Tom DeLonge’s first official solo album is a mix of nostalgia, sweepingly memorable choruses, and the mourning of what could have been. While there are definitely songs that were meant for Blink-182, To the Stars isn’t what people probably expect it to be. These are songs that weren’t ready to be released and rushed out after the news that Tom was no longer a part of Blink. When or if they’d have actually been released is up for debate, but for a release that was, for all intents and purposes, slapped together in two months, To the Stars is one of the better releases Tom DeLonge has put out in a while.
I really like Angels & Airwaves, but those albums have a tendency to start sounding similar to me after a while. I struggle to find great differences between them. To the Stars throws Tom back into a raw pop punk mode that we haven’t really seen since Boxcar Racer. While some songs definitely sound like Blink demos, the overarching sound is much more a sweet mixture of every project Tom has been a part of.
Songs like “An Endless Summer” are immediate Blink-182 songs that fall somewhere between Neighborhoods and Take Off Your Pants. “Suburban Kings” is a poppier version of a Boxcar Racer track while “Animals” is a close blending of the other two with the cosmic synth of Angels & Airwaves. To call the album “Blink demos” would be only half-true and undercutting most of the other tracks. This is the music of Tom DeLonge more than it is the tracks of any one band.
That said, I don’t think these are the ‘instant single Blink-182 songs of old’ material. They’re very good songs and it gives me hope for Tom’s ambitious plan to release five albums this year, but there is a polish that hasn’t made its way in yet.
One thing that stood out though, is that some of the more guitar focused songs are written with ‘classic Tom’ in clear focus. When the opening riff to “Golden Showers in the Golden State” started up, I was suddenly transported back to being 15 and losing my goddamned mind listening to Enema of the State. “New World” is a very Neighborhoods-esque song that you can just see Mark and Travis jamming to.
Not everything is amazing though. “The Invisible Parade” is catchy, but overall sounds lazy compared to some of the other great acoustic tracks Tom has written. One of the double-edged swords is the return to a sense of frat humor. It was a staple to Blink, and even Tom in general for so long. “Golden Showers in the Golden State” is immediately one of my favorite songs he’s put out in the last few years, but it feels like the humor was forced instead of being a natural element of having fun. “You can take a dump on my chest if it’s okay / Just don’t piss in someone’s mouth when you’re away”. I’m still not entirely sure what to think of it, considering a certain song called “Fuck a Dog” is still one of my favorites, but I welcome it nonetheless.
To the Stars did what it was meant to – show that Tom was in fact working on Blink-182 material. Honestly, it probably would have led to one of their better albums, and maybe even a return to form of sorts. But with so many elements showing up throughout the short set of eight songs, it is clear that Tom’s ambitions have outstretched beyond focusing intently on one project or another.
There’s a healthy blend of bands bleeding into each other seamlessly, for better or worse. What I really took from To the Stars is that Tom DeLonge can put out a hell of a solo album in just two months, and I hope more of his projects become intertwined throughout a single song. It feels like a long lost friend has finally shown up again.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is in love with music partially because of Tom DeLonge and his catchy lil’ songs.