Seven years, ten months and five days after the release of their self-titled record makes September 23, 2011 a very important date for blink-182 fans. Today is the day that the band’s sixth studio album, and first since their ‘indefinite hiatus’ back in 2005, entitled ‘Neighborhoods’ is set to be released.
Having stood outside my local CD store waiting for the doors to open, it’d be an understatement to say that I was excited, and a little bit impatient, to finally hear this album. In all honesty I was as nervous as hell as to what this record would bring, but after multiple listens of this long-awaited record, I think it's safe to say I wholeheartedly approve of 'Neighborhoods'.
It is without a doubt blink-182's darkest album to date, both lyrically and musically. They've definitely matured and incorporated into their music what they've all experienced during the past 8 years. In many respects it's as if they've simply picked up where they left off with their last record, except this time there's no question that this level of maturity suits them. After all, during the time of their eponymous album they were still seen as that band who sang that “cute ‘Na Na Na’ song” and who ran naked through their music videos. This time however, after almost a decade, life has naturally forced them to mature; they've grown up and progressed.
While 'Neighborhoods' stands as this dark and mature album, there are definitely throwbacks to their previous records, as well as hints of their side projects away from blink-182, which are definitely evident throughout the album.
The opening track, 'Ghost On The Dance Floor', is quite indicative of the album as a whole in terms of the overall theme and sound of the record. It’d be fair to say that it’s almost a sequel to ‘Not Now’. There are numerous references to death, hopelessness and self-doubt all the way through the record, but the second track, 'Natives', is perhaps the song in which these themes are most prevalent. Lyrics such as ‘I’m just a waste of your time/ Maybe I’m better off dead’ accentuate the darkness present on the album and paint a pretty good picture for what to expect. The third track, and first single off the record, ‘Up All Night’, is a reflection on the harsh reality of human behaviour and the struggles we all face through the eyes of a perceptive observer. As a single it had people confused, however in amongst the other tracks on the record it works well in context. The fourth track on the album, ‘After Midnight’, is a love song of sorts, an ode to a masochistic and destructive relationship, best captured through the verses, with lines like ‘I kind of like the rush you get/ When you’re standing close to death/ Like when you’re driving me crazy’. ‘Snake Charmer’ follows next with a song that is essentially about women and the evil lust and desire they use to coax men into getting what they want. It has a mixture of heavy guitars and an intro that is quite reminiscent of The Cure. ‘Interlude’ then provides a short instrumental break built upon a piano and a spacey guitar riff, a brief departure from the heaviness of the record before leading itself into the seventh track. ‘Hearts All Gone’ is one of the more fast paced punk rock tracks on the record that could easily be mistaken as a song that got lost during the recording of ‘Dude Ranch’ and that has now been re-recorded to become relevant for this particular record. However, amongst all the darkness some light can be found in the form of the eighth track, ‘Wishing Well’, with it’s catchy 'la da da' chorus. In true-to-form blink-182 fashion, this song has a more upbeat pop feel which is quite reminiscent of ‘Enema Of The State’. The ninth track, ‘Kaleidoscope’, is very much a song about the recording of the album. It is a return to the darkness of the earlier tracks, with lyrics full of fear and uncertainty as to what this journey holds; ‘It is the first time that I’m worried/ … It’s a long road to get it right’. Almost acting as a counterbalance to the paranoia of the previous song, ‘This Is Home’ is a pure rock song about the punk rock scene and how they, blink-182, want each other to ‘let go/ ‘Cause this is home’. ‘MH 4.18.2011’, another straightforward rock effort, has Mark singing of repression and the struggle of trying to grow in such an environment. His advice; ‘Slow down/ Stop living in the shadow of a helicopter’. Set to be the final track on the standard version, ‘Love Is Dangerous’ is a track that for me is their greatest departure from their previous material. It has a somewhat theatrical quality to it, with Tom’s declarations of ‘love/ Love is dangerous’ in the chorus. Track thirteen on the deluxe edition, ‘Fighting The Gravity’, is without a doubt a fitting song title as the music itself has this heavy and sluggish feeling about it, as if you’re actually being held back and pulled down. The lyrics provide the description and the music makes you a part of it. The final track on the album, ‘Even If She Falls’, sees one last return a catchy and upbeat melody, much like the feel good song at the end of a film that leaves you feeling satisfied.
‘Neighborhoods’ is a testimony to blink-182’s longevity, regardless of their split, and their ability to remain relevant. It is a brave, bold and beautiful record that sees the band harmoniously bringing together their array of ideas and influences to create an album that is without a doubt some of the best music they’ve produced.