An unexpectedly great sixth LP from former fun-time punks turned introspective souls.
Mike Diver 2011-09-30
When a band announces an indefinite hiatus, as baggy-shorted pop-punk funsters Blink-182 did in 2005 after five LPs and a few circumventions of the globe, they usually never return. (Yes, we’re looking at you, Fugazi, and still waiting.) And when tragedy strikes that band, those chances of a comeback become slimmer still. In 2008, Blink drummer Travis Barker, at the time a member of +44 alongside fellow 182-er Mark Hoppus, was in an air crash, and only just survived. His accident happened less than a month after regular Blink-182 producer Jerry Finn died of a brain haemorrhage. That sixth album was looking ever more distant.
But Barker recovered, overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder, and during his recuperation the tension that’d led to the band’s breakdown gradually receded. Hoppus, Barker and Tom DeLonge rediscovered their enthusiasm for playing together, returning to the public eye at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Neighborhoods has been delayed by touring commitments and a new studio regime – instead of having an outsider crack the whip, Blink-182 have produced this collection themselves, in their own time (and in their own spaces, with individually crafted elements woven together later). And it’s time they were right to take, the results easily surpassing expectations, despite a slightly dislocated feel to some tracks as a result of the detached creative process. Decidedly darker in tone than much of the material that made them famous, this is a set that explores new territories for the band, and does so with great confidence.
Bookended by a pair of texturally delightful synth-aided numbers, Ghost on the Dance Floor and Love Is Dangerous, Neighborhoods is both a love letter to those around the band and those they’ve lost along the way; on the cover are the names of several nearest-and-dearests, graffiti marked on the walls of the pen-drawn cityscape. At its heart there are the pogo-friendly tracks that Blink-182 have always traded in, such as the blisteringly fast Heart’s All Gone (Barker’s injuries haven’t slowed his excellent stick-work) and Wishing Well – though the latter, despite a great "da-da-da-da" vocal hook, has its share of downbeat lyrics, like "I went to a wishing well / And fell to the ocean floor". And there are plenty of surprises too, one of which is the 80s-feel of This Is Home, a song that comes over as a real fist-in-the-air affair after the pain this band has been through. More autobiographical than ever, here Blink let their feelings fly free, silly videos far from anyone’s mind.
Their best album yet? Perhaps not – long-term fans will always have the softest of spots for 1997’s Dude Ranch. But coming eight years after their last LP, Neighborhoods could easily have been a disaster – that it’s not, and actually a very successful endeavour, is worthy of substantial praise. Now, Fugazi… don’t leave us hanging.