Generally speaking, quite a bit of growing up can happen over eight years. In the case of celebrated pop punk band Blink-182, "quite a bit" seems to be an understatement. "Neighborhoods," the band's first album since 2003's "Blink-182," is an extremely progressive pop punk effort, with equal emphasis on "progressive" and "pop punk."
During Blink's four-year hiatus between 2005 and 2009, the members of the band kept themselves busy. Guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge started the space-rock outfit, Angels and Airwaves, while bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker stuck to their roots in the pop-punk band, +44. Elements from both of these bands are evident in the songs on "Neighborhoods" in consistent proportions.
The album opens with "Ghost on the Dance Floor," an upbeat anthem that exhibits both the past and present of Blink-182. Barker's intense drumming is combined with DeLonge's signature crooning and spacey strings, showcasing elements of Angels and Airwaves and +44.
The next song, "Natives," ventures into more customary territory: DeLonge and Hoppus share singing duties while DeLonge ditches effect-drenched power chords for a lead reminiscent of older material.
Despite the band's obvious efforts to move forward, the best tracks on Neighborhoods are those that evoke Blink-182's classic sound.
"Heart's All Gone" is an aggressive song sung entirely by Hoppus with Barker's drumming as eclectic as ever.
"After Midnight" is calmer, but still stands out as a song that contains ingredients of an ideal Blink-182 track: A simple structure, equal singing from both vocalists and a melody that you just can't get out of your head.
Don't get me wrong, other tracks with a newer style stand out on the album as well. Lead single "Up All Night" is catchy and memorable, and "Kaleidoscope" is one of the noteworthiest tracks from the second half of the album. The bottom line is that while Blink-182 has six years worth of excuses to make changes to its sound, the guys venture a little bit too far at some points.
"Love is Dangerous" and "This is Home" could be easily mistaken as songs by Angels and Airwaves. It almost seems that the spacey feel occasionally present on the last album is applied a tad too liberally.
"Neighborhoods" also misses an aspect heard on earlier albums: Blink's childish and often vulgar lyrics. Even though it would be strange to listen to a few guys in their 30s still sing about high school, the change in lyrical content could be disappointing to the more die-hard Blink-182 fans.
Nevertheless, this change could be seen as part of the band's progression. After all, the band has existed since 1992, so they would have had to grow up at some point.
Although the band makes strides to establish themselves as a serious rock band, Neighborhoods still has enough to prove that Blink-182 is the same group of guys that caught our attention with their tongue-in-cheek teenage attitude many years ago.