Blink-182 shook up the pop-punk stratosphere when founding member Tom DeLonge left the group in early 2015. What could have very well marked the end for a band already living on their new lease on life, remaining members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker found second wind when Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba came to pick up the pieces. Skiba brought an instant spark to Blink in their live setting, and the band quickly turned into a collective that hadn’t looked so in-tune with each other in years. California may be known as the first Blink-182 record featuring Skiba, but the most important part is that, at it’s core, California is undoubtedly Blink in every aspect; that’s all fans ever wanted from the start.
California has a tone to it that just screams assurance. Whether it’s the inclusion of a couple joke tracks (“Built This Pool,” “Brohemian Rhapsody”) or some blistering straight-forward pop-punk (“The Only Thing That Matters”), it’s incredibly obvious that the group had a damn good time making this record. However, just because Blink re-introduced some old tricks with a new polish doesn’t mean they sound like guys in their mid-40’s trying to re-live their heydey. Instead, they sound like guys in their mid-40’s taking back a genre and making it their own again — and that their heyday is still alive and well. This is mostly thanks to the production work by King of Gloss John Feldmann, who could probably produce the sound of a toilet flushing and turn it into a hit.
Feldmann’s presence on California is clear, and the fact remains that Hoppus has always been a prominent pop writer from the beginning. So, Feldmann is hardly the reason that this record is Blink’s poppiest to date, but what he did do was bring out the inner Top 40 tendencies that was buried deeper in the trio all along. California’s desire for the limelight is evident in the Patrick Stump-assisted “Sober” and ballad “Home Is Such a Lonely Place,” but you’ve also got alt. rock darlings in “Rabbit Hole” and lead single “Bored to Death” that still manage to fit perfectly in context with the record, too. Ultimately, California is going to have something for everyone. “She’s Out of Her Mind” has the best chorus that Hoppus has ever had his name attached to, while “Left Alone” sounds straight out of the sessions for their Untitled record.
Now, what Skiba brings most to the table in his Blink debut is his signature huge, bombastic voice — when it’s decided to be used, that is. There are times on the record that are tough to tell if it’s even him when it isn’t obviously Hoppus, and there are also times when the two can have their voices mistaken for one another. Fortunately, on tracks like “San Diego” and “Cynical,” Skiba cements himself as one of California’s shining moments.
California knocks it out of the park with everything it tries to achieve. It’s fitting that the band titled this record after a state that’s known for being larger than life, because that’s all you sense from the album after powering through the 16 songs on it. It’s catchy, anthemic, and yet another highlight in Blink-182’s legacy.
by Joe DeAndrea