One thing you could always say for Blink-182: They had great lead singles. Since their breakout in 1997, each new album has been led by an absolute dynamite three-minute blast of a first single—"Dammit," "What's My Age Again?," "The Rock Show" and "Feeling This," easily four of Blink's best and best-aged songs. But "Up All Night" is different, obviously, being the band's first new recorded music of any kind since 2005, after a hellacious period of band turmoil (including a very legit-seeming breakup) and countless distracting side projects that made it seem like the band members had drifted too far apart to ever reunite in the good name of pop-punk again.
So the #1 question with "Up All Night" is this: Does it sound like old Blink-182? Well, sort of yes and mostly no. Mostly no in that no, this doesn't sound like "Dammit" or "What's My Age Again" or any other three-chord anthem that the band basically made their name on—simple, fun, energetic and immature songs that sounded great when you were 13 and sound just as great when you're 25, remembering what it felt like to be 13. But sort of yes in that, well, had Blink stuck around and continued making music for the last six years, this was probably the direction they were heading towards anyway—more musically complex, world-weary, and personally unsure than their by-comparison naive early hits.
"Up All Night" starts and ends with a chugging, heavy guitar line, punctuated by skittering, trance-like whooshy keyboards and Travis Barker's galloping drums. It transitions to a more straightforward, sunnier Blink-type sound on the verses, as vocalists Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus trade off heavy-handed lyrics: "Everyone's cross to bear's a crown they wear on endless holiday / Everyone raises kids in a world that changes life to a bitter game." The chorus is even more despairing: "Let me get this straight / Do you want me here / As I struggle through each and every year / And all these demons / They keep me up all night." Blink-182 are no strangers to emo, certainly, but this is a distinctly...adult sort of emo. (Which makes sense, considering that all three members are now well into their 30s, but is still jarring for a band whose life responsibilities we always assumed never advanced beyond gearing up for the Warped Tour and making crank phone calls to their girlfriends' parents.)
Ultimately, it was always the songcraft that really differentiated Blink from their less-talented peers, and that's still on display in "Up All Night"—the heavy-to-soft transitions feel awkward at first, but by the time that chugging riff sees the song out, it gets into your head and starts to make sense. But it doesn't feel like a slam dunk the way all their other lead singles have—it's more like a solid supporting album track than a face-slapping first impression that announces the band's return with authority and leaves you craving more. We're glad the band's back, and we realize it's probably for the best that they're not still behaving like the pimply-faced teen punks that they haven't actually been in nearly two decades (!!!) now, but we'd be lying if we said we wouldn't be a little bit disappointed if they didn't still have that old spark of snotty indefatigability in them somewhere.