Despite all my grumblings about mall punk, blink-182 is still one of my favorite pop-punk bands from the late-'90s/early-'00s. Yeah, they had their goofy videos with all sorts of toilet humor, but they were pretty consistent with coming up with good tunes. After a couple of hit records, they made a rather bold move with their fifth album, blink-182. The songs on the album were a step away from songs about relationships in a high school-like mindset. Many songs have darker moods and feels while still being lively and energetic at the same time. Interestingly, the album was a hit with fans, but ultimately, it turned into the band's swan song. With drummer Travis Barker doing a variety of things (including being in an MTV "reality" show called Meet the Barkers and being featured in cell phone ads) and bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus producing records and working on a new project called Plus-44 with Barker, guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge has made the most noise post-blink. However, I'm not so sure this noise is really something to praise.
DeLonge's new band, Angels and Airwaves, will release their debut album, We Don't Need to Whisper, on May 23rd. While some songs are up on their website, I think it's safe to say this album will not live up to the hype that DeLonge dished last fall. Saying stuff like, "I have a new band . . . and it is the most amazing music I have ever made by a long shot. I am two songs from finishing the best fucking album anybody has heard in 20 years . . . This is the best music made in decades . . . It is so much more powerful, emotional and melodic than Box Car and Blink put together, that I am currently shitting my pants." Um, what?
It's not like I don't think people can mature in the world of punk rock, but when a group of guys documented themselves as funny juveniles, how do you know when they're trying to be serious? In the case of DeLonge, between blink albums, he and Barker did a band called Box Car Racer, a band that was more influenced by Refused and Fugazi than Screeching Weasel. Their self-titled album found a wide audience and the songs weren't bad at all. However, as it's been proven time and time again, your biggest splash is your biggest shadow.
Stuff like "this is the best music made in decades" may come from the horse's mouth, but I seriously doubt that's what music critics are going to say when We Don't Need to Whisper drops. blink-182 did have some rather serious songs (like "Adam's Song" and "Stay Together for the Kids"), but the overall presentation was that they were a pop band that played fast songs. They even had an album called Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. So seeing what I've seen and heard with Angels and Airwaves, I definitely don't agree with DeLonge's claims. However, I don't think the songs are bad at all.
So far, two tracks ("The Adventure" and "It Hurts") have been posted on the band's official website. The songs recall blink's midtempo material, but they have a little more of a darker, new wave sound to them. They're pretty catchy songs, but this is not the work of something that will make my year-end list of favorites. Of course I'll have to hear the whole album to make a full decision.
Why I bring all this stuff up is that when someone has affected a large number of people with a certain persona, it's hard to move on. Plus, I think the kind of persona is a major factor in regards to whatever the person does next. For example, it's one thing to have someone like Alex Chilton go from aping his R&B influences with the Box Tops to making timeless power pop with Big Star. On the other side of the coin, here's a guy that made a number of hit albums under this very juvenile image and now he's trying to act serious.
Not to sound pompous myself, but it seems like a number of bands in the modern day mall-friendly/watered-down versions of punk, emo and hardcore are completely incapable of making something timeless. Whatever the bands think they're doing is going to be some of the greatest music in decades is completely off center. I've found that some of the greatest music of all time does not come from a mall cheese factory; it comes from a vacuum. Whether the vacuum is large or small, when there is no defined, target audience, the greater the chance the music is going to stick. Seeing DeLonge try and stick out with Angels and Airwaves makes me think of yet another fast food analogy: DeLonge came from being a "chef" at a pretty good fast food joint but now he thinks he can make stuff in the gourmet variety.
I credit DeLonge for actually trying something unique at a time when he could just sit back and live off the millions of dollars he made and the notoriety he gained from blink. Second acts are not the easiest of transitions, but I think it's cool to at least to try and have a second act. However, matters don't help when hype that is insurmountable to live up to is dished out before anything gets released.