Blink-182 has been my all time favorite band since I was nine years old, and that remains true twenty years later. My taste in music is a mix of punk rock, new wave, metal and hip-hop but nowadays I can find joy in nearly any genre.
So why Blink-182?
Like most early 90’s kids I was raised in a culture of extreme sports, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and a whole lot of pop punk. I discovered Blink-182 through my brother and his girlfriend when we were crashing at their suburban house for the weekend and she put in Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and for the time I felt like I had found a band that was truly and genuinely ‘mine’.
I remember listening to their early albums and laughing at the joke songs then jamming out and skating to all the others. The fact that I was such a young kid meant that all their humor was hilarious to me but when the self-titled album came out in 2003 I was blown away and suddenly realized that there was more to music than vulgar dog jokes and from that point on they stuck with me.
Their debut album featuring Akaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, California, stayed on repeat in my car for an entire summer and I adored every song. I remember hearing Cynical for the first time with my jaw open and just smashing the repeat button over and over again.
But when they released the deluxe version a year later, I began to feel distant from the band.
The more the trio incorporated new age pop elements into their music, the less I connected with it. I felt like some of the lyrics didn’t resonate with me and it was odd that Mark was singing about living for the weekend with his girlfriend when he’s forty years old, married and has a kid.
Leading up to the release of NINE, I didn’t experience the same hype I did when California was announced. I listened to a few of the singles and kept getting the feeling that they were overproduced and sounded similar to one another.
But when the album dropped two days ago I booted up Spotify and gave it a listen. At first I maintained the same initial impression I had from the singles with the exception of a few songs that stuck out to me like Darkside (a single I didn’t catch until just before the album dropped), Black Rain and Hungover You.
When Saturday rolled around and I found myself humming the songs in the shower I realized that I may have been a bit harsh with my judgment and decided to give the album another play. Now I’m sitting here writing this article with NINE in the background, feeling upbeat and nodding my head along with the words.
You see, I think I finally found the issue. My favoritism with Blink-182 is rooted deep in nostalgia and my history with the band. But this album isn’t about the late 90’s and early 00’s. It’s about now. Not just for the new generation of fans but also for the band who are likely feeling more comfortable writing songs together and really digging into who they are as a group.
I found that a lot of my criticism could be alleviated by removing my preconception of who and what Blink-182 should be and allowing them to simply show me who they are. By doing so I found that I enjoyed what I was hearing way more.
NINE features an impressive vocal performance by Hoppus but Skiba’s amazing rough range is what resonates with the punk inside of me. Then you have Travis Barker proving once again that he is simply one of the best drummers out there. His beats on this album are intricate, rapid and so clean they make California pale in comparison.
NINE was referenced as the spiritual successor to the 2003 self-titled album and after several listens, I can hear it. It’s missing the heavy guitar presence that was felt on songs like “Feeling This” and “Always” but that goes back to this being an album for the future generation and for old fans who are willing to come along for the ride.
With NINE, I think it’s time for me to stop wondering if I should give up on Blink-182 and instead accept that my favorite band has been here for me since my childhood (excluding that “hiatus”), be thankful that they’re still making music and smile at the fact that there’s probably some kid out there rocking out to NINE the way I did with self-titled.
NINE is a damn good album. All fifteen tracks are the boys putting their footprint in the sand of 2019’s pop-punk and showing the world that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While some of the songs don’t hit me, several do and they really shine.
As it turns out, Cynical is the perfect word to describe older fans like me who have a hard time removing expectation and allowing ourselves to develop new tastes.
But letting go and opening up to this new sound is liberating and I think you’ll find the lyricism in NINE is more mature than Blink-182 has been in a long time and it really fits them.
At the end of the day, you’ll enjoy it or you won’t and both options are completely OK.
So, here’s to the future for the old and new alike.