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BLINK-182 Nine gets 5/10


Blink-182
Nine
Columbia

5/10

Well I guess THIS is growing up.

Everyone knows growing up is tough. Just ask Blink-182, they’ve been writing songs about the subject for years. In fact, they were still doing it way into their 30s. What Blink managed to do, was fool us all into thinking it was perfectly fine for this trio to never grow up at all. Well… Enter Blink-182’s ninth studio album, called err, Nine.

Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba makes his second appearance as guitarist/ vocalist on a Blink album and Trio fans will be pleased to hear it’s clear Skiba was allowed to get his fangs into a bit of songwriting this time around. Just don’t get too excited. Lead single Blame it On My Youth was released back in May, and it’s straight into what sounds like a modern take on the classic Blink sound. There’s a simple intro that leads into a catchy, well-written verse melody with simple lyrics about growing up in suburbia. Then the cracks begin to show. The simple pre-chorus is our first look into just how polished and tweaked this album is. We’re treated to what sounds like nine Mark Hoppus robots delivering the line “It’s too late, can you forgive me now” before launching into the first of many half-arsed but admittedly singable choruses. Well, singable that is, unless you’re Matt Skiba, who for some reason chose (or was instructed to) yell at the top of his lungs and let production know-it-all John Feldman tickle, tune and overdrive the performance until it’s barely recognisable as the fully capable singer who laid the track down. This is a reoccurring theme throughout Nine.

Second single Generational Divide follows, and fans of Blink’s early catalogue would be stoked to hear that Bad Religion-inspired double-time drum beat, pitching memories back to Dude Ranch’s Josie. When Hoppus delivers the first two lines, it’s even easy to look past the level of production and get excited about this song. But wait… is he really just going to repeat those two lines over and over? Yes, he is! And then Skiba is going to yell over the top with an unrelated melody. It’s messy and it comes across as lazy, despite drummer Travis Barker throwing in many ridiculously fast drum fills in the outro. There’s no saving this one, but thankfully it’s all over in less than a minute.

Standout track for the album is Happy Days. Released back in July, it’s a throwback to old emo favourites Adam’s Song, Stay Together for the Kids and I Miss You. The subject matter is honest and dark, as Hoppus deals with issues of failed dreams, alcoholism and depression. The drums are, of course, on point here, and the guitar tones reek of nostalgia which is interesting since former guitarist Tom Delonge played on all the aforementioned songs. Happy Days isn’t perfect, it falls foul of the dodgy pre-chorus and the overly simple chorus issues that so many songs on Nine do, and suddenly we start to question if this whole album is written to this “hit-making” formula Blink have perfected over the years. 

Darkside sounds like Skiba’s big shot at writing a Blink-182 banger, and though there’s some Alkaline Trio inspiration in the verses, the old formula throttles all hope out of the track. You get the picture. And hang on… Was that a drum machine? The decision to replace Barker with an early 90s, Europop drum sample at the beginning of the second verse is hideous. It actually ruins what would otherwise have been a great bit of emo/pop-punk songwriting, the lines “She’s a girl, I look back to what could have been/ Her cloak and dagger mouth tastes like medicine/ She won’t last the nightalone could have inspired countless Blink-182 smiley face tattoos on a new generation of sad teenagers, but yet again the squeaky clean production and formulaic songwriting mean that those kids will probably choose a Billie Eilish tat instead.

That drum machine in Darkside unfortunately foreshadows things to come, as listening to the whole album you are faced with awkward hip hop crossover attempts in songs like the cringey Runaway, and outright pop tracks like the totally mediocre I Really Wish I Hated You. It’s easy to hate on this album but as mentioned already, it was written to follow a tried and tested formula which creates simple, easy to digest, bubblegum pop. It crosses over into other genres and it’s sure to grab Blink-182 a few new fans because of it. It’s super radio-friendly, so you can be sure you’re going to hear these songs over and over and there’s no escaping the fact that you’re going to find yourself singing them in the car on your way to work.

The level of production on this album is distracting to listen to. That a rock band of any description would release a record that’s been so heavily touched up and sprinkled with sugar that it no longer sounds human, despite Blink-182 obviously taking a stab at writing deeper, more “grownup” lyrics, leaves Nine feeling utterly soulless. Unforgivable.

TONY WESTWOOD

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