When I was a freshman in college, I applied to be a reporter for the music section of buzz magazine — the arts and entertainment weekly at the University of Illinois. As part of my application, I had to write an album review of my favorite album (which back in 2007, was of course Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut). I remember writing that review like it was yesterday. I sat in my dorm room, door locked, music blaring, typing away feverishly at my chunky desktop computer. I had no idea what I was doing, but what I did know was that I was going to a music reporter for Rolling Stone within the decade.
I got the job.
From the moment I got hired as a music reporter, I was planning my next steps to reach that goal at Rolling Stone. The first step was to be music editor at buzz. So I applied, I put together a (fairly pathetic, looking back) resume, poured my heart and soul into my cover letter, put on a pair of heels and went to my interview.
I didn’t get the job. I ended up having to do that three times before they finally hired me, but come January of 2010, I got my access card and I was (finally) music editor. I was living the dream.
I wrote a lot of album reviews, went to a ton of shows, developed some decent writers and a great (or at least much better) taste in music — and then I realized I didn’t love it. My heart wasn’t in it and I realized I didn’t know enough about the mechanics of music to be great music writer. What I did know was that whatever I did with my life, I wanted to be great at it. If music writing wasn’t it, I was going to cut that chord early and figure out what “it” was.
That was all well and good until I picked up the new Blink 182 album, Neighborhoods. The gears started turning and familiar questions started coursing through my veins. I started reading up on the album, Tom DeLonge and the influences of his other band, Angels and Airwaves, on the album. So I wanted to write an album review for old times’ sake. Let’s see if I’ve still got this…
Blink 182 – Neighborhoods
By the time you’re 30, you better fucking know who you are and have something to say, otherwise you’re going through life not doing anything. — Tom DeLonge
If ever there was an album that so clearly demonstrates growing up, it would be this one. While victim of much harsh criticism (we’ll come back to this later), the album is much less “fifteen” and a lot more “thirty.” The album doesn’t just explore new lyrical depth, it boasts experimental musical qualities (clearly remnants of DeLonge and side project, Angels and Airwaves) previously much less common with Blink. It’s clear right off the bat that the punk-rock boys of Blink 182 are now men.
It’s worth noting my relationship with Blink 182 and Angel’s and Airwaves, as it’s led to a fairly neutral perspective on both bands, especially in the aftermath of Neighborhoods and the soon-to-be-released Love Part II. I was hardly a punk-rock kid — despite my short stint with some pink hair in college — so I never had that connection with Blink 182 growing up. In fact, it was probably late high school/early college before I truly became a fan (2006 – 2008 range), and by that point, AvA was already alive and well. At the time, the two bands had a fairly clear line between them that has since grayed a bit.
This is important because I didn’t love Blink for helping me find myself as a lot of punk-rock kids did. I didn’t love Blink for being punk rockers, I loved them for songs like “I Miss You” and “Feeling This.” I loved blink for their edge that I so clearly did not have. They said “fuck” a lot and I didn’t — they were cooler. Then I looked to AvA when I wanted some thing more, something a little deeper both lyrically and musically.
Neighborhoods is this weird mesh of them both. There’s songs like “Hearts All Gone” that is very classic Blink, songs like “Ghost on the Dance Floor” sound like they belong on the new AvA record and then “Natives,” that sounds like a perfect offspring of both bands. Any teenager who wanted another hardcore album was naive if they seriously thought that would come out of this band after what they’ve gone through over the past few years. They’re not the angry, screw-the-corporate-system kids that made Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. After the break up, they hated each other! While that’s all over and done now, you can’t go back to where you were before that without changing. To produce another album that was the same would denying the years that they’ve been through — no one stays fifteen forever.
People didn’t like that though. Fans wanted the old Blink. To those fans, I suggest reading a great interview with DeLonge on Absolute Punk. Basically, he reiterates the growth that went into the new album, the purpose behind it and the relationship between Blink and AvA. He’ll say it better than I could.
Despite the critics, who will always be there no matter what you do, the album cuts to an important truth. The purpose of music as a whole is to give people something to think about — use a lot of words, notes and rhythms to bring meaning to things we can’t always understand, things like “love” and “pain.” While this album might not be as hard or ground breaking as their old albums, it still has the same purpose that Blink has always had: helping people figure shit out. It’s honest, which at the very core, is what Blink has always been about.