By: Jennifer Wakefield
After years of personal and professional turmoil, Blink-182 released Neighborhoods, its first studio album in eight years. With this album, the San Diego natives proved that they are more than just another punk band, and showed that they can stay relevant and grow with their fans. For the most part, Neighborhoods utilizes the same musical style that made Blink so popular ten years ago, with the occasional exception of Tom Delonge’s lower, more haunting voice and experimental elements like a well-placed synthesizer and spacey guitar hooks.
Although the music itself is relatively unchanged, the lyrics on Neighborhoods chronicle the band’s tumultuous and tragic journey through adulthood. In 2005, Blink broke up due to the stress of a hectic touring schedule and because they each wanted to pursue solo projects. During the band’s hiatus, singer/bassist Mark Hoppus hosted a TV show, formed a new band with drummer Travis Barker called +44, and produced albums for Motion City Soundtrack and New Found Glory. Barker starred in a reality show with his ex-wife and formed two other bands—The Transplants and TRV$DJAM, while singer/guitarist Tom Delonge became the singer of Boxcar Racer and Angels and Airwaves.
The breakup was far from amicable. Hoppus and Barker were not on speaking terms with Delonge for years, but fate reunited the old friends. In 2008, Travis Barker barely survived a plane crash, escaping with second and third degree burns throughout his body. Despite their differences, Delonge and Hoppus both regularly visited Barker in the hospital, and eventually the band reconciled and agreed to start recording a new album.
The album’s first track, “Ghosts on the Dance Floor,” explodes, mixing Barker’s hard-hitting drumbeats with new wave synthesizers and a traditional punk guitar riff, and is easily the best track on Neighborhoods.
“Up All Night” begins with a spooky intro that leads listeners into some of the most powerful lyrics on the album: “Everyone raises kids in a world that changes life to a bitter game / Everyone works and fights, stays up all night to celebrate the day / And everyone lives to tell the tale of how we die alone some day.” These words are a far cry from the days when Hoppus sang about going away to college and opined that “it would be nice to have a blowjob from your mom” (yes, that was actually a song).
“Heart’s All Gone” brought me back to the 1997 Warped Tour, the year Dude Ranch was released. Barker lets loose, furiously drumming to what is sure to become a mosh pit anthem. Although musically, the track is a throwback to Blink’s carefree early days, the lyrics have matured as Hoppus laments a relationship crumbling under the pressure of fame and fortune.
Maybe Blink-182 is simply staying true to the musical style that has made them one of the most successful punk-pop bands of the last couple decades, but maybe it’s something more than that. Neighborhoods reminds us that, even though we are all grown up and our lives more complicated, sometimes the best way to maneuver those changes is to be as fearless and fun-loving as we were in high school. So for all you law students who need to blow off a little steam before midterms, turn up some Blink and toilet paper your neighbor’s house, jump into a mosh pit, or [insert favorite high school pastime here:_______ ].