Tag Archives: Blink 182

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Blink 182 – Review

11 Jul

Perhaps the essence of rock n roll is youthful energy. 90 percent of the great albums were made by groups of artists in their first decade of existence, and it’s about the only art form where that’s true. Film makers and writers tend to peak later in their career, great painters and photographers go on having acclaimed periods long in to old age. Even other types of musicians and composers – blues, jazz, classical, opera – have a longer shelf life than rock n roll bands. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, listening to new albums by two bands who were once the embodiment of youthful rock n roll. What balance can be made? Are you able to compromise those youthful virtues with experience and maturity? Is that even desirable when so much of what initially made the band great was intrinsically linked to youth?

Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Blink 182 were always more defined by their age than most. Bratty, juvenile pranksters with an appetite for mum jokes and cock socks – it’s kind of ironic that they’ve lasted longer than many of their peers. And to give them credit, they’re doing a pretty good job of sticking around – name me any other mid 90s band currently getting playlisted on the defiantly youth targeted and focus grouped Radio 1? Both bands have recently headlined Reading and Leeds, which remain the festivals of choice for first timers. They are the heritage bands it’s actually credible to like. And they aren’t coasting on greatest hits either – young fans of these bands are just as likely to be singing the new songs as the old ones. Say what you want about the far cooler Blur, Stone Roses or Noel Gallagher, but their recent shows were 90% steered towards past glories. No, Blink and the the Chili Peppers have been embraced by a young, predominantly alternative, audience as living, breathing, functional, working rock groups.

There is no doubt that this current positioning was achieved largely because of good timing, excellent lead singles and a whole lot of canny PR. Without ‘Dark Neccesities’ or ‘Bored to Death’, without an appearance on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke or a slot on Good Morning America, not to mention a long and stealthy build up, Blink 182 and Red Hot Chili Peppers would probably have as much credibility with teenagers and Sum 41 or Faith No More. ‘Dark Necessities’ and ‘Bored to Death’ are so good because they use the darker edges of the bands back catalogues as springboards, to remind us that these bands have always had a mature side. So ‘Bored to Death’ riffs off ‘Adam’s Song’s chords and despondency whilst tonally and melodically ‘Dark Necessities’ updates ‘Otherside.’

If the singles work because they are fine continuations of very specific threads in the bands’ back catalogues, then the other songs falter because they seem uncertain of how how they fit in with the heritage. Stick? Twist? Most of the songs on ‘The Getaway’ and ‘California’ end up in no man’s land.

The good thing is that both ‘The Getaway’ and ‘California’ are positive steps taken after a period of great change. This is the Chili Peppers first album without Rick Rubin at the helm and their second without the irreplaceable John Fruscante. It is by quite some distance their most sonically ambitious album to date and it exudes a satisfied mid-life contentment. Meanwhile, ‘California’ is the first Blink album without Tom Delonge, whose distinctive, yelping vocal tone remains inimitable. Remaining members Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus recruited the dependable Matt Skiba and got to work with John Fieldmen, the natural successor to their usual producer Jerry Finn who sadly died a couple of years ago. Like ‘The Getaway’, California is an ambitious and optimistic update of the band’s signature sound.

Both records display an ambition that is reassuring for old fans like myself. ‘California’ in particular is melodically focused and has clear aims to reach a wide audience. Songs like ‘She’s Out of Her Mind’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’ definitely trace the line back to ‘Enema of the State’s’ exuberant and catchy singles but they also use modern production gloss and so become more palatable for the mainstream. Blink’s traditional punk fan base may find that disconcerting but I grew up listening to Blink on the radio and I continue to admire their populist streak. RHCP on the other hand are less successful to this end, simply because ‘Dark Necessities’ aside, nothing here scans as pop dynamite (and it’s not through lack of trying). Their desire and ambition cannot be faulted but the Chili Peppers have ultimately put together their weakest collection of songs in nearly 30 years.

I’ve always been defensive of the Chilli Peppers. Certain patronising critics are to quick to lump them in with certain other mundane stadium rock bands, when actually the Chili Peppers were always far more quirky and interesting than they were given credit for. They also remain an important gateway band for lots of teenagers. Think of how many people got in to George Clinton, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix because of them. What they lack in innovation or seriousness, they make up for with far more rare qualities: enthusiasm, passion, dedication, a sense of humour and individuality. Nobody else sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, believe me, people have tried; they always end up looking ridiculous. On ‘The Getaway’ those qualities seem somehow diminished. With its sombre remodelling, the record scans as actually less distinctive and more traditionally, and blandly, alternative. I’ve always loathed Danger Mouse’s bone-dry, neutered production style and I feel that here the Chili Peppers have become something of another faceless product on his factory line.

