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Blink-182 - NINE (Album Review)

Thursday, 26 September 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Blink-182’s blend of juvenilia and earnest emoting has long been a high-wire act: one slip and the sense of balance is gone. But, given that they survived situating a song like Stay Together For The Kids at the heart of an album called ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’, it’s one that they might boast to have mastered.

Still, the band’s latter-day work has regularly suggested otherwise. Post-2003, and the release of their hugely influential self-titled LP, they have struggled to maintain that equilibrium—to describe their uneven new album ‘NINE’ as one of their better efforts in that timeframe is something of a backhanded compliment.

This is Blink’s second outing to feature Matt Skiba in tandem with Mark Hoppus, with founding guitarist Tom DeLonge’s absence still casting a sizeable shadow, and it is a marked improvement on the scattershot ‘California’. That it still lags a long way behind Skiba’s most recent effort with Alkaline Trio is a conversation for another time.

Here he finds more space in which to play off Hoppus, imparting some of his goth-punk intensity to Darkside’s monster chorus and the creeping verses of Heaven, which have plenty in common with his solo project as leader of the Sekrets. These contributions are a huge fillip, providing the back and forth that defined some of Blink’s finest moments.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of issues. The cod-rap of Run Away’s verses and the sub-Major Lazer electro-reggae element of Blame It On My Youth are notable lows, as is the painfully out of place 49 second rager Generational Divide. The latter song’s overbearing vocal treatment, in fact, exemplifies the gloss that prevents ‘NINE’ from landing too many heavy blows.

Blink’s music has been over-produced for an age, but here things are buffed to a sheen that detracts from some naked writing by Hoppus. Discussing depression, self-image and the encroaching menace of world events, he pairs honest sentiments with plain English. “I wanna feel happy days, happy days,” he sings at one point, and it doesn’t come across as reductive. On I Really Wish I Hated You, he vividly describes the loss of a personal mooring: “I don't really like myself without you. Every song I sing is still about you. Save me from myself the way you used to.”

These days Blink-182 are perpetually caught between two poles and ‘NINE’ is a solid example of what they now represent, complete with constant reminders of what they’ve lost along the way. It’s intriguing, though, to find Hoppus utilising so successfully the band he formed in his youth as an outlet for who he is in 2019, and that will likely ensure that these songs find a home whatever their flaws.


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