Blink-182 Drifts Further From Punk on "Nine"

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by Isaiah Anthony

Much to the delight of your 34-year-old neighbor that mows his lawn at 11:00 p.m., Blink-182’s ninth studio album, Nine, hit shelves this week.

The generation-defining pop-punk powerhouse has changed a lot since they first blew up at the turn of the millennia with the smash hit albums Enema Of The State (1999) and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), and their music reflects that.

Of the bands of the pop-punk golden age still churning out albums, Blink-182 might just be aging the best while maintaining the essence of what made them mega-stars, to begin with. Sum 41 is a basic rock band now. Green Day’s new music is a few Jesus references short of Chrisitan rock (“We are revolution radio / Operation ‘No Control’ / and the headline ‘My Love's Bulletproof”), and I can’t even make a description for Good Charlotte’s new music, because there is no way I can listen to a Good Charlotte album released post-year-of-our-Lord 2005 (based on the title of the group’s most recent album, Generation Rx, one could infer they have graduated from daddy issues to the opioid epidemic. That’s growth).

Despite the genre being in the bargain-bundle-group-tour stage, with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer combining for the ‘Hella Mega Tour’ next summer, Blink-182’s Nine is a decent, albeit painfully formulaic, addition to the band’s discography.

This is the band’s second album without vocalist Tom Delonge, who has kept busy since his departure exposing government extraterrestrial secrets. Luckily, Mark Hoppus’ whine-singing is powerful enough to embody the essence of the Blink-182 sound, making Delonge’s absence notable, but far from damning. Matt Skiba, who has been with the band since Delonge’s departure, continues to be a solid complement to Hoppus vocally, contributing to Blink-182’s more mature, pop-rock, sound.

With Nine, Blink-182 can hardly be classified as pop-punk anymore; the whiny vocals are forced and the only thing higher than their age is their net worth, resulting in a critical shortage of the angst required to achieve the sound they rose from. This transition is not horrendous, nor is it new for the band, but pop-punk purists be warned - Nine is far closer to Maroon 5 than My Chemical Romance. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, something about men in their 40s making pop-punk music does not sound right.

The most familiar sounding aspect of Nine is Travis Barker’s drumming. A number of otherwise lyrically monotonous tracks are elevated by Barker’s energetic and unrelenting drumming that shows no signs of age. Ironically, this makes the occasional use of electronic drum kits, such as in “On Some Emo Shit,” highly distracting and ill-fitting. 

On the topic of lyrics, Blink-182’s ninth studio album, titled Nine, contains numerous. Topics covered include gun-violence, depression/anxiety, and of course, struggling relationships. While Blink-182 does not shy away from heavy, relevant topics, they add little to the cultural discourse other than to condemn death and acknowledge struggles, which comes across as genuine but shallow, nonetheless.  It’s not that Blink-182 is obligated to bring forth a new perspective on gun violence in America, but when it’s the motivation behind a song, as it is with “Heaven,” ideally it does not come across as a shallow observation of an issue put over music. 

A common narrative surrounding the release of Nine is that lyrical content has never been a key aspect to the band’s success. While that might be fair, it is absurd to imply that the band that made “Adam’s Song” is incapable of writing songs with depth and meaning.

Nine contains a few infectiously catchy songs that will surely work their way into fan’s regular rotation such as “Hungover You,” which rotates between melodic soft-boi verses and a high-energy, fun, party chorus. “Happy Days” is also a bit of an earworm, although the lyrics leave much to be desired.

Nine is a solid album given the circumstances of a band short a key member, releasing music nearly two decades after their peak, with the occasional clear label influence to appeal to young listeners. Anyone who is still a Blink-182 stan in 2019 will definitely receive this album warmly, a testament to the band’s ability to evolve as musicians while still maintaining the sound that got them where they are.

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