Blink-182’s “Nine” disappoints listeners

Collin Schopp

In the same month that late ‘90s to early 2000’s pop-punk is experiencing a rise in cultural relevance in the form of the “Hella Mega” tour — a Weezer/Green Day/Fall Out Boy line-up sponsored by, of all companies, Harley Davidson — another relic of that era has also made a late-career play for the spotlight.

Blink-182’s “Nine,” their eighth studio album, was released on Sept. 20, 2019. This is the band’s sophomore effort with their current lineup, having switched out lead singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge for Alkaline Trio alumni Matt Skiba from 2016’s “California.”

Heading into “Nine,” it’s clear from the beginning that the band paid at least a little attention to fan and critic examination of their last efforts. The songwriting is punchier than the meandering power-pop ballads of “California,” but they still lack a certain spirit that the band embodied in its earlier work.

The songs thrum with a returned punk energy, but the production still leaves something to be desired. The crisp snap of Travis Barker’s snare that propels some of the band’s best early work is rendered somewhat lifeless.

There is a moment in the last third of the album, in the song “No Heart To Speak Of,” where the drums get some space to breathe, that hints at the band’s other work. The album is actually full of flashes of past Blink songs and hints at catchier, snappier, tighter verses and choruses that seem just slightly out of reach.

The other instrumentation doesn’t offer much to remember, either. It’s difficult to remember a distinct guitar moment on the album, with most melodies being simple power chord driven, muddy, chugging backdrops.

The instrumentals that aren’t guitar driven opt for barer pop-esque arrangements, which also offers glimpses of catchiness, but clash with Hoppus and Skiba’s definitively pop-punk nasally vocal delivery.

This is all without even discussing actual lyrical content. Track 13 on the album boasts the title “On Some Emo Sh*t,” on an album with a band consisting of, primarily, 40-year-olds. The album, despite its poppy aesthetic, tends to wallow lyrically. Themes of loneliness, depression, social isolation and anxiety pop up constantly throughout the album.

This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s familiar with Blink-182’s back catalogue, as they’ve certainly done their share of wallowing before.

However, mixed in with the gloom of past releases was a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness and ability to have fun, that contributed greatly to the memorability of the music.

This time, that sense of humor is almost nonexistent. The album spends the majority of its lyrical efforts in adolescent-esque melodrama. The result is something that feels both overblown and insincere.

When they aren’t reminiscent of a scrapped monologue from an unreleased “Riverdale” season, the lyrics are repetitive. Near the top of the album, the song “Happy Days” presents an inversion of the album’s typical tone, but flops with a less-than-catchy chorus that the song title is 80 percent of the lyrics to.

The rest of the album is par for the course that songs like “Happy Days” set. They’re not messy. In fact, they’re clinically clean. “Nine” is certainly not a bad album, but very often, it feels like a boring and routine one.

Blink-182 may have just aged out of their sound, though it can’t be denied that this is, at the very least, a slight improvement over the other output for the band’s new lineup. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of new, fresh and experimental pop-punk to go around, even in a world with a “Hella Mega” tour.