Blink 182 are back with California, a 16 song release that can serve as the soundtrack to your summer. Tom Delonge is out and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba is in as guitarist/co-vocalist. Although it is sad to see the Tom, Mark, and Travis team no longer functional, Matt does an excellent job on his first recording as a member of Blink 182. The vocals that Matt provides sound similar to Tom’s especially on California’s few tracks. Whether the band chose to lead with songs that had Matt performing most similarly to Tom is unknown, however, it definitely created a soft landing for fans that questioned how significantly different Blink’s vocals would be with the subtraction of Tom and addition of Matt.
There are a number of standout tracks on California, most notably Cynical, Sober, No Future, and San Diego. Bored To Death is another solid track but I question whether it should have been the lead single from the CD. However, that is a minor quibble. There are also two extremely short off color songs (something that Blink perfected throughout their career) that are also great. The best part of California is that most songs are catchy on first listen and there are few, if any, throw away/filler songs on the release.
The most interesting aspects of California for me were the following:
- Matt’s song writing stands out and brings Blink in a somewhat different direction thematically that past releases. Although his specific contributions may not be specifically detailed, his references to the ocean, water, and physical injury/cuts as well as drinking are all present.
- The songwriting, although strong, feels like verses and choruses were put together inorganically. I get the feeling as though many songs were patched together rather than fluidly written. This reminds me of some of the songwriting found on Let’s Go by Rancid. For example, in Motorcycle, Tim Armstrong wrote a strong verse that didn’t seem to fit with the short chorus. He then reworked the music behind the song and turned the words of the verse into the opening verse of Time Bomb on Rancid’s Out Comes the Wolves (which became a single and an extremely strong song with a more coherent and naturally flowing verse/chorus structure). Although the songs on California are all quite strong, there are some seemingly incongruent pairings of verse/choruses than with more polish could have taken an A or A- song and turned it into an A+.
- There tons of Cure references on this disk. So many references that it would be quite easy to create a “find the Cure reference’ drinking game at a listening party.
I enjoyed California on first listen and I continue to enjoy the songs as I continue to play them again and again. This is a disk that both old and new fans of Blink will enjoy. Although long time fans will likely miss Tom, Matt’s guitar playing, singing, and song writing allowed Blink to stay the path and make a new record that is recognizable as their sound.