Named after its home state, beloved pop-punk band Blink-182's seventh and newest album in five years, California, seemed to aim straight for the nostalgic soft spot in our hearts.
It's that place where our angsty teenage selves still reside, emerging whenever we hear the intros to "All The Small Things" or "What's My Age Again?" It's that part of us that still leaps at every opportunity to skinny dip and ride shopping carts before our more refined senses kick back in. Only, the album misses by a long shot.
It falls flat with try-hard lyrics and outdated harmonies. It relies too much on gimmicky guitar riffs and immature romps that worked so well on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and Enema of the State, but now feel inescapably empty. California sounds vaguely like you've heard it before, but just can't remember.
That California sounds so strained probably won't surprise fans who've been watching the band over the past few years. This is Blink's first album sans founder and guitarist Tom DeLonge — replaced by singer and guitarist Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio. The band's collaborators seemed to know they would be drawing some unsympathetic ears on the project: Goldfinger member John Feldmann, who produced California, told Fuse in February the album had to be in "the new zone" to not fall into something cover band-esque.
The band attempts to make up for the absent, now-UFO-hunting DeLonge by doubling down on its goofy factor. This results in songs ranging in length from almost four minutes to just 17 seconds. The shorter the song, the more painfully corny the lyrics.
The 17-second-long "Built This Pool" features bassist Mark Hoppus singing, "I wanna see some naked dudes/ That's why I built this pool." Drummer Travis Barker asks, "Is that really it?" Yes, it is. The closing, 30-second-long "Brohemian Rhapsody," presents the same question for the entire album. Its satirical nod to Queen doesn't amount to much, as the song is only one line: "There's something about you that I can't quite put my finger in." Listening to it is like watching someone relishing the smell of their own farts.
As for the transparent nostalgia, "San Diego" serves as a "bittersweet homage" to their hometown, Feldmann told Fuse in June, where the guys sing about going back. Yet it's not even the sappiest one. The namesake track, "California," is like a Broadway-styled parody of a Blink-182 song, an ode to the Golden State and Blink's golden times, possibly. "Hey here's to you California/ Beautiful haze of suburbia/ Living in perfect weather/ Spending time inside together," Hoppus and Skiba sing.
Still, a few choice songs, like "Bored to Death" and "Sober," sound like classic Blink: They're successfully catchy and light-hearted, but not insultingly so. Notably, in "Bored to Death," the LP's first single, Hoppus sings one of the album's most painfully real lyrics: "Save your breath, I'm nearly/ Bored to death and fading fast/ Life is too short to last long." At least in terms the band's life, the album proves him right.