The last time Angels & Airwaves released a record, Tom DeLonge was still a member of Blink 182. A year after the release of their fifth album, 2014’s ‘The Dream Walker’, though, he quit the iconic pop-punk group once more to focus on other projects.
Recorded in the midst of fraying relationships and demanding tour schedules, ‘The Dream Walker’ was understandably a turbulent-sounding record. DeLonge tried to find a balance between the epic space synths that fuelled Angels’ early records and the gnarled alt-rock that the band had started to experiment with. The record was also the first to feature future songwriting-partner Ilan Rubin, and the whole thing felt like a band trying to discover what their future held.
In the years that followed, Blink continued to tour and release music (with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba his replacement) while DeLonge made headlines about aliens. Yet ‘LIFEFORMS’ will silence anyone still questioning DeLonge’s musical decisions. An urgent punk record with all the ambition of a band out to change the world, their sixth album depicts a band with a purpose.
Of course, there are plenty of nods to DeLonge’s past. ‘Restless Souls’ captures the grandiose escapism of Angels’ 2006 debut album ‘We Don’t Need To Whisper’, ‘Euphoria’ is a thundering emo number that echoes Travis Barker side project Box Car Racer and ‘Automatic’ is an energetic, coming-of-age pop-punk number.
Then there are tracks like ‘No More Guns’, a surf-punk track that addresses the gun violence and racism that’s rampant across America, and the moody synth-led ‘Losing My Mind’, which sees Angels’ usually unwavering positivity replaced by detachment and confusion: “This world is on fire and I am ice. Can’t balance things lately, I think we’re going to die,” sings DeLonge.
Passionate and unafraid to call things as they are, it’s a side of the band DeLonge has never really explored before – but it’s a powerful one that suits them perfectly. Not all these brave new ventures pay off, though. ‘Euphoria’ is meant to be a comment on toxic masculinity – yet most music videos for this record feature women in their underwear. If the band are trying to make a statement, it’s a misguided one.
Tom DeLonge might be riding high musically, but apart from a throwaway line in ‘Losing My Mind’ (“I said we’re not alone and the Government knows it”), ‘LIFEFORMS’ is an ambitious punk record that speaks of the everyday. Polished but with plenty of grit and light on ego, it’s the most relatable this band has ever been.
Release date: September 24
Record label: Rise