Neighborhoods affirms a few things that were up in the air during Blink 182’s ‘indefinite’ hiatus. First and foremost, it serves to show that had Mark, Tom and Travis experienced whatever collective epiphany that drove them to produce their genre-bending self-titled/untitled album a little sooner than 2003, they might have been a musical force to be reckoned with. Neighborhoods confirms that the self-titled album wasn’t a fluke in terms of being genuinely respectable beyond power chords and fart jokes, even if it falls short of being amazing.
Secondly (and this is more of a reinforcement than a surprise) Blink’s latest release reaffirms that Tom DeLonge possesses one of the most grating voices in modern music. A mix of West Coast drawl and the syllable warping forced affectation singers tend towards when they’re struggling to hit notes, DeLonge has only gotten more nasal and off-key as time has worn on, something not even an arsenal of studio effects can hide. His verse sections in ‘Up All Night’ are painful.
Lastly, and sadly, Neighborhoods is one on a list of recent albums (COUGH Chili Peppers) that signposts just how far beyond relevant some artists have become. There’s nothing on this album that feels at all necessary or urgent, nothing that wasn’t exorcised in the bands’ last LP. There’s no real sense of adventure of experimentation on most tracks, and the first half of the album especially is just too busy to be very interesting. Part of what made their self-titled effort exhilarating was slowing down and giving new textures and moods room to breathe. Everything here up to ‘Snake Charmer’ blows by without making much of an impact, all drum fills and ho-hum vocals.
Having said all that though, there are redeeming moments in Neighborhoods. ‘Snake Charmer’ is the first noteworthy cut on the album, with a healthy chunk of dissonance and a beat that actually kicks instead of simply keeping time. ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘This Is Home’ throw some musical curveballs in the same way that songs like ‘Always’ and ‘I Miss You’ did, piano and synth tones sneaking into the mix. In that sense Neighborhoods is worth a few spins and, had Blink been closer to the start (or even middle) of their career, it might have been suggestive of a bright future. As it stands though, the band are surely almost at the end of their rope, prone to self-indulgence (Angels & Airwaves/anything that comes out of Tom DeLonge’s mouth) and so-so rehashes of past successes (+44/anything that Mark Hoppus does). There’s too much of these things and not enough substance on Neighborhoods, and the future doesn’t look bright.