First Listen – Blink 182, ‘Neighborhoods’

Given that ‘Neighborhoods’ has been a full eight years in the making, with a split and reformation in the middle of all that, Blink-182’s worry that their long awaited seventh album will find its way onto the internet early is probably pretty justified. Hence, earlier today, when it was played to a room full of journalists for the first time, it was in the soundproofed surroundings of their UK label’s office. There were sandwiches though, which was nice.

Blink182

As for the record, anyone who hoped they’d return to the days of two-minute punk rock songs is going to be mostly disappointed, as is anyone who hoped that the jokes about fucking each other’s mums and various animals would be back. They’re not, though there is a great line about a helicopter. The band themselves have called it an album with the best bits of all their past LPs in it. And do you know what…they’re probably right. Here’s a track by track rundown.

Ghost On The Dancefloor

It wouldn’t have been acceptable for Blink-182 to come back with a whimper, so for the opening salvo we’re greeted with a tribal clattering of Travis Barker’s drums before a big, almost dancey guitar riff kicks in. Tom Delonge’s kept the epic sound that has been the trademark of his Angels And Airwaves project and condensed it into this sleek opener, held together by a vocal hook of “So our wounds start to heal”. Given this is their first album since their reformation, it’s safe to say it’s something of a mission statement.

Natives

This one races out of the speakers, punky guitars colliding with a slightly distorted vocal line at a relentless pace. Not unlike ‘Always’ from their self-titled record, it’s lyrically as dark as the band have got, with the main hook consisting of “We’re having the time of our lives, even though we’re dying inside”.

Up All Night

You’ve all heard this one, a big, spacey guitar riff powering a battering ram of a track. It amps things up after ‘Natives’ and keeps the album’s pretty brutal pace going. Anyone who commented at the time that this would make a lot more sense in the context of the full album has been proved absolutely correct. Odd choice for comeback single, but a great track still.

After Midnight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlN5MQTfka4

This debuted online earlier this week and is one of the record’s highlights. A lovely subtle love song and the lightest moment on the LP. “We’ll stumble home after midnight, sleep arm in arm in the stairwell” croons Mark Hoppus over a gentle riff. Whoever fancies themselves as the new John Hughes should be locking this down for the big kissing scene at the end of their new flick now.

Interlude (Heart’s All Gone)

Not unlike ‘The Fallen Interlude’ on their self-titled record in that it’s an instrumental break in the album. Kind of like half-time. Built around a piano refrain and a guitar riff that’s oddly reminiscent of 30 Seconds To Mars…

Heart’s All Gone

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eBcSiIj2_E

You’ve heard this one too. Roaring out after the instrumental, it’s a full on nod to the band’s early days of ‘Dude Ranch’ and ‘Cheshire Cat’. Minimal production, stupidly fast drumming and a relentless driving melody all chucked in. Feels a little odd in the context of an album that’s largely very layered, but it’s a nice gesture to older fans.

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Wishing Well

Another throwback of sorts, but this time more to their ‘Enema Of The State’ days. A really poppy guitar lick with a classic Blink “Da da da” chorus in the centre. Pop punk perfection.

Kaleidoscope

We’re back to the dark stuff of the early tracks now, with a concerned Tom Delonge singing “It’s the first time that I’m worried” over the top of a jagged drum beat.

This Is Home

This is the ‘Oh, don’t worry, it’ll be fine’ to ‘Kaleidoscope”s paranoia. A bright colourful guitar riff and lights up a brisk three and a half minutes, with Tom Delonge telling us that he’s about to ‘dance like fucking animals’. There’s also a bizarrely well put together synth pop refrain in there somewhere.

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A more straightforward effort, like something from the tail end of ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’, with meaty pop hooks a plenty. It also features the album’s best lyric – “Stop living in the shadow of a helicopter”. Which is genius.

Love Is Dangerous

‘Neighborhoods’ ends, perhaps fittingly, on a gloomy note, with lots of layered synths building slowing a massive guitar crescendo. The last notes on the album are Travis Barker’s military snare roll, which gentles fade away to nothing after an intense instrumental bridge.

Verdict

The band have been talking up the LP as the best of everything they’ve done and they’re right. It’s definitely the darkest they’ve gone, both lyrically and musically, but they’ve reined in the random experimental elements of their last album and shown they’re ok to showcase their past on some tracks too. It’s a bravely progressive record and it’s great.