Review Summary: Not quite the great leap forward we had all yearned for, but a firmly planted step in the right direction
Eight years is an eternity in the musical world. In that space of time bands have started, become popular, made an impact on critics and fans alike, sometimes stumbled, sometimes improved, and in some cases broken up. But with middle aging comes the prioritization of what relationships in life are truly important. When Travis Barker was nearly killed in a plane crash with DJ AM in September 2008, all three members of Blink found themselves together again in a time of need for their friend. With that event their friendships were mended and the band were reunited, realizing that what they had together as a group was truly unique and special and that it's something they should have never given up.
This spark, this passion to create music again not only delighted Blink fans across the globe, it also instilled a slowly building expectation that the album was going to be monumental; a total game changer, much like their last album pre-break up was. As the album started being delayed more and more, the expectations rose and bubbled to a peak until we found ourselves at this present stage, September 27th, 2011 with the new Blink 182 album officially for sale and release today. The burning question of course is "Does it live up to the hype?" Well, not exactly. But that turns out to not be such a bad thing after all.
There are two types of Blink 182 fans---those that cling to their snotty spitfire pop-punk roots in the 90s, singing songs about girls, parties, beer and bestiality, and then there are those that became interested in the group only with the release of their self-titled 2003 album, which showed a marked development in mature themes, lyrics, concept, and music. Mark, Tom, and Travis are all aware of this great divide among their fanbase, and with this album they've made the conscious effort to try and satisfy both of those parties and their demands for what the future of Blink "should" sound like. This is a leaner, meaner, more concise and focused Blink 182, still keen on experimenting and progressing musically, but also aware of their pop-punk and quasi-emo roots and proud of it.
The opening song on the album, "Ghost on the Dance Floor", perpetuates this philosophy perfectly. From the opening chords the punk-rock roots are notably apparent with a driving, crunchy guitar riff looped over the intense, pseudo-tribal drumming from Travis and wrapped all together with Tom's signature bratty singing. There are several songs like this on the album that should unite fellow Blink fans together, where the band rekindles some of their trademark hooky pop-punk guitar tricks but they do it all under a thick veil of new wave and post-punk experimentation, notably evident on the synthesizer-driven "This is Home" or the pleasant amalgamation of all of their varied stylistic changes over the years in "Kaleidoscope". Never fear old school Blink fans however, as you can still get your fix of brash, energetic skate punk on songs like "Wishing Well" which may or may not be a direct reference to their beloved classic "Carousel" from Cheshire Cat.
Those expecting an album as explosive, emotional, and fun as some of their past albums may wind up disappointed, as Neighborhoods winds up being not quite the great leap forward that we were all yearning for, but rather a firmly planted step in the right direction. Where they go from here can only be more introspective and experimental, and whether they still have that one last "classic" album in them or not, they're on the right path with this record and fans of the group and genre should overall be satisfied with the album if it's judged on it's own merits alone.
Blink 182 are back, and they've brought their pop-punk hooks and vaguely post-emo/progressive leanings with them, and they've created a thoroughly enjoyable album that should satisfy most fans and may even win them some new ones. Long live the kings of pop punk.