Still, I would take this record’s flawed but ambitious sound over ‘I’m With You’s tired, Rick Rubin on cruise control, production. And there are songs where it pays off. The funkier, tightly wound disco numbers like ‘Go Robot’ and ‘Detroit’ are interesting renovations of the classic RHCP sound. It’s the slower ballads, of which there are many, that let the band down. The likes of ‘Sick Love’, ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Dreams of a Samurai’ are certainly accomplished and well composed but they’re also too watery, too fragile and lack the emotional wallop we’re used to getting from a Chilli Peppers power ballad. Sonically these songs are ‘vibey’ and nuanced but does that matter when there’s no emotional connection to the music or lyrics? There is also a depressing lack of the ridiculous and the sublime. On their 90s records the Chili Peppers risked all, and whilst they sometimes ended up looking flat out stupid, they also wrote some of the silliest classics in the rock cannon. By playing it serious, the Chili Peppers are actually playing it unusually safe.

So RHCP have created a more dynamic and edgy sounding album without delivering their best material while Blink 182 almost have the problem in reverse. They have written some of their catchiest songs in over a decade but have presented them as polished, PG pop punk. There is none of the edge or spontaneity of their best work. But ‘California’ is still a fun and more-ish album. 16 songs is at least 4 too many but at forty minutes, the album feels surprisingly lean. The melodies are laser focused and the choruses are massive.

It is however disappointing that Blink seem incapable of incorporating humour in a sophisticated way. They have two modes; somber sentimentality as evidenced by the vast majority of tracks, and juvenile crassness (‘Built this Pool’ and ‘Brohemian Rhapsody’). In the end the joke songs play like concessions for the old skool Blink fans and sound unnecessarily tacked on. They are especially jarring considering how dull much of the material is. It would be really nice to hear a modern Blink record that finds a halfway point between juvenilia and maturity. There is a compromise somewhere but Blink don’t even attempt to reach it.

So is it possible for rock n roll groups to prosper in middle age? Neither Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Blink 182 deliver a confident answer and both records suggest that at the very least it’s a complicated situation. Nobody wants ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ or ‘Take off your Jacket and Pants’ part 2 when most of the band members are dads. But at the same time what fun are Blink 182 and Red Hot Chilli Peppers as dullards writing about mid life crises? There are plenty of bands doing that already. Somewhere in between there is a hole waiting to be filled (that’s what she said) by these legendary, and still occasionally thrilling, bands.

Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘The Getaway’ – 5.5/10

Blink 182 ‘California’ – 6/10

 

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Blink-182 ‘Neighbourhoods’ – Review

5 Oct

A couple of years ago I went through a bit of a Blink-182 phase. I’d never been particularly into them first time around, but a lot of their songs had penetrated my consciousness, whether it was through TV, radio play or friends who were fans. I think my revival in interest was due to a combination of factors; I was 18 and a fresher at Uni (the subject matter for a few of their songs), I was probably nostalgic for the pop culture of my childhood (and few acts represent late 90’s pop culture as well as Blink-182, not just through music but through their fashion, attitude and brand endorsement), and enough time had passed for me to realize with hindsight that there was more to them than dirty jokes and throwaway punk songs. Their best album, ‘Enema of the State’ (and in particular its classic singles ‘What’s My Age Again’, ‘All the Small Things’, ‘Adam’s Song’ and ‘Going Away to College’) perfectly captures the frustration and agony of growing up and finding your place in the world whilst adjusting to adult life. It also contained some of the catchiest and funniest songs you could ever wish to hear, and its influence has been (for better or worse) huge.

Now they are back, older and wiser, which is somewhat problematic as Blink were once the exact opposite of old and wise. How can a band that were so perfectly suited to their original time and place, and so perfectly suited to being young and cynical, adapt to middle age, not to mention declining interest in the genre they helped define? On the one hand we want them to carry on because we love their music and they reminds us of our youth, but on the other hand we realize that they will almost certainly never return to that state of brilliantly productive creativity. A while ago I came across a picture of The Ramones at one of their last shows, decked out in skinnys and leather jackets, and i remember thinking it was kind of sad that they had continued for so long, living off past glories in a way that seemed to be the polar opposite of what they originally represented. Blink-182 cancelled their summer tour this year because they didn’t have any new songs to play – maybe they are also aware of the dangers of playing purely for nostalgia’s sake. ‘Neighbourhoods’ then is their stab at relevance in 2011, and mostly they strike a fine balance between old and new.

The band have said that ‘Neighbourhoods’ features songs that could have fitted onto any of their older albums. Whilst this isn’t particularly true (there is nothing as rabid and relentless as the songs on those early records) you can sort of see where they are coming from. Many tracks borrow ‘Enema of the States’ pop sheen and retain its well crafted choruses and radio friendly melodies. But elsewhere there are songs that remind me of the darker punk sound that is more reminiscent of ‘Take off your jacket and Pants’, and the more intricate and experimental moments take off where 2003’s self titled album left off. impressively they manage to weave all these elements together, and they are at their best when they take all those reference points and create something entirely new with them.

When they delve completely into unknown territory things get a little less exciting, and frankly the more experimental numbers are a bit hit and miss. ‘Snake Charmer’ is pretty useless, it’s too similar to something Tom’s other band ‘Angels and Airwaves would put out, it makes you wonder why he didn’t just save it for their next album; this type of airy, anthemic stadium rock is just not what Blink are about. So whilst this is an ambitious album for the boys, the obvious fact remains that Blink-182 are best when it comes to the loud and fast numbers they built their name on. The toilet humour may have been flushed away (excuse the pun) but some traces of what was remain. ‘Heart’s All Gone’ is a classic pop-punk number led by Mark (my favourite of the two singers, and he is generally greatly underused on the album) and it’s easily the brightest song on here. ‘Natives’ is another fast number that demonstrates why Travis Barker is often considered to be the finest drummer in rock, even if his elaborate style is an ill-suited compliment to the basic style of the other two members. ‘Wishing Well’ and MH4′ are two other tracks that update the classic Blink sound whilst staying true to what made them so popular in the first place, either one of these would have made a more suitable first single than the slightly empty ‘Up All Night’.

The Beatles made twelve albums in six years which is pretty astonishing when you think about it. Blink 182 have been away for roughly the same amount of time, so when they returned with a song as insubstantial as ‘Up All Night’ you can understand why some fans were disappointed. It’s not that ‘Up all Night’ is a bad song, it’s just that we had hoped for more. It does work better in the context of the album but I’m still not too keen on it.  Second Single ‘After Midnight’ is a lot better, it aims to replicate the style of ‘Miss You’ or ‘Stay Together For the Kids’ and does a pretty good job of it.

Featuring only ten songs, one of which is a short instrumental interlude, and two more of which are utterly forgettable, ‘Neighbourhoods’ is a regrettably slim and insubstantial comeback album.  However, there is a 14 track ‘deluxe’ version which is worth getting as two of the bonus tracks are very good and the other two aren’t bad either. All in all there is more than enough evidence here to suggest that Blink have a future, and a fairly promising one at that. Even though ‘Neighbourhoods’ never fully realizes the band’s true potential, it does a good job of reminding you why Blink 182 are so special, and it proves that against the odds they have grown up, and grown up in style.

7/10

Blink 182 news

5 Aug

Check out a new Blink 182 song below (it’s about 100 times better than the first single) along with the cover art for comeback album ‘Neighbourhoods’.

Blink 182 ‘Up All Night’

15 Jul

Here is the new single by Blink 182, it’s called ‘Up All Night’ and it’s taken from the album ‘Neighbourhoods’ which will be out in September – it’s the group’s first album since 2003.

Download announcment and other festival rumours

17 Feb

The Download lineup continues to get better every year, but this time the organizers have really outdone themselves. AC/DC, Aerosmith and Rage Against The Machine will all be playing the event this June and it doesn’t get much better than that. Also playing will be Motorhead, Them Crooked Vultures, Deftones, Megadeath, Wolfmother and a fair load of tosh just to even things out. Download has upped it’s game and now the other festivals need to follow suit.

Glastonbury has also pulled out the big guns by announcing none other than Stevie Wonder, U2 and Muse for the event’s big anniversary year.

Reading and Leeds have not announced a thing yet although Blink 182 are all but confirmed (Woop!) and eveyone from Greenday to R.E.M, My Chemical Romance to Guns N Roses have also been rumoured. At V Kasabian and Kings of Leon are probably playing and Isle of White has got The Strokes, Blondie and Jay Z.

Watch this space…

Meanwhile tickets for Rage against the Machine’s victory concert went on sale this morning. The 40,000 tickets sold out instantly, the concert will go ahead in June before the band play Dublin, Rock Am Ring and of course Download.