Friday, 15 July 2011

Blink-182 - 'Up All Night' Single Review

It's a point so obvious that it barely needs to be made, but for the sake of this article, I'll make it anyway - nearly anybody into rock or 'alternative' music in the mid-to-late 1990s dug Blink-182. How could you not? Outrageously catchy punk-pop tunes about girls, teenage relationships, parties, drinking, dick jokes, and dog fucking. What's not to love? They turned out classic album after classic album through the late 90s - in fact, three consecutive ones from 1997 through 2001, including their greatest moment, 1999's 'Enema of the State', but things started to go wrong when they decided to stop dicking around and actually starting writing serious songs. 2003's self-titled album was supposed to be a definitive statement that they could be taken seriously, but there was just one problem - it was mostly shite. Unsurprisingly, it transpired that the band themselves were hardly happy with their efforts, and the band split under a cloud in early 2005.

That was expected to be the end of the story, but in early 2009, the band reunited to go again, and this, their first new recorded output in nearly eight years was revealed last night on KROQ. Here it is, kids - after all the bickering and public spats, this is the first new song in the glorious new era of Blink-182, and the first step on the road to their return to stardom. Exciting? You bet. Or at least it was, until everyone actually heard the new song. And then sat in silence for a few minutes, before slowly muttering 'is that it?' There's no other way of saying it.

It's just not very good.

I can already hear the clamorous buzz of the fanboys, blinded by nostalgia and the 'blink me Travis!' posters, gurgling out the standard excuses - they've grown up, they've moved on, they're not the same band as before, blah blah blahdy blah. All fair points, and I would never condone bands for doing those things, except that none of those arguments actually apply here. Because what blink-182 have done is something far more heinous than merely growing old - they're now sounding like a bad rip-off of the many bands that followed in their wake. 'Up All Night' sounds like the product of a recording session where David Geffen demanded that the band Frankenstein together elements from the last five years of pop-punk and pop-rock into a three-minute single guaranteed to get airplay and do well on iTunes. It's bad enough that they bare-facedly rip-off their own side-projects, but the fact that it all comes across as a muddled mess that Simple Plan or 30 Seconds To Mars could've probably shat out in half an hour before knocking off for lunch is even worse.

One of the biggest criticisms a band can get is that they sound like a cheap imitation of themselves, but in this case, Blink sound like a cheap imitation of a band that were merely a cheap imitation of Blink in the first place. It's odd that Blink have lost their identity so badly, because during their hiatus, the two sideprojects that spawned at least had some character to them, even if AvA sounded at times like Bono shitting a hole right through our eardrums. But they and +44 at least had their own sound and style. Blink, on the other hand, still haven't found this mature voice they've been looking for since 2003. Even back then, their attempts at maturity felt forced and confused; they've made it very clear that there won't be any more songs about teenage crushes and masturbation, but having consigned the dick jokes to history, they've struggled to move forward.

But perhaps worst of all is the fact that the band seem to know they don't have much of an identity left, and don't seem to give a shit about it. This track bares the stink of shoddy and lacklustre songwriting, as it meanders around, desperately looking for a big, epic chorus and failing to find one, before finishing, then tacking on an entirely pointless outro in one of the clumsiest attempts at creating a big finale I've ever heard. There's absolutely no spark, verve, or soul to this whatsoever, just a boring wannabe-epic drone that fails to raise a response from the listener even at the points where they throw in that lame Box Car Racer-esque riff to try and raise the energy levels. The lyrics are utterly generic and are on a par with a fifth-grader's angsty Twilight fan-fiction poem, and whilst the vocals occasionally show potential, they're fighting a loosing cause; there's just no saving this song from the dustbin of mediocrity.

Perhaps that's the most depressing aspect of all of this; part of the happy memories of Blink come because they were from a time when pop-punk wasn't about floppy fringes, faux angst and woeful attempts at epicness. Maybe we were hoping that Blink's return would lead to them showing the current crop of whining dickwads how it should be done. But instead they've fallen into line, heads bowed under the cloud of tedium that's settled over mainstream rock 'n' roll like a sweaty ballsack. And what's worrying about 'Up All Night' is that it poses the question: will the entire upcoming album be like this? Or even worse? Because if it is, Blink 182 are in danger of shitting all over their proud history and tainting the happy nostalgia many of us have for them. We were prepared to forgive them for the thoroughly boring Reading 2010 headlining set, but maybe things are starting to combine together to tell us that this whole glorious comeback wasn't such a good idea after all. Only time, and the new album, will tell.

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