Two decades after the release of its groundbreaking album Enema of the State, Blink-182 offers listeners a surprising departure from its classic juvenile sound, instead showing off a more mature side of the have-been goofball rockers.
NINE, a 15-track reflection on the band’s career is the second release since Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba replaced founding guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge. It also comes three years after their comeback album California was released following a four-year hiatus.
The album is self-aware, retrospective, and all about growth. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Hoppus said “NINE is everything that Blink-182 should be in 2019.” And while longtime fans may question what exactly the band is aiming for in 2019, both songwriting and stylistic progression is an evident feature of NINE.
Released on the 182nd day of the year in anticipation of the album, the third single, “Happy Days,” immediately reminds listeners that Blink’s emo phase is far from over. Hoppus’ doubtful chants, “All of this frustration inside of my brain / And I don’t know if I’m ready to change,” mirrors the overarching themes of introspection and realization that the album embodies. Moving away from their proud and blatant immaturity, a distinctive trait of the pop-punk group’s early 2000s sound, “Happy Days” reminds listeners that negative thoughts are temporary and compel them to work toward a no-nonsense kind of happiness.
Never strangers to wordplay, Blink continues to recall their often problematic and always entertaining history on the fifth track, “Blame it on My Youth.” The upbeat and unapologetic son calls upon California’s signature single “Bored to Death” and even nods to the group’s formation with the line “I was bored to death so I started a band.” Later, Hoppus remembers, “I got stuck in the mud / The flash flood, punk rock, and the alcohol” as he sheds light on the whirlwind of fame the band experienced early on. Without self-pitying, but rather with plenty of self-awareness, “Blame it on My Youth” portrays a rare and raw honesty that is a welcomed change for listeners old and new alike.
Following the loss of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington to suicide in 2017, Blink reassures that his influence on the music industry will not be lost to time with the meditative line, “And when the music stops and you come undone / You know I’m never gonna get you out of my head.” As rock music in particular grieves an increasing number of suicide deaths annually, Blink does not shy away from using its platform to spead awareness and express its solidarity.
But despite its growth, Blink-182 will never shy away from a little fun. The late album track “On Some Emo Shit,” which sounds like a blunt ’90s rendition of the recent music trend “sad boy hours,” is a lo-fi emo tribute with an ironic dad-joke title. Blink does not waste the opportunity to both mock its own past and offer fans an unironic breakup hit. With a more modern rhythm, drummer Travis Barker tones down his usual loud and unforgiving beats just long enough for Blink to connect to a generation of fans that is still figuring out the complex labyrinth that is love, loss, and life.
Arguably the most influential track off NINE, “Hungover You,” grants Blink the opportunity to explore the band’s more narrative side, which has been well received through past tracks such as “Adam’s Song,” an Enema of State standout. Opening with “A bottle for breakfast, trying to let go / Remember your voice, but it’s only an echo,” the track tells the story of two co-dependent alcoholics.
Never strangers to a breakup song, “Hungover You” differs in that it mirrors the combination of happy beats and sad lyrics that has been tied to alternative rock in recent years—as showcased by bands like Twenty-One Pilots and even some tracks from nothing, nowhere.
Sensational and slightly nostalgic, NINE exhibits the evolution of not only a band that was believed to never grow old, but also the evolution of pop-punk as a whole. Blending blast from the past beats from longtime drummer Travis Barker, and an ever developmental flavor from latest edition with Skiba, Blink-182 raises the bar for 21st century rock yet again.
Featured Image by Interscope Records