Loving (and hating) all the small things on Blink-182’s “California”
You never know how to feel about your taste in music until you go to college. Somehow, in 19 years of living, it never occurred to me that the alternative playlists flowing through my earbuds — Alt-j, Arctic Monkeys, Wavves, etc. — was exactly that: alternative. I never knew that it made me silly, or weird, or — scoff — pretentious.
In the affluent, pasty bubble of Northwest Chicago suburbia, I never knew the defining genre of my generation wasn’t indie/alt/Q101.1 playlists. If a college dorm room isn’t blaring Drake’s Views, then you’d be damn sure to guess it’s the country stylings of Zach Brown Band instead.
What I really never knew, however, was the rarity in fiding a fellow subscriber to my one true musical love: 90’s/early ought’s commercial pop-punk rock. And by that, of course, I mean just Green Day and Blink-182. And for the purposes of this post, I mostly just mean Blink.
And when I think about it, it’s rather obvious. I’m probably the rare kind of Blink fan. I’m about a half-decade too young to have really connected during peak popularity. I think 2011 reunion album Neighborhoods is super-duper dope. Outside of Blink (and Green Day), I’m none too hot on the rest of the pop-punk diaspora. While I enjoy some of All-Time Low, Good Charlotte, We the Kings, New Found Glory, etc., I can never fully invest. They’re typically whiny and dull and samey. All of them are completely indebted to Blink, and yet none seem to understand the importance and impact of a well-timed dick joke.
I’ve always known part of the brilliance of Blink-182 is that it’s the perfect band for angsty, excited, boisterous 13-year olds. They hook you during the musical tastebud developmental period, and from then on give you a giddy punk-pop sweet tooth.
But what does that mean for me today? Blink cycles through my playlists on the irregular, and I listen to their offspring even less. To me, Tom DeLonge, in all his lyric contortionist glory, is Blink-182.
How would I respond to a new DeLonge-less Blink album? I wasn’t sure. (Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba joins Blink founder Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker for this latest effort). And after listening through all of their latest album California, I’m still not so sure.
“Oh no…” I said out loud, ten seconds into the first song “Cynical,” after Hoppus’ voice became digitally augmented.
Auto-tuning in a blink song? Blasphemy! But, ten seconds later Barker pops his high-hat so hard and the song swings into a melody so classic Blink, I feel like pulling kick-flips out of an abandoned swimming pool. And I don’t even skateboard.
“Bored to Death” is already my favorite radio hit of the summer, and it fits niceley with the self-titled, early 2000’s, “Feeling This” era.
But then, the third track, “Los Angeles,” is so fucking bad, but features a bridge so brilliantly awesome, that I’m stuck feeling confused and conflcted and annoyed all over again. Worse, the seventh track, “No Future,” is poppy anti-old-people fun, but features a bridge so fucking bad that — again — I’m stuck!
Call me a sucker, but the bro-y sentimentalism of “Home Is Such a Lonely Place” plucked me right in my punk-fostered, fuck-you feelings.
The middle bound-to-be forgotten tracks are decent, with highs and lows of their own, but dabble a little further into emo-core and a little farther from the pop roots that I’m comfortable with. (The successive trio of “Kings of the Weekend,” “Teenage Satellites,” and “Left Alone” are entirely interchangeable in their mediocre sameness. And, I’ll be honest, I qued up 1997 Blink hit “Apple Shampoo” in the middle of the three, just cause).
“The Only Thing That Matters” is the best the album has to offer. And, for what it’s worth, it’s also the most blink. With a sugar-rush bass riff and can’t-catch-you-breath lyric spitting, it’s fun, fast, and in the punk-deprived 2016 landscape, surprisingly refreshing.
“San Diego” continues the album’s pattern of not-so-great songs named after So-Cal cities, and title track “California” isn’t much better.
To boot, however, Blink just couldn’t help themselves from two joke tracks, totaling a combined 46 seconds. And they’re honestly pretty funny.
I’m not really sure how I feel about California. There’s a lot to like and a lot to not-so-like. But I know this: Blink-182 is the perfect band for every 13 year-old in America. And I love Blink-182.
What’s my age, again?