Sound — 7
The reunion tour fad is slowly ending. The European festival circuit has for the most part recovered from its dependence on big, predictable returns and our heads turn now in the direction of new albums; few have been more anticipated than this one from Blink-182. The talismans of tooth-rottingly cheesy pop-punk have served a handful of generations with bedroom anthems and the emotional treasuring that their fanbase has for the band should always be remembered. Before disbanding in 2005 however, the trio put out a self-titled record of bold seriousness and experimentalism. It was a hit nonetheless, and it's a forgone conclusion that when they returned they would continue in that vein. What was subject to more speculation was how far the bands activities in the interim between break-up and reunion would inform the new material.
"Neighborhoods" is neither the crude pretension of Angels & Airwaves nor the pleasant songwriting of the ultimately toothless +44 project and nor is it a return to adolescent SoCal powerpop, though tunes like "Natives" and "Wishing Well" will bring out a few smiles. It's an interestingly varied display of modern rock songwriting, exploring some new territory while using the welcome familiarity of Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge's vocal partnership to push the hooks home. The variety in timbre lays bare the band's harmonic foundations and they're actually as much sourced from The Cure as they are Bad Religion. For example "This Is Home" could, flamboyant drumming aside, sit fairly comfortably on a number of 80s post-punk records while "After Midnight", is a classy modern sketch of "Pictures Of You". Approached from this angle, "Neighborhoods" can hold some worth for those who had written Blink off long ago, but then the same applied to "Blink-182". The difference is the consciousness with which the band puts its fingers in different pies, evidence perhaps that this reunion is driven more by personal reconciliation than any musical calling.
Lyrics — 7
In the long run-up to release week questions have been asked about Tom DeLonge's voice his discipline; his tone; his lyrics; even his ability to hold a tune. Two of those worries thankfully are shushed by the process of making a multi-million dollar record but since he's been gone DeLonge has only accentuated his twisting and curdling of vowels, an obvious sticking point for many. While he and compatriot Mark Hoppus sounded a little like tired old men on early single "Up All Night", they settle a lot better in the long run and their characteristic catchiness does as well, though their ability to lyrically distil the youth is long gone. Luckily they chose not to rekindle that flame, so while they no longer relate to their fanbase in the same way aged 30-something, Hoppus and DeLonge have put together a respectable assortment of songs with darkness aplenty if you know where to look.
Overall Impression — 7
As "Neighborhoods" coughs and wheezes to a close with a handful of fairly pedestrian tracks, you wonder just how successful it could have been had the band decided on one primary style, stuck with it and laid down thirty or forty minutes of their best stuff. Unfortunately this album runs a little too long and that indecision puts a ceiling on what is otherwise quite a refreshing album and one that listeners will ultimately relish. It's not an album that would have launched Blink-182 to fame had they not already done so, but luckily they're in the situation where all that's required is a good arsenal of songs for tour and there's a fair few that will get the audience recognition they deserve.