By Debra Kate Schafer
Aptly named “Nine,” Blink-182’s latest full-length album is more musically riveting than you would expect for a band that is best known for its angsty, ‘screamable’ lyrics like “work sucks, I know” and “girls are such a drag.”
This new record, on the other hand, has a lot less eye-rolling, hormonal, teenage boy perturbation. It’s mature, lyrically and sonically, with a heavier hand on the pop side of pop-punk. Although, with Travis Barker’s insane drumming, the band will never be able to sound too soft.
“Nine” consists of 15 beat-heavy, danceable, anthemic tracks that, in total, clock in at just over 41 minutes. It has the same authentic rage and lovelorn anxiety that only Blink-182 has always been able to put into music so melodically and memorably. It has twinkling moments of electronica that pull on the eccentrism that this toeing-the-line of pop punk record owns wholeheartedly.
With its former frontman, Tom DeLonge, being the alien-believing, UFO-investigating man that he is, the band took on Matt Skiba, who was previously Alkaline Trio’s lead singer. This decision was wise, for he has not only taken the touring role on phenomenally since 2015 by giving old school Blink fans the same feeling that DeLonge provided without trying to overshadow him, but he also once again allowed this new record to reach heights that it might not have been able to if head-in-the-clouds Delonge still fronted the group.
Skiba’s vocals are his and he knows it. On this album, and even on stage, he isn’t trying to be Delonge and he isn’t trying to recreate the early sound of Blink-182. His strengths are clear — crisp vocals, the occasional electric guitar shredding and a breath of fresh air between bassist Mark Hoppus’ sharp singing and endearing awkwardness.
Barker, a musical icon in his own right, keeps the pace of the album fast and furious, but still harmonious and in tandem with the technique of each song. The bass lines and drum beats may seem like they overshadow the rest of the instrumentation and vocals at times, but I would leave that to the slightly over-compressed production that the album’s producer, John Feldman, has a tendency to do when getting his hands involved with other people’s music.
Feldman, who has previously worked with pop-punk artists like Good Charlotte and All Time Low, mostly has a history in ska-punk with bands like Goldfinger, which have more of an in-your-face edge to their style.
“Run Away,” “Hungover You” and the record’s lead single, “Blame It On The Youth,” are some of this album’s most notable songs, drawing on the late ’90s, emo nostalgia that fans have been craving. At least, mostly, since “On Some Emo Shit” is a musical dad-joke in the making, complete with Hoppus’ signature humor found right in the title.
Most importantly, the album has belting-from-the-soul lyrics, such as “I don’t really like myself without you” and “all of this frustration inside of my brain,” which are honest and relatable to both new fans and old.
Now that the fan base spans generations, the album is applicable to everyone looking for something to scream at the top of their lungs.
While staying in tune with its core values, the band has also added in the important aspect of modern-day self-awareness to prove that Blink-182 has indeed matured from its skateboarding, turd-singing, prankster ways.