September 16, 2019 blink-182 – Nine (Album Review)
Riding the heels of 2016’s triumphant return, California, everyone’s favorite Pop Punk pioneers blink-182 return with Nine. Columbia Records delivers the fun on Friday, September 20th, 2019.
Californians through and through, blink-182 formed there in 1992 and would help pioneer an amalgamated genre all their own. Making their 1995 debut with Cheshire Cat, it wouldn’t be until 1999’s Enema of the State and some full-frontal nudity that the band exploded onto mainstream radio and achieved commercial success with singles/videos such as “What’s My Age Again?,” “Adam’s Song,” and “All the Small Things.” In 2001, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket continued this, paving the way for 2003’s eponymous release.
Then it all got a bit dicey. Suffice to say, there has been a break-up, a hiatus, and a major line-up change with the loss of Founding Member Tom DeLonge. In 2016, the band returned better than ever with the aforementioned California, and a new Guitarist/Vocalist in the form of Alkaline Trio’s exceptional Matt Skiba.
For 2019, blink-182—Vocalist/Bassist Mark Hoppus, Guitarist/Vocalist Skiba, and Drummer Travis Barker—experiment with some new sounds, explore darker tones and more serious lyrical topics, but continue to craft truly infectious Pop-Punk. The band’s ninth studio offering (yes, they are counting their 1994 demo Buddha in that total), the aptly-titled Nine contains 15 tracks produced by the diverse likes of John Feldmann (Good Charlotte, The Used) of Goldfinger, Tim Pagnotta (formerly of Sugarcult), and The Futuristics (Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez).
The upbeat, infectious Pop Punk that you know and love opens Nine with “The First Time,” a celebration of the carefree days of youth and all their myriad discoveries. Hoppus and Skiba bounce off one another perfectly as Barker weaves around them to anchor the fun with his exceptional drumming. This leads to “Happy Days,” a hope that despite the frustration and dread, it will get better—though some nights will always weigh heavy with their yearning for brighter times.
Bass anchors the core of melancholic “Heaven,” where Skiba is in his element. Here, the band take a poignant look at gun violence, particularly within schools and the growing danger to students simply in attending class. Next, catchy toe tapper “Darkside” goes for more upbeat subject matter—even if it’s a woman with a naughty streak. Meanwhile, autobiographical “Blame It On My Youth” injects wit into its look back at the foibles of youth and doing that Safety Dance.
Amping it up to a frenetic pace, at just under a minute “Generational Divide” still manages to provide some food for thought—is it really better nowadays or are we just fooling ourselves? As you ponder this, the threesome inject some light Hip Hop elements into their next offering, “Run Away,” a look inside the push-and-pull of a heated relationship. In fact, much of Nine is weighed heavy with relationship songs, though no two are ever identical.
The experimental “Black Rain” begins as one song and then melts down into another, an exceptionally artful transition that allows the trio to blend the melancholia of personal loss with Barker’s frenetic drumming. This paves the way for the confession—“I don’t really like myself without you”—that opens the blunt ode “I Really Wish I Hated You.” And to follow this sadly amusing admission up, they offer up “Pin the Grenade,” a downtrodden plea to lie to their faces and kill them slowly.
Love turns sour in the heartbreaking tale of “No Heart to Speak Of” before they launch into another short respite, “Ransom,” which tells the quick tale of lovers who meet and fall into a criminal love. An estranged New York relationship is anchored by the thrum of bass in the suitably emo “On Some Emo Shit,” preparing the way for experimentation.
And they do just this with electronic beats on the dreamy ballad-esque “Hungover You,” which builds into a powerful wall of sound. Another relationship song, the ebb and flow of the track feels somehow nostalgic for the ‘80s while still basing itself entirely in 2019. Ultimately, they end the collection with the touching “Remember To Forget Me.” A note from a son to his mother as the boy takes to the road, here the trio pair a delicate acoustic guitar with poignant lyrics to end the album on a powerfully emotional and tender moment.
It would be easy for a band such as blink-182 to sit complacent and never alter their sound or experiment—their fanbase is already built-in and their name is at the uppermost echelon of their genre. Instead, on Nine the trio of exceptional musicians take chances that pay off in a collection that is as heavy in quantity as it is in quality. With some darker tones mixed into their portfolio of sounds, and moments of deep lyrical content, Nine sounds like the darling lovechild of classic blink-182, Alkaline Trio, and Goldfinger, creating a deliciously digestible album. A refreshingly diverse and enjoyable experience, Cryptic Rock give blink-182’s latest 5 of 5 stars.