Neighborhoods is a pretty applicable and literal title for Blink-182’s first record in seven years. The record is a melting pot of punk, stadium rock, experimental, and new wave with each band member clearly bringing their influences to town. The anticipation and hype for the album may have been impossible to deliver on, but Blink certainly has created a solid album that is representative of where they’re at right now. I don’t think Neighborhoods is what fans wanted, and that’s OK.
Many have claimed that Neighborhoods sounds too much like Angels & Airwaves and +44, both (separate) post-Blink bands formed by Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. The accusations aren’t without merit, but to think that the Southern California trio were going to release “Dammit Part Two” is just foolish. Artists grow and tastes change. The visceral reaction to change is never pleasant. The band has given multiple interviews recently, and the push and pull of collaboration is a major theme. With Hoppus and Barker working out of L.A. and DeLonge in San Diego, the songwriting process was a back and forth of online file exchanges and constant tweaking of other member’s ideas. This process can work if everyone’s on the same page, but unfortunately, the resulting tracks feel more like a record of musical compromises than an honest representation of a cohesive unit.
Neighborhoods feels like Hoppus and Barker really wanted to make a Blink record, but in order to get DeLonge on board, they’d have to agree to use 90% of his ideas. From the guitar tones to the lyrics to the decision of who sings what, the album feels too Tom-heavy. After listening repeatedly to the tracks, DeLonge’s nasally delivery with overly enunciated words, and exasperated self-important cadence become too grating to tolerate.
That being said, there are some really cool songs here. “Ghost on the Dance Floor” has a unexpected groove. “The Snake Charmer” has a massively heavy chorus (despite access to too many foot pedals). Hoppus and Barker kill it on “Heart’s All Gone,” the fastest, most “punk” offering. Neighborhoods is definitely front-loaded, and while interesting to hear once, the interlude before “Heart’s” is skipable.
For all the talk of DeLonge and Hoppus, Barker is the true star of Neighborhoods. His creative beats and enthusiasm behind the kit forge the backbone of Blink, and should be viewed as the main reason why the group made a massive jump in the early 2000’s. It’s remarkable that he’s even able to rock as hard and his does. After surviving a plane crash, near foot amputation and the loss of several close friends, Barker plays like every song could be his last. His performance makes you completely forget that he put out a forgetable hip-hop solo album earlier this year.
Rather than look at this album in comparrison to their back catalog, Blink fans should look foward. This is a landmark record for no other reason than it exists. If you’re too hung up on the fact that it’s not three chords and teen angst, well, there are plenty of other bands still doing that. Neighborhoods isn’t nearly as accessible and won’t garner the band the commericial and crossover success they’ve experienced in the past, but it is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Well, I guess this is growing up.