ALBUM REVIEW: Blink-182 – NINE
Pop-punk powerhouses Blink-182 balance high energy, hook-worthy sounds and deep, dark, mature tones on latest release NINE. Coming through with a new-found sense of maturity, this album is Blink growing up from the days of 2001’s tongue-in-cheek Take Off Your Pants And Jacket and the humdrum vocal hooks on 2016’s California. Now the band release the aptly titled NINE, the band’s ninth record by Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker themselves, despite fan disagreements over the band’s discography. NINE no less sees Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba triumphantly return for a second run, serving up some serious vocal prowess, whilst Hoppus honestly deals with dark subject matters, and Barker brings heap loads of heavy, percussive drive to NINE’s fifteen tracks.
The Californian collective kick off NINE with The First Time, a track that peaks and plummets in energy levels. From the downplay of the verses to the catchy vocal hooks of the choruses, Matt Skiba’s commanding tone chants “First love, first high, there ain’t nothing like the first time/Passed out last night, there ain’t nothing like the first time.” From the nostalgia of first times to reminiscing on the highs and lows of Mark Hoppus’ youth, follow-up Happy Days delves into the depths of dread and doubt, but with a pop-punk buzzing bass and clattering drums, a sound so synonymously Blink-182.
Contrasting by name, tracks Heaven and Darkside both continue on the trail of tackling harrowing topics. Taking on a wider societal stance, the first, Heaven, is pensive and poignant at one point, before bursting into a surge of rock worthy stadium singalongs that lyrically touch upon the tragic mass shooting at Thousand Oaks, California. A piece of pure punk joy, the second, Darkside, is an uptempo firecracker, with its fun-filled vocals and frantic instrumentals masking another lyrical meaning beneath the superficial, detailing the story of supporting someone with depression, something Hoppus himself holds close.
A piece of pop-punk that famously falls flat, lead single Blame It On My Youth‘s poppy elements leave a lot to be desired. Dragging on for far too long the track, whilst catchy in its chorus, tediously grows tenfold, as its more modernised sound and mediocre melodies offer up a generic-sounding song. Showcasing the skills of Barker’s brilliant drumming, Generational Divide comes in like a ton of bricks, packing a fast-paced punch. A nod to the short, sharp and snappy songs in Blink’s back catalogue, the second single, accompanied by an intensely intimate music video, only adds to the quick-fire ferocity of this track. Its raucous, percussive power and the overlaid vocals between Hoppus and Skiba create a big ball of driven energy.
Dealing with dark matters, the misery-filled Black Rain, the despise-driven I Really Wish I Hated You and the emotionally nostalgic No Heart To Speak Of are all tracks that harness raw emotion, expertly executed in a way that doesn’t let doom and gloom dominate the entirety of the record. Black Rain takes a tragic look into the system of organised religion, something Skiba shines a light on throughout his sorrowful songwriting, incorporating elements of electronic production and racing rock to create a morose Blink-182-meets-The Cure inspired sound. Similarly, single I Really Wish I Hated You is lyrically and vocally melodic. Full of desired rage, regret and remorse, the pangs of longing for a former flame are more prevalent than its hatred, the song’s title suggests. One of the toughest tracks for Hoppus and Skiba to write for the record, I Really Wish I Hated You has come out the other side, making it a standout single on NINE. No Heart To Speak Of follows suit in the subject of heartbreak and heartache. This song sees the Alkaline Trio/Blink-182 vocalist peak, as the burning intensity of passion in Skiba’s singing bursts into an outpouring of heartfelt emotion, as soon as the hard-hitting chorus – “Lying on the bedroom floor/Hanging on the words that you said before/No heart, no heart to speak of/Dying on the bathroom floor/Thinking of the life that we had before/No heart, no heart to speak of” – comes in, leaving listeners clinging onto every word.
The pop-punk pinnacle of NINE and another stadium rock staple, Pin The Grenade displays the vocal dynamic between Matt Skiba, who takes lead in the verses, and Mark Hoppus, who follows with the choruses, as the pairs goosebump worthy vocals sit somewhere in the middle of melodic singing and monumental shouts.
Straight up break-up singalongs On Some Emo Shit and Hungover You are songs exploring themes of love, loss and drunken despair. On Some Emo Shit says hello to old school Blink’s explicit dad joke material, with its genius title sending serious waves of nostalgia back to the scenes of the early 2000’s. Hungover You continues to cling onto the emotional anguish caused by the absence of longing for a lover. Sonically, the track’s chorus comes quickly into effect, with big, bold instrumentals borrowing influence from the new electronic pallete Blink-182 have been tapping into throughout NINE.
NINE is beaming with bright, rainbow aesthetics yet digging deeper, the record deals with dark subject matters and delves into a spiralling pit of loneliness and longing which is ultimately elevated by its uplifting sounds. For Matt Skiba, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, new album NINE gives off a satisfying sense that Blink-182 are back and better than ever.
Standout Tracks: Darkside, Generational Divide, Heaven, Pin The Grenade, No Heart To Speak Of
For Fans Of: Sum 41, The Descendents, Yellowcard
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood