Sound — 7
It's a strange time for Blink-182. The three of them continue to ride a wave of reunion hype that gets smaller by the day, most recently releasing a new EP to large indifference. You can't shake the feeling that they're becoming a thing of the past. So cometh the time for the side projects to stand on their own two feet, having never really done so before. It's been tough, but after four albums, two films and goodness knows how many other strange endeavours, we've finally gotten something really worthwhile out of Tom DeLonge's other lovechild, Angels & Airwaves.
"Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal" is a double EP that takes a different look at some of AVA's recent output. The first and by far most enjoyable disc is called "The Score Evolved", which takes bits of the score from their 2011 film "LOVE" and dabs at them with a big electronic sponge. Translating the material from soundtrack cues to full, listenable songs is handled remarkably smoothly, and done mostly without vocals. The delicate pads, pianos and synth leads do a much better job of conveying the desired cosmic, dreamy sound than the usual guitar band. "Reel 5 (New Blood)" and "Reel 6" each move through three motifs, rightly balanced by the steady movement of the drum machines and never allowed to stay too long before moving on. The opening track, "Reel 2 (Diary)" is a longer exploration based off a single piano melody, but is equally well-structured, being guided through by the essential grooves of new drummer Ilan Rubin. The absence of DeLonge's voice for long stretches of the EP is helpful as well.
On the other side of the double EP we have five remixes of songs from the double album "Love", parts of which were used in the film "LOVE" (are you getting all of this?). The originals were, for the most part, pretty poor but it's a wonder what a well-handled electronic production can do for you and some of these songs have been significantly improved on, using the same tools as the first disc. "Surrender" (a hollow would-be anthem on "Love Part 2") has she'd its skin and become a moody little number, with swelling bass and busy percussion. If you liked the songs first time around then this will give you a whole different perspective; if you didn't then all the better.
Lyrics — 7
These are both laptop projects, where vocals are lifted from earlier material and dropped into the music where necessary. The content and meaning of the lyrics are much the same as they were in their original incarnations.
Overall Impression — 7
There's still a whiff of self-importance lingering around this whole affair, but it's been much stronger for much weaker music in the past so this has to go down as a marked improvement. I think what it proves is that AVA's fascination with space is best reflected when they work in suitable genres rather than overinflated delay-rock. Chances are normal service will resume with their next release but I'd call on Tom DeLonge to put the guitar in storage for a while and keep this stuff going. Even if the idea of him rocking the decks with a set of Dre Beats is faintly ridiculous, there's something to work with here.