ALBUM REVIEW: Nine (BLINK-182)
ALBUM - Nine // ARTIST - blink-182
It’s hard not to approach any release from blink-182 without a heap of kaleidoscopic nostalgia warming the wheels. But with their eighth studio album (and ninth release according to founder Mark Hoppus) Nine, the So-Cal trio have pulled off the impossible – capturing their own hype and history into a release that readily balances their glory days with a fresh-faced 2019 iteration of every 90s kid’s favourite pop punks.
For a generation they were the band whose name was etched onto desks and scrawled across backpacks; the occasionally foul-mouthed California boys who could cleave radio-ready melodics with a genial middle finger raised firmly, bringing a new era of pop punk screaming into the mainstream in the the guise of the "every man". But despite the endearing influence and success cultivated by the trio known as blink-182, the departure of stalwart founder Tom DeLonge in 2015 seemed an insurmountable obstacle to move on from - a fact heavily evidenced with their post-DeLonge release via the less-than-acclaimed 2016 outing California. But chalking up as one of the genuine upsets of 2019, Blink's latest album Nine due out tomorrow not only captures the twinkling trademarks of days gone by - it downright smashes down the door to a new era for the group that'll have you genuinely excited to have Blink back in your life.
Nine kicks off in familiar fashion as the habitual beats of Travis Barker mix beneath punchy instrumentals and the dulcet tones of Mark Hopper trading off with Matt Skiba (his second appearance as vocalist and axe-man), rocketing you right back to high school with The First Time. It's an upbeat intro that effectively sets the scene with its sunny, simple and sinfully catchy disposition, before one of Nine's lead singles Happy Days brings more good vibes than should be legally allowed as the gents dish up some warming sincerity wrapped in a particularly snappy pop punk package.
HAPPY DAYS (BLINK-182)
Next up, Blink flex their emotive tones on Heaven, mixing in some impassioned belting vocals with dense guitars and sparkling rhythmics. It's here especially that we really get a chance to hear Skiba cement his standing as a significant asset for the new Blink sound, as his higher ranges mesh with Hoppus amid flashes of alt-rock and anthemic choruses. Darkside follows next and, quite frankly, my 16 year-old self is somewhere right now in a parallel universe screaming her lungs out singing along to this after crying her eyes out over the freshest heartbreak of the week. Darkside is a pumped up Blink banger, Skiba's booming vocals mixed with Barker's relentless beats is a true match made in heaven. Is it simple? Yes, but let us not forget the fact we are dabbling in pop waters here, and this is an example of how mainstream can be done well without selling its soul.
The slightly divisive lead single Blame It On My Youth jumps out next, dipping heavily into hip hop production and the group's turbulent backstory, before we get a jolt of ferocity as the rollicking Generational Divide gallops out for a fast and furious 49 seconds, serving as a head-turner and a sly dig at the fans who have fallen by the wayside over the years. Nearing the half-way point is the slightly softer Run Away which hurls all three members to the forefront, balancing tight instrumentals and trappy tinges with a particularly emphatic Skiba intertwined with Mark Hoppus going back to his vocal roots, delivering a performance worthy of his late 90s/early 00s hype.
But where is this "new Blink sound" I hinted at earlier? Hello Black Rain and some electronic new heights that takes the youthful angst and smacks it straight into maturity. Picture soaring verses amid pulsing choruses and jaunty experimentation and you'll find yourself perched firmly in a stadium-ready track that hits particularly hard thematically while really blurring its genres at the edges. And continuing in the evolutionary fashion, I Really Wish I Hated You dials down the punk for a moment, offering up an, at times, sparse ballad that is packed full of sincere vocal flourishes, splashy drums and the sense that this ain't a break up song, but perhaps more squarely aimed at a certain gent in the Blink history books.
I REALLY WISH I HATED YOU (BLINK-182)
Next we traipse into the light stomper Pin The Grenade before No Heart To Speak Of puts Skiba front and centre as the Blink boys go full rock mode with broad riffs, soaring choruses and some beefed up bass before we get a snazzy little drum outro from Barker that reminds us all he truly is one of the best beat-men in the biz without having to hurl his kit totally into oblivion.
The surprises continue to roll out, firstly with Ransom evolving into an unexpected little rager despite its soft and auto-tune heavy intro. Kicking ass and giving dangerous mosh vibes in just under a minute and a half, Ransom will leave you riled up and ready for more, but instead we get a grown-up take on a relationship breakdown that is heavy on the feels and light on the textures before the biggest deviation from old-school Blink pops up with Hungover You. Sounding initially somewhat like a slightly caffeinated Post Malone jam, there's a heap of modern influences bubbling away, with EDM beats, sweeping synths and some especially noticeable autotune that at times feeling too heavily present. But on a positive note, we've got a band previously notorious for their skate punk and lowbrow humour showing significant signs of growing both up and into their sound, and this is a fact that carries over into the surprisingly beautiful acoustic-soaked closer Remember To Forget Me.
For a while there it was seemingly in fashion to hate on blink-182 as they struggled to establish a musical life as a legacy band in a world they helped create. But with Nine we find a group who are willing to simultaneously pay homage to themselves while attaining the unthinkable - actively balancing evolution with the right amount of fan service, and with Nine it ultimately feels that Blink have finally found their way in a post-DeLonge universe and the age of postmodern effects. And while some may lament the lack of joke songs and sense of youthful chaos, there's a stellar showing of musicianship and modern mastery from blink-182 that places them in a tantalising position for wherever they tread to next. I guess this is growing up, and maturity has never sounded so good.
BLINK-182'S BRAND NEW ALBUM NINE IS OFFICIALLY DUE OUT IN THE WORLD TOMORROW VIA COLUMBIA RECORDS AND SONY MUSIC AUSTRALIA.
pic by SOPHIE MCNEIL
BY TIANA SPETER