Blink-182 has been an amorphous band since Tom Delonge left.
While California was easy on the ears—thanks in part to the commercial proficiency of producer John Feldman, who previously worked with bands like 5 Seconds of Summer and Panic! At The Disco—the record's fun sensibilities were overshadowed by the weight of a midlife crisis. Tracks like "Kings of the Weekend" and "Rabbit Hole" painted a picture of a band chasing their glory days. The rockers, now all in their 40's, had a clear objective with California that was set partially in motion by the departure of Tom Delonge in 2015: Remind fans that Blink-182 is the same care-free trio. But they're not the same band, and with Delonge's absence came a loss of sincerity. As flawed as Neighborhoods was—the last record Delonge would write and appear on—it carried with it a reflective maturity that California lacked. Songs like "Up All Night" and "Love Is Dangerous" portrayed Blink as a contemplative band, who in their old age were forced to learn from their impetuous years, and to perhaps grow and change in the process. Fans were disappointed by California because that authenticity and growth was nowhere to be found.
The trio's latest singles, "Happy Days," "Blame It On My Youth," and "Generational Divide," are very literal in their depictions of the band's mid-life crisis. While California showed the band chasing their youth, Blink's upcoming album seems to be in response to that: pure existential crisis. "Are we better, are we better now?" Hoppus cries out on the 50-second "Generational Divide." "I've been lost since 1999 / Blame It on my youth," the band all screams out optimistically on "Blame it On My Youth."
Now, "Happy Days" has all but ascertained that Blink-182 is running on the fumes of nostalgia. The track is formulaic and plays out like much of Blink-182's late discography. Skiba provides the harmonic cries while Barker wails on the drums, with Hoppus filling in the gaps to send a message to the "kids" supposedly listening to their music. Even the single's cover art is eerily reminiscent of the band's 2003 self-titled project. The only issue is that it's not kids listening anymore.
Blink-182's biggest moments served as a form of escapism from teenage oppression and effectively communicated the heavy-handed ridiculousness of being a young exile. But those kids are now in their mid-to-late 20's. They've all realized there is no escape. Instead, they're all looking for answers, and it's comforting to know that at least Blink-182 is on that journey with them. "Walls of isolation inside of my pain / and I don't know if I'm ready to change," Hoppus sings on the track's chorus. "Happy Days" shows that our favorite middle-aged musicians are lost in translation, unable to articulate exactly what kind of band they are anymore.
Blink-182 is back with new music for the first time in three years.
Their latest single, "Blame it on My Youth," just dropped and it is sure to garner plenty of mixed reactions, especially from longtime fans of the band.
This song is a far cry from the Blink-182 that streaked and cursed their way to superstardom in the late '90s. It is nothing like the Blink-182 that tugged on our heartstrings with a freshly macabre take on pop-punk in the early aughts. And it is a departure from the Blink-182 that attempted to recapture the magic of their youthful San Diego sound on their last album, 2016's (tepidly received)
California. The band has gone through many changes throughout the years—most notably with the loss of founding member and guitarist, Tom Delonge (who left the band to join forces with the Pentagon in hopes of proving the existence of aliens) and the induction of Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba to take his place—but "Blame it on My Youth" marks the first time that the band has significantly redefined the signature Blink sound since the 2002 release of the group's self-titled LP.
On their new single, however, the trio sheds most of their pop-punk roots; opting, instead, to serve up a song that sounds more like an indie-fueled pop-rock tune than anything else. Somewhat ironically, though, the song is an ode to growing up punk rock. Bassist-slash-vocalist (and only remaining original member of the band), Mark Hoppus sings, "I wasn't born with the rich blood / I started out with plenty of nothing at all / I got stuck in the thick mud / The flash flood, punk rock, and the alcohol" over relatively toned-down, arpeggiated guitar chords. The song proceeds to open up into a big, anthemic chorus with plenty of chanted group vocals—a sound which, stripped of its context, sounds more like Imagine Dragons than it does Blink-182.
Whether you love or loathe the song, it's definitely good to see Blink branching out into new territory again, breaking free of expectation to give us yet another phase in the band's 27-year evolution.
Blame It On My Youth
Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).