Blink-182 – ‘Nine’ review: the spiritual follow-up to the classic ‘Untitled’

The band settle into a new groove with the spiritual follow-up to the classic 'Untitled', though there's no room for nostalgia with Blink 2.0

2016’s ‘California’ proved that there was a future for Blink-182 after the soap opera departure of founding member Tom Delonge and the addition of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba.

Excitable, eager to please and with a sugary smile, its 16 tracks represented an attempt to offer all things to all people. From the classic pop-punk escape of ‘Kings Of The Weekend’ and the moody ‘No Future’ to the juvenile humour of ‘Built This Pool’, it was a scrapbook reminder of the band’s best bits.

With ‘Nine’, there’s no room for nostalgia. It sees Blink back to the future and standing knee-deep in 2019. When, after the opening crash of ‘The First Time’, they admit that “there ain’t nothing like the first time,” the band set off to break new ground. Bouncing between an effervescent pop chorus and a much more snarling verse, it gives the classic Blink ingredients a big old shake-up. The fizz can be felt throughout.

‘Heaven’, quiet and cautious one moment before exploding with the thundering declaration of “heaven doesn’t want me”, is theatrical and the closest Blink have ever veered to stadium rock, while ‘Darkside’ is a weird little punk song that has absolutely no right being this joyful. It’s the sort of song that the band couldn’t have made before now or with any other line-up.

Blink have always been at their best when they sound like a gang of friends goofing around. It’s the thread that ran through the trio of albums (1999’s ‘Enema Of The State’, 2001’s ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’ and 2003’s ‘Untitled’) that earned them their legacy. It’s why the band felt at odds on 2011’s ‘Neighborhoods’, their individual wants jostling for space, and it’s what was missing on ‘California’, the new line-up being careful not to make the same mistake again. This is what they get so right with ‘Nine’.

Bringing out the best in each other, Travis Barker, Mark Hoppus and Matt have got their grubby fingerprints all over this record. Energetic, dark but catchy as hell, it sees the three of them settled into a driving grove that gives ‘Nine’ an ever-shifting dynamic. They’re comfortable with each other and what Blink is now. It doesn’t feel like anything is missing.

‘No Heart To Speak Of’ sees Matt at his roaring best, pouring heartbreak into something fast and furious, while ‘Happy Days’ sees Mark still struggling with growing up, those teenage ghosts of loneliness continuing to haunt him as he tells himself, “Hey, Kid, don’t listen to your head / It only fills you with dread and doubt”.

More than just a brilliant name, ‘On Some Emo Shit’ is a twitching, scratched anthem of despair and uncertainty, before the closing acoustic twinkle of ‘Remember To Forget Me’ sees the band at their most vulnerable, packing up and leaving home. The angst of ‘Pin The Grenade’ takes the pop-punk blueprint that Blink helped draw up and modernises it with big bold lines and a playful use of space.

A spiritual follow up to 2003’s ‘Untitled’, ‘Nine’ sees the trio as confident adventurers. Dealing with the ideas of despair, loneliness and longing, the record doesn’t shy away from the shadows but you’re never far from a dash of hope.

There may be no joke songs this time around, but the grinning, reckless abandon of ‘Generational Divide’ is sure to put a smile on the face of the most cynical of fans. The track asks, “Is it better now,” and somehow, despite everything they’ve been through, yes it is. ‘Nine’ sees Blink back at their very best.

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