I still recall the initial excitement I felt when I heard that Matt Skiba would be joining Blink-182 in place of Tom DeLonge. Matt Skiba! The genius behind Alkaline Trio’s ultimate break-up anthem, “Radio” and punk-poppier jams like “This Addiction.” Surely, Blink’s next album would have ten times more “I Miss You” vibes with Skiba making up one-third of the band.
So last summer when I purchased and immediately downloaded California to my iPhone, I had the highest hopes and biggest expectations. The Blink that had put out Neighborhoods wasn’t–for better or for worse–the same as the Blink that created Take Off Your Pants and Jacket or Enema of the State. Certainly, that meant California would be worlds away in potentially the best way possible?
It felt like Blink-182 was trying too hard to be Blink-182 instead of just being whoever they currently were while writing and recording the album. So many popular bands get caught up writing music that “sounds like them” instead of writing songs that they want to sound like. My opinion of this album was further ruined when I read a track-by-track article on California by its producer, John Feldmann. Indeed, they had been mimicking previous albums’ sounds instead of exploring whatever Blink with Skiba in the mix sounded like. Exactly as I had feared.
But then a deluxe edition of the album was announced, with the band claiming to have another whole album’s worth of material to share. I was skeptical. B-Sides usually don’t make the album for a reason, although on rare occasions the band makes a mistake choosing tracks. It wasn’t until Blink started to post some of the deluxe tracks that my hope was renewed and my mind and ears were totally blown away.
This was the California I had always wanted, skipping over the radio hits and subpar anthems to the band’s geographical history and diving into the weird, heavy, brilliant tunes I had on repeat for weeks. Since purchasing the deluxe edition, the album has quickly become one of my favorites of the year–a perfect soundtrack for car trips, subway rides, and walks through city streets.
While “Kings of the Weekend” and “Teenage Satellites” felt like poor attempts to hone in on the vibrancy of youth that these pop punk dads are far past, “Parking Lot” is the perfect mix of nostalgia and wry commentary on today’s teens. From the twist on the “Big Yellow Taxi” parking lot lyric to the second verse’s remarks about Target, this is my everything. It’s an anthem to suburbia that no track on California came even close to perfecting.
“Last Train Home” finally delivers the Matt Skiba influence I was waiting for, and Blink-182 plus Alkaline Trio does not disappoint. It’s the perfect moody song for late night rides on the subway. “The only time I feel alive is when I find something I would die for” is sure to be a popular lyric to get tattooed. I especially love how Skiba’s vocals really shine on this track.
“6/8” is the song that sold me on this album. It is WEIRD in the best way possible. “This is the strangest song Blink have ever recorded. It’s in 6/8 time. It’s aggressive and one of our favorites from the deluxe because of it,” Blink-182 said in the YouTube description for this track. I want them to write all their songs in 6/8 time now. And if this is any sign of what’s to come from the band on future albums, I am pumped. “Bottom of the Ocean” is another weird track and is possibly my second favorite off the deluxe album. Weird is good, guys.
To me, “Wildfire” evokes the Northern California wilderness, an area of the state that Blink hasn’t touched on in this album about their California upbringing. I have visions of Mark Hoppus tossing Smokey the Bear into a mosh pit when I listen to this song. Travis Barker’s drumming is phenomenal, the lyrics are catchy, and Hoppus and Skiba take turns singing so seamlessly and naturally.
While there are many other tracks on the deluxe edition that I could praise for an eternity, “Bored To Death (Acoustic Version)” is so unexpected and delightful. The original version was totally skippable to me. Not only is this version a live recording, but it also pulls in those Alkaline Trio undertones and switches some lyrics from the original recorded version (I’m a sucker for that). It’s nostalgic, reminiscent of when a favorite artist plays an acoustic cover of a song from their previous band. I just want to be in that room, reveling in all that Blink-182 camaraderie.
Besides the deluxe version giving me a whole new album’s worth of Blink tracks to love, it’s also made me enjoy the original California tracks a lot more. It’s like tucking mushrooms (I’m not the biggest mushroom fan) into delicious dishes until you realize mushrooms really aren’t so terrible (still not the bomb diggity, but enjoyable). So if you were like me and were rather disheartened by California, or are just looking for some music to rock out to as summer begins to fade, definitely give California (Deluxe Edition) a listen.
Featured Image: Blink-182