Review Summary: In collaborating with Ilan Rubin, Delonge and co. have created the most well-rounded, vulnerable, and unpredictable AVA record to date.
In 2005, one of the most successful groups of the young millennium decided to split ways. Submerged in success and fame, Tom DeLonge sparked interest and controversy by deciding to halt his career with blink-182. Setting aside his playful and immature persona that encapsulated blink’s music, live presence and bond with the youth of the Millennial Generation, DeLonge jumped head first into a new project, exploring fresh ideas, different sounds and creating a new image. The final product was Angels and Airwaves
(abbreviated as AVA). Fronted by DeLonge suited up with a leather jacket with patches and space insignia, AVA was billed to “redefine” Rock & Roll and inspire a whole new generation of music. AVA’s “space rock” future may have been shooting for the stars, having a successful and speedy takeoff with their lead single The Adventure, but barely pierced the atmosphere before plummeting back to earth. Over saturated with effects, echoes, synths and the larger than life concept of DeLonge and his bandmates playing Astronauts in space, both We Don’t Need To Whisper and I-Empire sputtered in their attempts to reach the audacious heights of creating a Musical Epic on the level of Ben Hur and generating mainstream success. While proving a great outlet for DeLonge’s creativity through music, art and film, AVA has still yet to achieve the attention or creative heights set forth nearly a decade ago. Now, armed with drummer and sidekick Ilan Rubin, DeLonge and company are back, and thankfully are treading a new course.
Angels & Airwaves new record, The Dream Walker, while accompanied with all of DeLonge’s artistic visions that have become a staple with every release (comic books, graphic novel, short films, animations), is a step in the right direction for a band that’s been lost in space. While previous releases have been spearheaded and subjugated by DeLonge’s vision and creativity, the addition of Ilan Rubin has jumpstarted a band that has otherwise become predictable and stale. Wearing the influences of his former bandmate, Trent Reznor, on his sleeve, Rubin’s mixing and synthesizer playing on Dream Walker is a vast improvement over the stereotypical piano intros/outros of the band’s past. Songs like “The Wolfpack” illustrate how the band has evolved from merely molding songs from regurgitated guitar riffs rifled with additional effects; it has a driving baseline that’s groovy, it’s layered with keyboard work that is not just a tacky decoration but has a purpose and creates atmosphere, and it has a catchy melody. The album is by far the band’s most dynamic since its inception. While previous releases were nearly one dimensional in theme, content and musicianship, Dream Walker seems to blend DeLonge’s overarching career into one cohesive piece. While songs like “Kiss With a Spell” seem to be taken straight off of The Cure’s Disintegration (DeLonge and Robert Smith had worked previously on blink-182’s self titled record on the song “All of This”) tracks like Mercenaries are more upbeat and reminiscent of blink’s last full effort, Neighborhoods. Lyrically, DeLonge will win very few critics over who are past detractors but continues to mature and show progress. The most satisfying aspect of Dream Walker for fans and critics alike is how vulnerable DeLonge becomes this time around. On previous records, whether it was ego or the need to prove something, AVA has always been DeLonge’s vessel to create, in his eyes, perfection. His concepts were over the top, the production was crystal clean and his vision was recorded with little to no criticism or input from other band members. Finally, it appears he is comfortable with creating a piece of work that is not meant to prove his worth, that is not a completely solo effort and that is not to be set apart from his musical past. Dream Walker is simply DeLonge letting the music speak for itself.
With this record, DeLonge has finally become comfortable in his own skin, both musically and artistically, and has created an album that steers AVA away from the trajectory of mediocrity the band has been following since its inception. With the collaboration of Ilan Rubin, the two have created the most well rounded, vulnerable, and unpredictable AVA record to date that reveals the band has more tricks up its sleeves than previously thought.