Or, The Five Stages of Grief, Accepting Tom DeLonge’s Blink-182 Departure, and Reluctantly Liking California
When I heard the news of Tom Delonge’s departure from Blink-182, I went through the five stages of grief: the denial, anger, bargaining, and finally, depression. Why should I even bother listening to a Blink-182 album that Tom Delonge isn’t a part of? Then I reached step five–acceptance.
This phase began on an unexpected morning, when a coworker announced a trending topic on Facebook: “Tom DeLonge Left Blink-182 to Study Aliens.” I’ve deemed this the ONLY acceptable reason for him to leave the band. He’s off to find evidence of something he’s believed in for ages and prove us earthlings wrong. We should have seen this coming. On the Greatest Hits album, there is a live recording of “Aliens Exist.” Before the song kicks off, Tom states, “I’ve been abducted. And probed in the anus. On purpose.” Then he goes on to sing about his certainty of alien existence, and how he wishes people would believe him.
Despite my newfound acceptance of the idea of the new band, I still had a feeling that I was going to resent California. I chuckled to myself when “Bored to Death” was released as a single, because I had a hunch that I’d be bored to death listening to it. Then came the second single, “No Future.” Ha! This was almost too easy of a set up. BLINK-182 HAS NO FUTURE! I was prepared to utterly hate the album and leave behind a trail of angry tweets.
“Old Blink-182” fucked around on stage before they performed. They playing seemingly impromptu songs like “The Blowjob Song.” Tom introduced it by saying “This is an ode, a tribute, to oral sex for guys and for girls. Even if you don’t wanna hear it you might as well act enthusiastic ‘cause you don’t really have a choice.” The song went something like, “It would be nice to have a blowjob, it would be nice to have a blowjob” repeated about 20 times.
I’m scared. Is Blink going to lose this sense of silliness? In case you’re a Blink fan who’s been living under a rock, I should explain that Matt Skiba, formerly of Alkaline Trio, has replaced DeLonge as a co-vocalist alongside Mark Hoppus. Honestly, I can’t really picture Skiba singing such a silly song, am I right? However, it’d be ignorant to dismiss the fact that Skiba is actually a very talented vocalist and guitarist. He’s much more than just a newbie who came out of nowhere to join legendary Hoppus and Travis Barker.
You see, much of the charm of the “Old Blink-182” was their weird, random lyrics that sounded like they were the first things that came to mind and they sort of rhymed. Then they were written down and it just worked. Underrated 1994 jam “M&Ms” goes: “Buy some candy and cigarettes and we’ll get in my car / We’ll blast the stereo and we’ll drive to Madagascar.” A Real Music Critic would bash these lyrics for being silly and amateur—but they capture a feeling of carefree youth, bliss, and puppy love. This is what music is supposed to do: make us feel something, remember something, connect to something.
At age 6, I learned all the important curse words when my sister Alissa, 9 years my senior, introduced me to “Family Reunion” which is literally just a catchy, repetitive list of curse words—including the C word which I’m probably not allowed to type (CUNT!!!). She trained me to memorize it so I’d sing it for her friends and they could have a laugh. My best friend growing up, Deena, was the coolest because she had great CD’s and watched MTV. She had the Enema of State CD and we laughed our little asses off dancing around her room to “What’s My Age Again?” and joking about poop and enemas, naturally. When I was slightly more mature, I had my first kiss with a 7th grader named Patryk in a tent where a DJ outside was playing “All The Small Things” (and then I left the tent because I was so nervous and felt like I was gonna puke, but I digress).
Okay, so here I am, pressing play on the first track of California. Shit, I like it. Am I jamming to this album with the same fervor that I do to Dude Ranch or Take Off Your Pants and Jacket? Nope. Will I listen to these songs in 10 years and feel overwhelming nostalgia? Doubtful. But, I must admit, on the record, this album is good. It’s better than I expected. In a week’s time, I’m sure it’ll grow on me, and I’ll go so far as to say I love the album. Feel free to hate on my opinion and call me stupid, because I’m 23 in a week and a very wise man once warned me, “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.” So who cares?
The song on California which most resembles older albums is 30-second-long track “Brohemian Rhapsody” (not a typo) which has a heavy guitar and drum introduction and then the lyrics: “There’s something about you that I can’t quite put my finger in” (Also not a typo). There’s also an even better 16 second track, “Built This Pool,” which goes, “I wanna see some naked dudes / That’s why I built this pool.”
Aside from these silly little songs, California lacks Blink’s signature boyish charm and “your mom” jokes. It also lacks Tom Delonge’s lovable nasally, fun to impersonate vocals, but we knew that already. The main difference is these songs feel thought-out and planned. They sound like songs that originated in the brain, not the penis, which is where I imagine young DeLonge and Hoppus derived lyrical inspiration. Other than track “Teenage Satellites,” the band isn’t trying too hard to be what they used to be lyrically as teenagers. I guess it’s kind of hard for 40-somethings to sing about teen angst.
One of the most enjoyable songs on the album is “Sober” which has a catchy clap-along hook along with Travis Barker’s signature wild drumming. The song’s about the opposing roles that alcohol can play in relationships. It can result in fun nights of stumbling, laughing, and falling into each other. But it can also lead to mistakes and demise that could result in a crumbling romance. I definitely see this being a banger on their upcoming tour, everyone in the audience headbanging and screaming along. Another favorite tracks is “She’s Out of Her Mind,” partially because I’m convinced my ex-boyfriend got in touch with the band and wrote this song about me, and partially because it’s an overall fun listen.
As for what’s not so great on the album, the title track, “California” is probably the most boring/lame of the album, and doesn’t give off Cali vibes at all. The same goes for “San Diego” and “Los Angeles.” Yes, these are great places, but these songs feel too contrived and cheesy. Case in point: “Beautiful haze of suburbia / Living in the perfect weather / Spending time inside together.” It’s underwhelming, honestly. But I’m gonna say that the awesome songs on this album outweigh the bad.
Here’s the thing: Bands lose members. They gain members. They grow up and grow apart, just as regular humans do. Some of us continue to do what we’ve been doing for years, while others go off to study the extraterrestrial. We’re just going to have to accept the fact that Skiba is not DeLonge. He probably won’t sing about fucking his friends’ moms, because his friends’ moms are probably in assisted living homes. We must separate the past from the present, and accept them as separate entities. We can still keep the old records in our hearts, but also make room to embrace change. I guess this is growing up.
California is out now. Apparently, you should get it!