They are more self-aware than ever, and who’s to say growing up isn’t a good thing?
Before you start reading this review, here’s something you need to know about the person writing it: I don’t miss Tom DeLonge. I’m not too fond of Angels & Airwaves and how much DeLonge’s songwriting on it influenced blink-182’s comeback album, Neighborhoods. Also, as a longtime blink fan who never got to watch the band live, I desperately wanted them to keep releasing music and playing shows as much as possible. Add that to my profound admiration of both Matt Skiba and John Feldmann, and California might be my favourite blink album.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the deluxe edition of California.
After their comeback, it took blink-182 five years—and countless media-fueled arguments—to release new music. Only two singles and less than a year, the band is back with a deluxe edition of California. Mark Hoppus, Matt Skiba and Travis Barker clearly had enough songs for a new full-length: they gave fans 11 new songs, and an acoustic version of “Bored to Death”. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, though, and it’s easy to understand why these tracks didn’t make the first cut.
Almost half of the tracks had already been released before the record dropped on May 19th: “Parking Lot”, “Misery”, “Wildfire”, “6/8”, “Can’t Get You More Pregnant”, as well as “Hey I’m Sorry”, which was on the Japanese edition of California. For those who were hoping to understand Skiba’s real role in the band, these songs show he’s not there just because the band needed a guitarist. Just like Hoppus had done with “San Diego” on the standard version, Skiba starts the album reminding everyone of his Chicago roots in “Parking Lot”. It wasn’t always all about California, at least not for him. “6/8”–probably the most different song blink has ever done—and “Hey I’m Sorry”—which takes an unexpected political turn—are other Skiba-heavy songs.
Thematically, nostalgia is a huge part of the album. “Parking Lot”, “Last Train Home”, and “Wildfire” are examples of this need of going back to the roots, looking at decisions made in the past and wishing to change the present. This is interesting on a first listen, but gets old really fast—I mean, did fans really need another 30-second song? The repetition makes the album as a whole easy to forget and hard to come back to.
If anything is to be praised about this album, it’s how risky it is. California’s standard version played safe for the most part, but the deluxe edition shows the band can go further. Yes, they are borrowing (and sometimes even copying, such as when “Don’t Mean Anything” sounds a little too much like “Adam’s Song”) from old blink-182, but they are also more self-aware than ever, and who’s to say growing up isn’t a good thing?