Surrender and let it happen to you.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the most obvious criticisms of California, the latest album from Blink-182, a band that is best known for its dick-based observations about teenage love and, more recently, for swapping out one guitarist with an obsession for the occult for another guitarist with an obsession for the occult:
• The cognitive dissonance required to hear 40-plus-year-old men sing about jumping fences and being in love with girls who are “out of their minds” without one rolling their eyes outside of their head does not exist.
• Its production is neon-polished to the point that it could be a Miley Cyrus record (pre Dead Petz, to be fair).
• At 16 songs, including two that clock in under 30 seconds, the record is too long by about four tracks.
• Taken in the scope of the band’s complete catalog, the regression between 2003’s self-titled record and everything since (a greatest hits record, a Coldplay record, an EP) makes California a difficult pill to swallow.
These gripes are just the tip of the iceberg, and yet they do not matter at all. California is a Godzilla-sized pop-rock record that smashes everything in its wake. It will batter you with its fun, whether you want it to or not, to the point that the only reasonable option is buying in and riding the wave, lest you be crushed under its skyscraper-sized guitar riffs and “whoa-oh” gang vocals. How can one complain about production or immaturity when there are beers to crush and metal-horns to throw up? Does it hold up once it’s over? Who the fuck can remember? Who the fuck cares? We just had a party.
What California reveals, perhaps better than any other Blink-182 album, is that the band has always operated at its highest level when it’s slinging over-the-top, broad-beyond-words pop anthems. There’s a reason that records like Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket are remembered as canon by a new wave of punk rockers and general radio listeners alike, and it has more to do with the “nah nah nahs” of “All the Small Things” than it does any kind of punk bona fides. If this latest record doesn’t establish itself among the classics, it at least reminds one why the band had classics to begin with.
So, yeah, the overproduction on “Sober,” with its programmed drums and polished-glass guitar tone can grate a little. And, yes, it is baffling to consider who is coming to Blink-182 for lovelorn observations on a song like “She’s Out of Her Mind” when the teens who might get something out of these observations are getting them from Five Seconds of Summer or The 1975. But once the chorus kicks in on “Cynical,” (with new guitarist Matt Skiba screaming “I’m not sorry!” like he’s always been in the band), or when Hoppus and Skiba pile harmonies on top of harmonies on “No Future,” or when the extra large sensitivity of “Home Is Such a Lonely Place” unfolds before you, every weapon one might use to dismantle this record becomes useless. The best way to listen to California is to surrender and let it happen to you. The sooner the brains get turned off and the past is forgotten, the better a time will be had. If that sounds like an immature way to take in a record, well, nobody likes you when you’ve been 23 since 1999.