, as unfortunately 'Love is Dangerous' comes off as sounding far too much like an Angels and Airwaves song. 'Fighting The Gravity', meanwhile, is a discomforting yet atmospheric prog rock number that doesn't leave much of a lasting impact.
On the whole, 'Neighborhoods' is a strong record and better than expected. Any scepticism that fans may have had quickly disappears, as Blink-182 have sensibly moved in the right direction, one towards musical and lyrical maturity. This isn't the band's best work, but there's enough evidence to show the potential is there. There are some disjointed moments; the occasional over-use of spacey, grand effects are something the band could do with less of, and given time, they'll hopefully iron out these nuisances to create a solid body of work that will top off their return.