By Alisa Wylie
What could have been another album’s worth of material has recently been released as an extended version of blink-182’s California. A decade ago, this may have been another compact disc, or in the modern day — an opportunity for a double vinyl re-release. On the streaming side of things, the extended album’s tracks total a whopping 28 songs. While the formerly released album appears to be penned as a love letter to the coastal state of California, the songs are clearly peppered with feelings and anxieties about place and meaning which spills over to this surplus of songs.
The call of “cale-forn-ie-ah” is present in the first track in previously released, on Youtube by way of a lyric video, ‘Parking Lot,’ which laments a aggravation at changing American landscape against a backdrop of a pubescent narration. There is something inherently jarring listening to successful men in their forties sing lyrics about being a “forgotten young suburbia,” when they are charging their fans, who will no doubt actually fall under that category and pine for hope and meaning in their music, upwards of £500 for meet and greets on their upcoming UK tour.
The grapplings of identity are clear with the overall Achilles heel of the songs seems to be a feeling of discontent and a narrative displacement of place. This may come from a place more on Hoppus’ side, or perhaps, Skiba’s, given that he has been wedged into the band to replace long time vocalist and guitarist, Tom DeLonge.
The moody introductions of ‘Misery’ and ‘Don’t Mean Anything’ are extremely similar, and it’s unclear if they are using some kind of cut and paste formula for each of their songs, given that there are many and they all share similar melodies and the same token hook that comes later in the chorus. Maybe, at this point, blink-182 have stopped trying tell songs from their grown and experienced perspectives but stubbornly cling to this young, disillusioned narrative in order to remain relevant to their ever youthful audience.
The band clearly have a penchant for catchy songs, as they always have, but it shown moreso on the extended version of the album that are they are driven heavily by drums. It’s palpable that even with the loss of DeLonge, the band would be weakened without Barker. The opening riff of ‘Wildfire’ wouldn’t have been displaced on their 2001 release, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket – this only then feeds into the idea that this band, despite a line-up change, are frozen in time.
There’s a thirst for destruction, and possibly rebirth — but there’s a lack of progression. The sound overall, produced by John Feldmann – who works with many the polished groups that work their way through his machine – who seems encourages and cultivates this lack of movement or natural progression that arguably faltered and lost it’s way after the 2003 release of blink-182, pre “indefinite hiatus.”
It’s not all negative – there are two stand out tracks in the more ambient sound of the softer, more poignant ‘Long Lost Feeling,’ which follows a refreshingly different and visceral sounding ‘6/8,’ where the verse feels urgent and arresting – with a spoken word outro that includes the ask “forgive us for greed,” – perhaps this is where a guilt and moral compass for blink comes to the surface – only present in one of the later tracks of an extended version album. ‘Bottom of the Ocean’ is also a strong track that helps to keep this selection of songs afloat and my generalised anger at bay.
From a few strong songs, comes the dreaded closer. The horrendously titled ‘Can’t Get You More Pregnant.’ The 35 second diddy is unnecessary, confusing and could have been left out. Even on the extended version. If anything, the instrumentals are decent, but the lyrics are incredibly bizarre. What exactly are they trying to achieve or explore with this line? Nothing.
But maybe that’s the point. blink-182, after over 20 years and various dramas and shifts — the whole point of the band is that they don’t have a point at all. They aren’t political, or at all evolving with an accurate timeframe that reflects their lives much like one famous redheaded singer songwriter who harkens on about his time at university, despite his earnings meaning he will probably not need to worry about any student debt. But, in the same breath, it’s worth noting that they’ve never tried to be – and after all this time, it’s clear they don’t intend to start any time soon.