Review: Tom Delonge – To the Stars…Demos, Odds & Ends

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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.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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.

Man Overboard – Why the Best of Blink-182 May Be On Its Way

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Let’s face it – it’s been a rough week. The news of Tom DeLonge’s ejection from Blink-182 hit everyone as an absolute shock, and no one apparently more than Tom himself. More bits of information are coming out every day, and at the moment, it’s turning into a ‘he said she said’ situation with Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker giving us glimpses into the decision, and Tom responding in weird ways that display his disbelief at the announcement.

This is big. One thing to come out of this is that the fans of one of the most beloved pop punk bands in history are losing their goddamned minds. From the social media posts I’ve seen, supporters of Tom suggest that Blink-182 should call it quits, as it just won’t be the same without him. Supporters of Mark and Travis seem to think that this is how it should be and are more or less attacking and blaming Tom entirely for the trouble.

But I don’t think it will all be bad.

Right now, it sucks. It’s going to be a terrible spectacle for a while, but it will start to turn around. It’s a lot like a divorce in that it’s just a mess right now, but give it a year and everyone will be doing okay – perhaps even better. Mark and Travis claimed that they believe Tom didn’t want to be a part of Blink-182 and seemed disinterested. I tend to agree with this because of one fact: I’ve seen them play live a few times since their reunion.

I can’t speak for how Tom acted in the band’s prime or for every show after their reunion. But I did see them in Indianapolis on their initial reunion tour and at Riot Fest two years ago. Mark and Travis nearly burst with energy on the stage, especially Mark as he skipped from end to end. Tom stood motionless for most of the show and repeatedly forgot lyrics and messed up playing the guitar. Even at Riot Fest, three years after the first time I’d seen them, he still played messily.

From the interviews given, Mark and Travis seem to be desperate to play and write more material for Blink-182. Unlike Tom, this is their main project and it seems apparent that they’re ready to go. If you’ve ever had a friend that you find yourself constantly having to appease in order to do anything, you can understand that dilemma on Mark and Travis’s side and how liberating it is to finally be free of that baggage. This is one of the things that I feel validates their arguments.

Everyone loves Blink-182. Their music is a staple to the pop punk genre, but Tom DeLonge doesn’t really play that style of music anymore. Angels & Airwaves is vastly different, his writing has drifted away from the genre to the point that even the last Blink-182 album sounded more like a modded Angels & Airwaves album. I’ve always felt that Tom is like a George Lucas figure; he helped create something amazing, but maybe he can’t see it for what it is anymore. After all, they are men in their forties playing songs to teens.

Bringing in Matt Skiba is a good start. Even if he isn’t a permanent member, having new blood will give a boost to the band. Everyone who plays pop punk dreams of being Blink-182. If every new album or tour features a new guitarist, or if Skiba becomes a permanent member, there’s a chance that they know how to play and write a Blink-182 song better than the actual band members.

Bands have long survived losing their main songwriters and singers. AC/DC survived Bon Scott, AFI survived replacing Mark Stopholese with Jade Puget, and New Found Glory have survived the departure of Steve Klein. It’s not the same, but it’s the type of thing to jump start a band who has seemed stunted even though they reformed six years ago.

Maybe it won’t be what the band was in their heyday, but if legends like Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker can’t bring the most out of a new guitarist, absolutely nothing will. Blink-182’s sound has been shifting since their Self-Titled in 2003, so a new guitarist’s style won’t be too much of a departure. Since Mark wrote a good amount of Blink’s back catalogue (“What’s My Age Again?”, “The Rock Show”, “Adam’s Song”), it’s not as if the entire writing chops of the band are gone. Some of the humor might even start to find its way back. It’s what the band needs after all of this.

While I hate that Tom wouldn’t be a part of it, it’s not like he’s down and out by any means. From an outside perspective, it has always seemed like he’s put much more attention towards Angels & Airwaves than Blink-182. Without the pressure of having to collaborate and write Blink on the side, A&A only stands to benefit from not having to split the attention. It’s horrible that he’s gone, but it might just be what he’s always wanted, since so much of his time has been exploring other mediums of art and new musical genres.

If anything, the worst aspect of this is that Tom has a lengthy history of being hard to work with and the method of delivery for the news really gave him the shaft. He’s definitely correct in that “there’s more to the story,” but he may have been too distracted by so many projects to see the trouble brewing. I doubt we’ll ever get to hear the full story behind everything, which directly blames Tom for the issues within the band. While I doubt this to be completely true, it does mirror a lot of the well known things that broke the band up in 2005.

This is all speculation, but I’m not worried. We’ve always known the inner Blink circle to be ‘dysfunctional,’ so I’m not too shocked by this week’s developments. I’m excited to see what both parties do artistically from here on out. Blink-182 are a foundation, and the next phase of their career is about to take a weird turn. Angels & Airwaves are a good band, and now there is a total freedom that Tom hasn’t had since his second album. It’s exciting and honest. If they can avoid writing songs bashing each other (such as +44’s “No, It Isn’t”), there’s a good chance we’re in for some incredibly exciting music in the next year or so.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.