Album Review: Blink-182's California
On July 1, 2016, the greatest punk rock band of any generation released its seventh studio album, the first musical project to feature vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba, of Alkaline Trio fame. Blink 182's California, in my mind, pays admirable tribute to the band's earlier music, while throwing in some pop-y elements (see: "Sober"'s "na, na, na, na, na, na, na" or "Bored to Death"'s "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh"). Those little things are easily forgiven considering I feel just peachy that Blink has released new music for the first time in four years and most of the album rocks soundly.
Keeping in line with other aspects of my life, I'd like to offer an extremely late review/ranking of California, track by track. In order of ear-orgasming awesomeness to not-my-favorite-but-still-great, here's what I think (and no worries, you're not obligated to care):
1. San Diego — Track 13 (3:12)
I was immediately attracted to this song when I first listened to it, and the magnetism has stuck. Lyrically, it is one of the album's best; rhythmically, it's tops. (Why the reference to the The Cure though?)
2. She's Out of Her Mind — Track 3 (2:42)
I cannot get over the line "She said, 'Babe, I'm sorry but I'm crazy tonight.'" It's an honest admission of untamable erratic behavior that makes me want to cozy up to this semi-sane person, even at my own risk. This one slightly reminds of "The Party Song" from 1999's Enema of the State, though I think these girls are luny in different ways.
3. California — Track 15 (3:10)
The title track.. It had to be good, right? It did, and it is. "California" is probably the chillest — low-key, laid-back, whatever — song on the album, and it's definitely my style. Which is not to say I don't enjoy the pickup in intensity in the track's last minute.
4. Left Alone — Track 11 (3:09)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have "Left Alone"'s fast-paced chorus, which I can totally get into. Right as that sucker drops, I'm ready to go, man.
"I'm empty as a movie set."
5. Bored to Death — Track 2 (3:55)
Ah yes, California's first single, "Bored to Death". This one was love at first listen for me, folks. Some took issue with those aforementioned pop-y elements, some didn't care for the nonsensical lyrics (rescuing a tiger from a tree?), and some thought (justifiably) that the music video was unoriginal. You know what I say to those people though? "Shut the f*ck up...I'm going f*cking deaf."
6. Sober — Track 5 (2:59)
Another one of my lyrical favorites — "I'm a dandelion, you're a four-leaf clover" anyone? — "Sober" has it's fair share of na, na, na's, but it's way too good of an all-around song for that to even matter.
7. No Future — Track 7 (3:45)
"YOU...DON'T KNOW...A THING...ABOUT IT!" I do know one thing though: this song kicks ass.
8. Teenage Satellites — Track 10 (3:11)
I'm always up for an outer space metaphor, and this song does it just right. I know I keep mentioning lyrics, but "Let's spin apart while racing through the atmosphere," is superb lyricism in my book, inciting an image of youngsters scrambling about to experience all that life has to offer, dumping parts of themselves off here and there along the way, perhaps without realizing (my interpretation, anyway).
"The voices in my head are always screaming."
9. Home Is Such a Lonely Place — Track 8 (3:21)
This one seems to have shades of "Story of a Lonely Guy" and "Stay Together for the Kids" off of 2001's Take Off Your Pants & Jacket. It's not the same as either of those songs — the former of which is among my all-time Blink favorites — but it falls in place thematically, and stands on its own as a good song.
10. Kings of the Weekend — Track 9 (2:56)
The title of this song made me immediately skeptical about its quality, conjuring up sound bites of mainstream pop-y mush. But those thoughts subsided after a couple of listens, making the line "Thank God for punk rock bands" run through my head.
11. The Only Thing That Matters — Track 14 (1:57)
When listening to an album over and over, some songs get lost in the mix. "The Only Thing That Matters" was probably the last track on California that I knew by name, the one that made me stop a few times and say, "Wait, what one was that?" It has my attention now though.
12. Brohemian Rhapsody — Track 16 (0:30)
At last! Along with "Built This Pool", the return of the novelty, short-length track! With an intro that reminds of multiple Blink songs — "Go" from the 2003 self-titled album and "Wendy Clear" from Enema of the State, for example — "Brohemian Rhapsody" does not touch the absurdity that is "Happy Holidays, You Bastard" (from Take Off Your Pants & Jacket), but still remains subtly suggestive.
"What's the point of saying sorry now?"
13. Cynical — Track 1 (1:55)
It took a little while for me to warm up to this one. This unapologetic, short and not-so-sweet anthem seems to say a lot though. The characters in the song — you and I — assuredly have a complicated relationship. I enjoy a tune that tells a story, even if we only get a rudimentary sense of what is going on.
14. Rabbit Hole — Track 12 (2:35)
The third of California's songs to grace my ears — behind "Bored to Death" and "Built This Pool" — the title of this song immediately brought to mind one of my favorite stories of all time, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Though not really related, the word association softened any judgements I may have stapled on "Rabbit Hole". After taking in the whole album however, it still managed to slip down this far.
15. Built This Pool — Track 6 (0:16)
I like "Built This Pool". I really do. But combine the fact that it is a super-short song (not a bad thing in itself) and the fact that many of the songs already listed allow me to rock out for three minutes, on average, and this is where it ranks. Just the facts of life, son.
16. Los Angeles — Track 4 (3:03)
This one is not Blink's best effort, hence its spot here in the basement of my rankings. The chorus just doesn't do much for me. Its redeeming qualities, if any, are the lines "Wake me when this war is over/ Meet me where the skyline ends." It's poetic, and I dig it.