Having a favourite band is like supporting a football team. You stick with them through the highs and lows and you never give up on them. Blink-182 is one of my favourite bands – always has been and most probably always will be. Over the last few months though being a fan of Blink-182 has felt like supporting a football team fighting to avoid the relegation zone.
The first single to be released from NINE was Blame It On My Youth. I don’t actually think BIOMY is a bad song, but the overproduction, especially on the drums, was an indication of the lazy, generic pop direction the band were going in. Blink have always been a pop band, but at least their punk rock roots have always shone through on previous albums given Blink a bit of an edge. With BIOMY, they went straight up pop, and the production made it sound lazy.
In parallel to the release of BIOMY, Blink announced a co-headline summer tour with rapper Lil Wayne. Yep. There has to be respect for both artists for agreeing to tour together despite the inevitable backlash and raised eyebrows they received, but it just seemed like an odd choice and perhaps another example of how Blink was attempting to please the masses. Over the summer we were also treated to a mashup of ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and Lil Wayne’s ‘A Milli’, which unsurprisingly didn’t work well; a corny music video for Darkside involving school kids doing a dance routine from the Fortnite video games; bright neon artwork for the album; and a string of very average singles. In all honesty, I didn’t have high hopes for NINE. To add salt to the wound for Blink, founding member and fan favourite Tom Delonge released two fantastic singles with Angels and Airwaves, which were both critically favoured by fans.
NINE was leaked a week before the official release, and while I managed to refrain from listening to the album itself I couldn’t resist reading the reactions. To my astonishment the reactions were…really positive! I couldn’t believe it! Was this Blink’s plan all along? Were they trying to throw us off by releasing the worst songs from the album as singles, before unleashing killer tracks with the release of the album?
I have now listened to NINE a few times and I can safely say that it is a fantastic album. Despite standing at 15 songs long, NINE flows really well and leaves me wanting to listen to the album again and again. I’ve been proven wrong and feel proud as a longtime fan of the band for what they have achieved with this album. I feel like NINE is an album that could win over new fans as well old.
With California, Blink’s last album and first with Matt Skiba, I didn’t feel excited. It felt predictable and bland. With Neighborhoods too, the clear distinction between ‘Tom songs’ and ‘Mark songs’ perhaps exposed the tensions in the band and left me feeling like I wasn’t listening to a Blink record. With NINE though, while it’s not ‘traditionally Blink’ by any means, Hoppus, Skiba and Barker have all offered their own influences in every song and they have gelled together well to produce something original and exciting.
The singles – Blame It On My Youth, Happy Days, Generational Divide, Darkside, I Really Wish I Hated You – are still my least favourite songs, but in the context of the album they actually work better than I imagined. Moving on to my favourites, the stand outs for me are Pin The Grenade, Run Away, Heaven, Hungover You and No Heart To Speak Of (yes, I realise this basically the rest of the album). I feel that these songs best articulate the sadness, bitterness and struggles the members of the band are dealing with, and the instrumental parts are brilliant.
Another highlight for me is Barker’s drumming. NINE has given Travis the freedom to run wild with fills, solos and influences. In particular, I find the hip hop influences work really well, most notably on The First Time and Run Away. Barker’s drumming style is unique and unpredictable, and is one of the many ways Blink have shown that a band can change and mature successfully, much like they did with Untitled in 2003. Fundamentally though, the songs on NINE are just well written songs. It’s as simple as that and above all is why I think it is better than California.
In the run up to the release of NINE I couldn’t see a way for Blink to save their reputation and recover from a summer of widely criticised singles and a disappointing co-headline tour with Lil Wayne. It felt like they were losing their way and conforming to what they thought the masses wanted. I was wrong. NINE is a fantastic album with so much passion, heart, power and originality. Blink-182 is back and long may they continue.
Top Tracks: Heaven, Pin The Grenade, Hungover You
Release Date: September 20th, 2019
- The First Time
- Happy Days
- Blame It On My Youth
- Generational Divide
- Run Away
- Black Rain
- I Really Wish I Hated You
- Pin The Grenade
- No Heart To Speak Of
- On Some Emo Shit
- Hungover You
- Remember To Forget Me