Last Friday, Blink-182 released a deluxe edition of their 2016 LP, ‘California’, adding in 11 new songs and an acoustic version of ‘Bored To Death’ to the original 16-song tracklisting. Similar to last year’s collaborative review of the original record, we now band together again to tackle this deluxe edition version of the pop-punk veterans seventh album in our joint review. Find our thoughts below.
The 11 “new” songs present on this deluxe edition of 2016’s half-hit/half-miss ‘California’ aren’t so much new songs as they are “leftovers” tracks. For the trio’s ‘California’ sessions with producer John Feldman have only resulted in vast quantity reigning over the always important quality factor. For as it now stands, you have a full package that sits at a whopping 28 fucking tracks; most of which are disposable or forgettable songs whose only purpose is to be tucked away into the furthest reaches of Blink-182’s expansive catalogue. (Blink and Feldman reportedly wrote something like 50 bloody songs for this album. That should). However, despite this unnecessary length, you have an added 12-track release consisting of: the usual back-and-forth vocal style of Hoppus and Skiba, Travis Barker’s tight drumming chops being flexed throughout, slick production values, decent if somewhat sappy hook-driven choruses (‘Parking Lot‘, “Misery‘), a step up in song arrangement from the original, an overall darker tone (‘Bottom Of The Ocean‘), and a solid live acoustic cut of ‘Bored To Death‘ to bookend proceedings. Which is then all held back by these faux-angsty and shallow lyrics coming from middle-aged men, overly repetitive song structures, a piss poor attempt at humour with ‘Can’t Get You More Pregnant‘, and the fact that the world just didn’t need more from one of 2016’s most average records
While I don’t consider these blatantly awful tracks, this recent batch of songs couldn’t even hold a flickering candle to Blink’s earlier, more classic repertoire; the very kind that resonated so well with countless people. Here that resonation is simply hollow. Gun to my head, though, if I had to pick the strongest of the two ‘California‘ versions that now exist, it’s this deluxe edition that is easily the better of the pair. But that isn’t a saving grace nor a massive improvement, for this album is still just diet +44 that also couldn’t hope to beat out Alkaline Trio’s lesser material either. I mean, fucking hell, the new Goldfinger song out Blink-182’s Blink-182!
Unnecessary album re-releases usually rub me the wrong way because it seems like a gimmicky waste of my time and it usually is. Having said that, Blink-182’s addition of a handful of quality new songs here like ‘Misery‘ to their originally awful LP ‘California‘ has improved matters, but not enough to really count, sadly. As always, the trio proves that they’ll never really grow up with tracks like ‘Can’t Get You More Pregnant‘, and if you’re cool with Matt Skiba joining the band, it’s still hard to get over that hurdle of immaturity. People who like this album are probably still in denial that the Blink-182 they jammed out to in their local parking lot at 16 is now dead, perhaps because they never really moved on from that parking lot. If this sounds offensive at all to you as a massive Blink fan, just consider how offended I am that this album and it’s deluxe edition even exists.
Was the world crying out for a new, super-duper-deluxe version of ‘California‘ in 2017? Probably not. Is there any value in listening to a whole album’s worth of B-side tracks from Blink in 2017? Possibly, but that would depend on how much you enjoyed listening to +44 (‘Hey I’m Sorry‘, ‘Bottom of the Ocean‘) or Alkaline Trio (‘Misery‘, ‘6/8‘). This deluxe version isn’t necessarily bad, as much as it’s entirely superfluous. Sure, some of the songs here are darker lyrically and more aesthetically interesting in terms of arrangements, tone, sonic variation etc. than the original ‘California’ release. However, the same could be said about Barker and Hoppus’s work with +44, Skiba’s tenure as the Alkaline Trio frontman, or even (dare I say it) the moodier moments Barker showcased with Box Car Racer and He-who-shall-not-be-named-but-
And therein lies the real rub here, ladies and gentlemen.
I remember when ‘California‘ dropped last year, I was quite positive about it, thinking it was good for this new era of Blink-182. Looking back at it now, though… man, what a joke of an album. I haven’t even gone back to it once since reviewing it in 2016; not even to have a listen to a single track! Reading what I had to say back then now makes me realise that I couldn’t have been more wrong about the record in hindsight. So when this deluxe edition dropped last week, the band and that original album felt almost brand new. Almost. See, both versions have some good songs to be found – like my personal favourite, ‘6/8‘ – but there’s also a lot of mediocre filler BS present. (The live acoustic take of ‘Bored To Death‘ was extremely disappointing as that song’s drumming was my favourite dynamic of the original). So I now wonder: instead of releasing an album one year and then the deluxe version not even 12 months later why not just release one great album and leave it at that, guys? I mean, come on Blink, take a little longer and take only the best of the best tracks to build a single, solid album. Stop giving us this filler bullshit that no one really wants when compared with your older material. Stop fucking rinsing and repeating your music. Stop trying to keep up with your past selves and start paving the way for the future selves. And stop thinking of album sales and make something that we haven’t gotten from you before.
After all, you became musicians to make new music, not rehash old ideas, right? Much like yourselves, your audience has grown up a lot over the years, and the very thing that once enticed many of us to listen to you just isn’t going to work now.
And finally, Matty Sievers:
Let’s get this straight, this “new” album suffers from the same bullshit that In Hearts Wake’s ‘Skydancer‘ did: Quantity over quality. See, Blink figured out that they could do whatever the fuck they want and people would eat it up and even if they didn’t, people would still come out to shows because nostalgia is the best marketing strategy nowadays. As such, we get this second version of ‘California‘. And no, it’s not good.
The first red flag should be that the band seemed proud enough of the fact they wrote a song in 6/8 time. Why on earth would you be stoked on that? Did they use that as the demo pre-master title then couldn’t be fucked coming up with a better name? Who knows! The second red flag is the fact that these guys are in their forties and they’re still perpetually stuck in their youths. Writing really poor nostalgia pieces about going to shows and how much work sucks and oh hath woe feels merely fake and so phoned-in coming from men with children, spouses and lucrative, long-lasting careers as hot, topical musicians. Then the final red flag is the actual songwriting because hot damn is this lazy as shit. Half the songs here have the exact same strung out, legato melodies for the choruses and then the same guitar picking patterns throughout. It’d be fine if the songs were okay to start with but they’re just so goddamn average and boring that it gets worse and worse the further down this mediocre rabbit hole you descend.
Ironically, just like the original version of this record, the most well-written song is the incredibly short but also quite stupid ‘Can’t Get You More Pregnant‘. The melodies in it are fucking cool and the instrumentation is awesome yet it’s a piece of juvenile trash lyrically that only goes for half a minute. It’s really not a good sign when the best part of your record goes for only a twelfth of its total runtime!
Well, shit, that was quite harsh of us all, wasn’t it? What do you think of this “new” album from Blink-182?
The deluxe edition of ‘California’ is out now and you can stream it below.