California, the seventh album from pop-punk idols Blink-182, conjures three distinct thoughts: Pop-punk is super fun. When the hell did we walk back into 2006? And man, I never thought I’d miss Tom DeLonge’s nasal-ass vocals.
This album is, honestly, a bit of a mind fuck as someone whose teenage years occurred, roughly, when pop-punk was the king. I still listen to cuts from Goldfinger, Sugarcult, Sum 41 and Yellowcard with shameless glee. It’s a genre that lends itself to pure visceral enjoyment and makes a point of not caring too much. That’s nice for someone so generally…caring, as myself.
All of the hallmarks of a classic 2006 era Pop-Punk record are found in California: a twisted sense of humor and bro puns on “Brohemian Rhapsody;” half-songs that go nowhere like “Built this pool;” and celebrations and demonizations of toxic relationships, the party lifestyle, and youthful alienation in the cuts “She’s out of her Mind,” “Sober,” and “Cynical.” Punching the sound are the loudly and brightly over-produced electric guitars, blast beats, and snarky vocals that recall that golden era of 2006.
On California, it is both a blessing and a curse.
At times this album feels too familiar. Songs like “Los Angeles” sound almost identical to tracks on Lights Out by Sugarcult; giving an impression, at times, of punk-by-numbers. Matt Skiba—the new co-vocalist and guitarist—sounds virtually the same as mainstay Mark Hoppus, which is a detriment to the band’s sound.
While I was never the biggest fan of Tom DeLonge (that teenage whine is very much an acquired taste), he gave Blink-182 the character that defines their sound. While you’ll almost always skip to the Mark Hoppus tracks, previous albums—particularly Enema of the State—have a pleasant tension between the petulant whiny vocals of DeLonge and the more straightforward Hoppus tracks. That tension gives those albums a pop, and more importantly, a specificity that is completely lacking on this album.
...it’s about running through the streets naked and celebrating the glory of porn stars; it’s about being yourself, and expressing that self in the most shameless way imaginable.
But, if I’m being honest, Pop-Punk is not a genre that lends itself to originality, or necessarily invites it. Goldfinger, Sugarcult and Sum 41 all really sound exactly the same and any differences are largely cosmetic.
However, pop-punk is really about feeling—letting go of restraint and shouting pissed off at the stars about stupid things; it’s about running through the streets naked and celebrating the glory of porn stars; it’s about being yourself, and expressing that self in the most shameless way imaginable.
Taken from that perspective, California succeeds. It may not ascend to any great heights; and it’s not memorable. But damn, it makes me air guitar, air drum, and bang my head. Viva La Vie Broheme.
Until I get that cynical feeling that she’s coming back
6,777 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars