In 2015, Blink-182 stumbled upon hard times when founding guitarist Tom Delonge elected to leave the band in pursuit of extra terrestrial beings, and they haven’t really been the same since. With no new music being released since Neighbourhood’s or the Dogs Eating Dogs EP, Mark and Travis enlisted the help of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba to fulfill Delonge’s role in upcoming events the band had scheduled that year, and he stuck around! Blink-182 delivered a solid record with their last release, 2016’s California. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and they were even nominated for a Grammy! Although I quite enjoyed California, it wasn’t my favourite record from the trio. I would take the bands aforementioned Neighbourhood’s over direct predecessor California any day of the week.. but the true question is how does Blink-182’s newest record, NINE, stack up? Does NINE add to or hinder Blink’s legacy?
Our introduction to NINE blasts off like a rocket, with songs “The First Time” and “Happy Days.” One would want to believe that Blink-182 “has done it again!” but unfortunately, hearts are put through their paces, as you arrive at the third track, “Heaven.” The song is a sad tale comprising of a hollow rock ballad I immediately asked myself, “What is the missing element here?” While you can only re-invent the wheel so many times, I think blink-182’s appeal to a younger crowd isn’t what it once was. Mark Hoppus is aging like an elite athlete of his craft, and while he might have the ability to hit home runs, they aren’t as frequent as they once were at the turn of the millennium. “Heaven”, like a lot of this record, is good — just not great, and I’m sure my opinion of this record might not be the norm.
A controversial view I hold over most, is my view of “Darkside”, a song with a strange music video showcasing the band of men in their mid-late 40’s performing in a high school. I find this track to be one of the most complete songs on the album, building into a strong chorus, “Darkside” is tied with “The First Time” as my favourite track.
That being said, the album is still missing something. NINE did not have any joke tracks, a sign of the times I’m sure, but why write the songs the way they do? The transition from California to NINE holds the same contrast as TOYPAJ to the Untitled record musically, from punk rock to some weird sort of alternative rock. While its too early to say if success will come Blink’s way from this record, as it once transitioned in the early 2000’s, I do see some missing components. While it felt to me that this record was predominantly sung by Mark Hoppus, (maybe that was a move made by the band for Delonge’s return?) it did take away from the contrast and depth that I felt California had. Lastly the musical aptitude just isn’t there anymore. Songs like “Damnit”, “Whats My Age Again?”, “Stay Together For The Kids” and “Wishing Well”, all have one commonality; they are all played with ascending or descending root notes — ironically a staple point of Tom Delonge’s writing style.
If you love Blink-182 the way I do, nothing much has really changed. NINE is 15 tracks of hard work, that maybe isn’t meant to reach the listener who loved them back in the Enema of the State days.. but Blink-182 has endured the test of time. While the band concludes their 20th anniversary tour of Enema Of The State, this album gives the band an excuse to head back out on the road and I, for one, am curious to hear the new songs played live!