After a five year hiatus after 2011’s uninspired Neighborhoods, blink-182 makes a beautiful comeback. They’ve managed to recapture the early energy that was so obviously missing from the previous album. With the addition of a new member – Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba – and the leaving of long-time guitarist Tom DeLonge definitely returned the band to its golden-age sound. The pop-punk trio still manages to mix good-natured raunchiness and teen-movie humor, making California an album as good as Take Off Your Jacket And Pants.
The album opener, “Cynical,” starts with the simple sounds of a guitar riff while Mark Hoppus sings, “There’s a cynical feeling saying I should give up/You said everything you’ll ever say.” As the first song, it really does a rock-solid job of psyching fans up with its intensity. Lead single “Bored To Death” reminded fans of what blink’s sound should be full of: harmonies, a catchy melody, and a massive chorus. In reality, it’s an anthem-to-be and everyone knows it.
“Los Angeles,” one of a trio of homages to certain places in the U.S., opens with a sort of futuristic, space-age sound, pushing the band to its outer limits of music as their former guitarist left the band to search the outer galaxy for U.F.O.s. Blink-182’s trademark riffs and “na-na-nas” remain apparent within “Sober” – as with a bunch of other songs on this album – and pleasing those faithful fans. To put simply, Skiba’s harmonies with Hoppus work, introducing spot-on chemistry, while still showcasing Travis Barker’s skills on his kit on “No Future.”
When blink-182 is thought of, they imagine a trio of naked dudes running down the street and the song “Rabbit Hole” reminds listeners of that day and age, while the opening lyrics of “Dear head/shut up” provide insights on anxieties that everyone has. “San Diego” sends out some self-referential nods, especially to Robert Smith during the line “We can go and see The Cure” because he duetted with the band on 2003’s “All Of This.” As stated earlier, the sounds of blink-182 are those to be in teen movies and “The Only Thing That Matters” proves that. Barely hitting two minutes, this song would be at home on any given American Pie soundtrack.
To be honest, two of the best songs on this album are “Built This Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody.” Both are two line songs at most: “I want to see some naked dudes/That’s why I built this pool” and “There’s something about you/That I can’t quite put my finger in” respectively. Skiba is even heard at the end of “Built This Pool” asking, “Is that really it?” Yes, Matt Skiba, it is, and it’s a great song. Combined, these two songs don’t exceed a minute and yet, both songs feature rapid and energetic riffs that deserve longer stage time.
All in all, blink-182 finally delivered an album that included everything that makes this band great – a.k.a. raunchy humor and many upbeat songs – and still managing to give a fresh twist. While yes, this 16 track album feels a little unfocused by mixing cheery pop-punk songs with moody, goth-tinged alternative rock, it’s still not a desperate grasp at youth and faded glory; rather a reflective look back. One of the best parts about this album is that Skiba doesn’t try to fill DeLonge’s shoes, but simply rides along as himself right next to Hoppus. California provided exactly what blink-182 needed to sound more like one band than ever before.