Back in 2016, the return of Blink-182 was quite the hark back. Joined by Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba, serving as the replacement for now-space enthusiast Tom DeLonge, their comeback coincided at the same time as the world endured a summer of being glued to their phones catching Pokémon in a nostalgia overload of mega proportions.
‘California’ itself was quite the fun-filled flashback, and while DeLonge-less, was a reminder of the easy-going, jovial Blink-182 that fans had been yearning for.
Yet, in what’s probably the musical shock of 2019, ‘Nine’ – the band’s “ninth” but acutally eighth album (not getting into that) – severely lacks a syrupy slurp of yesteryear nostalgia, and perhaps more interestingly rids the piss-taking too.
While ‘Nine’ is a certainly a record that feels unmistakably Blink-182 in its driving, hook-heavy, punk rock tendencies, it’s a Blink-182 that’s firmly planted in a confused and chaotic 2019 – a place seemingly so dark that humour seems irrelevant, and sombre observations and confessions apter.
Songs delve through poignant topics, but with the trademark pop-punk buzz that the trio so effortlessly achieve. ‘Happy Days’ sees Mark Hoppus discussing issues of depression and anxiety – a prevalent theme throughout – with the plea of “I want to see happy days”, ‘Darkside’ depicts a lover wanting to follow his companion to her “dark side”, ‘Black Rain’ tells of the loss and despair of losing someone you love, while ‘Heaven’ mirrors society in its reflection of the mass shooting at Thousand Oaks.
Thematically, this is far away from the younger, comedy-fuelled band we once knew – even ‘Blame It On My Youth’ seems apologetic for the group’s hazier days, yet more self-aware than mocking.
Musically, there’s a push for more electronic nuances at times, which was perhaps to be expected from Hoppus‘ recently formed exploits in Simple Creatures, as verses of ‘Run Away’, ‘Ransom’, and ‘Hungover You’ ring of subtle synthetics, auto-tune, and samples alongside more regular pumped-up choruses.
Where, at times, it was strange to hear Skiba doing the ‘DeLonge bits’ on ‘California’, here his gritty highs are sonically fitting and powerful, feeling more comfortable with its surroundings; and it’s key to the album’s successes.
It’s unlikely that fans would’ve been expecting ‘Nine’ to be as mature as it, but it’s dark and light in equal measure, and that in itself is wonderful. This may just be Blink-182‘s best album since the good old days, and they weren’t even trying to relive them this time.