Review: Blink-182 – California [Deluxe Edition]

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When California released last year, it was easily one of the year’s highlights, as well as a landmark for Blink-182. With the recent release of California [Deluxe Edition], the band have put together a full disc of addition songs, more or less as an unofficial sequel to the album.

Consisting of B-sides to the original release and some new recordings, California [Deluxe Edition] was one of my most anticipated releases this year. After waiting so many years for music from Blink-182, the decision to release bonus content is a welcome surprise that marks one of the few re-releases of an album that is actually worth the (second) price of admission.

Under normal circumstances, a record’s re-release is a passing of the baton to a new record label that wants to cash in with a couple of extra songs, or something that makes it more of a collector’s item than essential listening. California [Deluxe Edition] is something else entirely. While the Deluxe Edition isn’t a true album, nor a sequel to California, nor does it even relate the the original album in almost any way, it gives insight into the process of the band’s re-invigoration.

The Deluxe Edition is far more experimental than Blink-182 allowed themselves to be on the initial release. The pop and punk rock edge are apparent in spades, but the rhythms and emphasis on softer melodies harkens to a style of song writing reminiscent of +44 and, to an extent, Boxcar Racer. The themes are darker and more brooding. If this second disc truly originated from a surplus of B-sides, then the evolution of the true California is incredible.

California isn’t a happy record, but it acknowledges the problems the band has faced over the last few years while having still having fun. While I don’t know which of the new batch of songs originally were unused B-sides and which are new recordings, I have a good guess.

There are a series of songs that sound less fleshed out, and are lyrically darker than their companions (“Don’t Mean Anything”, “The Last Train Home”). Lyrics such as “Adrift at sea with no one left to rescue / Tonic and a fifth of gin / She said goodbye and left again / These rooms are deafening without you”.

Other songs aren’t joyful by any means, but retain the edge of classic Blink-182 that tackle the same issues without losing the playful nature of the songs (“Parking Lot”, “Wildfire”). It’s this second batch that feel written by a band more comfortable writing together and know what they are aiming for.

“Parking Lot” especially captures the magic, making constant references to older punk bands and good times. It’s a classic Blink-182 song celebrating teenage angst and the love of music as Mark shouts, “I’ll meet my friends at the Target curb / I rolled my ankle, Matt just broke his wrist / I climbed through your window at 3 a.m. / We listened to The Smiths and the Violent Femmes / We both sang ‘Why can’t I get one kiss?’”.

The Deluxe Edition is fascinating in that it shows how Blink-182 toyed with their sound while writing their comeback album and how much the band was willing to experiment without the pestering of Tom DeLonge constantly pushing for something new. “Bottom of the Ocean” is a raging rock song that almost sounds like a Britney Spears cover. “6/8” is a demented take on what Blink-182 would sound like if they tried to be Brand New.

Oddly enough, one of the album’s highlights is an acoustic version of “Bored to Death”, recorded live with a crowd singing in the background. After being the first single back from the brink, this version is much more subdued, as it no longer needs the spectacle and flash to draw back their fans. Instead, the intimacy gives the song a deeper and darker take on the world, and highlights just how perfectly Mark and Matt’s voices meld together. And the moment when the audience begins clapping along is breathtaking.

The California [Deluxe Edition] is something rare. It isn’t a full album nor is it a collection of demos. It’s at once apparent why these songs didn’t make it to the final version, and fascinating that at least half led to the creation of California, while others were spurred on by the fact that the band enjoyed writing the album so much.

While it isn’t essential to enjoy California as a whole, it’s easy to see many of these songs becoming fan favorites. This was never meant to be a record that flows along. More importantly, it’s a look into the mentality of a band reacquainting itself with making music, determined to once again conquer the world.

3/5 (Just the Second Disc)

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 has been listening to California since last July. It will be nice to have something new to spin. These really are good songs.

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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.