Sound — 8
Like many other lifelong Blink fans, I was apprehensive when I first picked up California, not because I doubted Blink for one second, but because I wanted them to be true to themselves and make another pop-punk classic. As soon as the scorching blast beat from "Cynical" kicks in, I knew California was going to be a belter. Travis Barker, well into his 40s, arguably performs his best drumming on any Blink album, from the aggressive "Cynical" to the punchy "Rabbit Hole", detouring to the ridiculously powerful "Left Alone" on the way. Full marks for creativity and execution. New boy Matt Skiba does a good job on the guitar, although some riffs do seem to follow the octave picking pattern a little too often. He proves his credentials with "Brohemian Rhapsody" though, with a riff as close to shredding as Blink get, which complements the bass and drums exquisitely. The album's acoustic number, "Home is such a Lonely Place" also showcases Skiba's acoustic fingerpicking, while tracks "No Future" and "The Only Thing That Matters" incorporate bass lines reminiscent of tracks found on Blink's 1999 breakthrough album 'Enema of the State'. Pulsating, crisp and a reminder that Hoppus' octopus-stamped bass can still get us jumping around manically like the younger Blink fans we were back when American Pie had just hit our screens.
Lyrics — 9
Post Tom deLonge blink has left a lot of hardcore fans bitterly divided, however Matt Skiba is an excellent replacement and has done a splendid job filling the large, dick joking shoes on stage left. "Cynical" 's catchy (What's the point of saying sorry now// Lost my voice while fighting my way out), although delivered blisteringly by Skiba, sounds like Hoppus trying to prove a point directly to deLonge, resigning himself to the fact that he had nothing left to say before leading the band to album number seven. Similarly, John Feldmann (producer) has stated that the lyrics '(Can't go back to San Diego) in "San Diego" are lyrics that Hoppus 'didn't want to write' but felt necessary to move the band forward from old haunts. An ode to younger days in "Bored to Death" (It's a long way back from seventeen) ties nicely with the nostalgically titled "Teenage Satellites", as well as "Sober" autobiographically describing an event of Skiba's youth (Sleeping in a dumpster to keep me dry// With the radio on and a new black eye), all make for sentimental listening. "Home is Such a Lonely Place" continues these feelings of nostalgia, with Hoppus' emotion regarding his son being away from home a driving force throughout the number.
It's not difficult to decipher the main underlying message of the album however; a homage to the Golden State. "Los Angeles", "San Diego" and "California", despite having different lyrical content and references, all portray the state as a safe haven for the band (Los Angeles// When will you save me?), and by the time 'California' has finished all you want to do is soak up the rays on Venice Beach.
Overall Impression — 9
For me slightly too many 'woahs' and 'na na nas' across the album, and after a while the 'Hoppus sings verse 1, Skiba sings verse 2' pattern becomes slightly predictable and repetitive, especially given that Skiba's voice is nowhere near as distinctive as delonge's. These are smaller niggles that you may believe though, and as the album comes to a close, Brohemian Rhapsody's 'there's something about you, that I can't quite put my finger in' serve to remind us all that, love or hate Blink 2. 0, we can always rely on these veteran pranksters to make us laugh and deliver a seriously strong, catchy album.
Must-listen tracks: Left Alone, No Future, Cynical
N.B - Who chose 'spending time inside together' when referring to the sunny, warm Californian weather when 'outside' would have been so much more appropriate?!