The day is finally here. Eight years in the making. After fights, breakups and horrendous circumstances, Blink-182 has finally buried the hatchet and released their first studio album, titled Neighborhoods, since 2003’s self-titled effort.
From the opening notes of the album, it becomes immediately clear this will be a continuation of the sound from the self-titled album. “Ghost on the Dancefloor” begins with the reverb-heavy guitar that we have come to accept from Tom DeLonge in the last decade. His singing, while not as energetic as the days of his teenage years, is much more driven then anything he has done with Angels and Airwaves lately and makes the song an immediate highlight. The delivery of “I saw your ghost tonight, the moment felt so real,” is one of the best moments on the album. And it goes without saying that Travis Barker’s drumming is impeccable as always. The track segues perfectly into “Natives,” which features a riff reminiscent of 1999’s “Dumpweed,” and sets the tone perfectly for DeLonge’s explosive delivery in the verses. This is one of the rare times where I feel DeLonge’s vocals outshine Mark Hoppus’ on a track. While Hoppus doesn’t sing poorly, I feel if his lower delivery in the chorus was raised an octave, it could have soared. Small complaint from a really good track.
While I initially didn’t like the first single, “Up All Night,” the way it fits in the context of the album really benefits the song. It manages to capture the sound of all the side-bands the members have had through the years and meshes it with the energy from the self-titled Blink record. The following track, “After Midnight,” is one of the best tracks in the band’s history. The rapid-paced drums from Barker are nothing new, yet never fail to amaze. DeLonge’s delivery in the verse is strong, yet again. His reserved, lower register singing contrasts perfectly with Hoppus’ soaring chorus. Lyrics like “All I hear are the many echoes of the darkest words you said,” are extremely poignant, especially from a band more known for talking about their penises than anything meaningful.
“Hearts All Gone” is sure to be a favorite among longtime fans. From Barker’s ridiculously good drums to the aggressive guitar, there is a lot to like here. And Hoppus’ vocals are the strongest not only on the record, but in years. It is a track to be held in the upper echelon of the band’s discography. At the midway point of the record, there is potential for Neighborhoods to go down as one of the band’s best records. Unfortunately, the nature of the second half of the record makes it simply average.
“Wishing Well” is fairly safe and does little to jump up and down about and pales in comparison to the beginning of the record. While some will like the “la da da das” of the chorus, it is far too reminiscent of the worst of Angels and Airwaves for me to be a fan. The fact that “MH 4.18.2011” is the worst Hoppus has sounded since the days before Barker joined the band doesn’t help matters. The coupling of “Love is Dangerous,” which sounds like a bad AVA b-side, and the far-too-experimental “Fighting the Gravity,” was cringe-worthy and had me wishing the record would just end so I could go back to the first half. This isn’t to say it’s all bad, as the bouncy “Kaleidescope” features some great dual vocals and closer “Even If She Falls” is one of the best songs on the record, slightly making up for the dreadful tracks preceding it. The 80’s synth-filled “This is Home” is also praise worthy, as the band takes steps in a completely new direction and features some great vocals from Delonge.
While there is definitely promise on the record, especially in the first half, the record is overall just average. Since it is the first record after the long breakup, it’s expected that there will be some kinks. Hopefully on the next record (if there is one), the band will have it ironed out and deliver another strong batch of songs.