Former member and heart and soul of Blink-182 Tom DeLonge is often found at the buttend of jokes. How could he not be, though? He originally left the band so he could attempt to “change the world” with his influence and his various business ventures. Now, he claims to be the military’s chosen vessel to share information regarding UFOs and is the executive producer and star of a mini-series on the subject. On the outside, DeLonge appears to be completely delusional.
The same goes for the rest of Blink-182. Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and newest member Matt Skiba are all in their mid-to-upper 40s, and they’re still singing about the same shit. Blink used to be all about youth culture, toilet humor, the endless pursuit of girls and the struggles that go along with it, and unfortunately, that’s still the band’s main focus on their ninth album, the cleverly titled NINE. Just look at a recent promotional video starring Travis Barker and pornstar Riley Reid as she attempts to recreate the near-iconic “What’s My Age Again?” video. The band feels they have an image to maintain, and on NINE, they’re trying their very best to maintain it.
Lead single “Blame It on My Youth” tells listeners everything they need to know about NINE. On the song, Hoppus and Skiba explain a little bit about their upbringings, with Hoppus stating that he “started off with plenty of nothing at all” and Skiba belts on the chorus, “You could never kill my high / I’m the ink and you’re the headline / Blame it, blame it on my youth / Blame it, blame it on my youth / You could never block my shine.” It bears repeating that these men are in their 40s and, somehow, they still feel the need to justify how they became the men that they are.
The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory. The songs are largely uninspired, riffing on the usual tropes, and there isn’t much musical range between them. The one song that deviates from the norm is “Generational Divide,” a fast-paced barnburner, especially when stacked up against the rest of the album. It is a quick rumination on the cultural division between generations, specifically between Hoppus and his son. It feels a bit like a return to form that was stopped short for some reason. This glance backwards is especially depressing as the album moves forward.
For some reason, Blink’s members decided it would be a good idea to start playing with elements of electronic music and vocal processing techniques like autotune. The biggest offender of this crime is “Ransom.” It starts off questionably with some glittering keys, and then turns to shit as soon Hoppus’s autotune drench voice comes in. It’s sprinkled in sporadically throughout the song, and it’s wince-inducing every time. The song soon bursts into typical Blink fare, but by that point, the damage has already been done.
On NINE, the members are beyond disillusioned with themselves. They seem to think that they’re still the tastemakers of the pop-punk world. But alas, they are not. They are grown men who are still bitter about the women that spurned them (see “Hungover You” for further elaboration). Had the band taken a darker turn and explored the downfalls of their lives, perhaps NINE would have been more interesting. Instead, the album feels repetitive and out of touch, with no new ground broken.
On the other hand, things are beginning to look up for Tom DeLonge. His show Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation has been well received by viewers. What is even more notable, however, is the US Navy’s verification that videos released by DeLonge on his television show are indeed real. This, honestly, is a very big deal for him. It legitimizes his previous claims and validates DeLonge’s research group, To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, as the leaders of the field of UFO identification and research.
Who’s the delusional one now?