When blink-182 went on hiatus in 2005, its three members each pursued their passion project: Tom DeLonge formed Angels & Airwaves, answering the question of what you got when you combined U2, The Cure, and regular blink-182 (the answer, it turns out, is a couple of half-decent Warped Tour singalong singles, borderline unlistenable albums, and a slot opening up for a depressingly chipper Weezer). Mark Hoppus, meanwhile, took his free time as an opportunity to school the kids on every single entry-level alt band he’d been listening to. Travis Barker, meanwhile, decided that he wanted to be the most famous studio drummer in all the land. The task was an easy one, as no one actually wants to be a studio drummer.
But while DeLonge was Bono-ing his way to obscurity, Mark Hoppus was shrieking about the Dirty Projectors to anyone within a hundred feet of him and Travis Barker was drumming on a seemingly endless supply of Drake remixes, a funny thing happened. blink-182 became cool again. Now, a lot of this has to do with Wavves’ King of the Beach album tricking us into putting a pop-punk record on our 2010 Best-Of list, but it has more to do with nostalgia: blink-182 fans who were the band’s target market during their Dude Ranch/Enema of the State/Take Off Your Pants and Jacket run had grown up, discovered The Descendents, and realized, Hey! Maybe blink-182 weren’t actually that bad!
So, then, the question becomes what a blink-182 record in 2011 would even sound like. Judging by what they did with their vacation time, it’d be a safe bet to guess that Neighborhoods would sound like a really stadium-y Arcade Fire record with overly aggressive drumming.
And, on at least one level, that’s exactly what blink-182 has given us—Neighborhoods might be the first post-The Suburbs-winning-a-Grammy album to hit the mainstream. For crying out loud, its name even sounds like it’s ripping off The Suburbs. “Up All Night,” “Snake Charmer,” and “Wishing Well” all certainly sort of sound like they’re just doing a slightly peppier take on “Ready to Start,” and as songwriters DeLonge and Hoppus have certainly discarded much of their juvenilia in favor of gut-punch earnesty.
However, this is not necessarily why people listened to blink-182. Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus, in their prime, did indeed write songs with all the emotional intensity of two fourteen year-olds, they always counterbalanced those Very Important Feelings with songs about humping someone’s leg. If I had a dollar for every time someone in blink-182 sang the lyric, “I know it hurts” in one song, only to follow that sentiment with a song about giving a dog a pot brownie, then I could retire early. Meanwhile, Neighborhoods tricks itself into thinking it’s found a happy medium, with songs about relationships that leave the extreme emotions at home, coupled with tracks about “what it all really means.”
What made the Dude Ranch/Enema of the State/Take Off Your Pants And Jacket triad great was that blink-182 was trying to parse the ecstasy and agony of growing up. On Neighborhoods, blink-182 took those albums’ sonic template, updated it, and made an album where they tried to understand what it means to be a member of blink-182.