Blink-182 – NINE

NINE is not Blink-182’s ninth album, it’s their eighth, so it’s either a bad joke or a terrible title (or both!) NINE is the follow up to 2016’s California, where Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio joined Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, replacing founding member, guitarist, and co-lead singer Tom DeLonge. While most of the fan base has remained faithful to Blink minus DeLonge, about a third of them think the band “sucks” or “isn’t the same” without him. DeLonge finally left or got kicked out (depending on who you ask) in 2015 as internal turmoil continued to mount within the band and he found a more interesting career than playing bubblegum pop music disguised as punk – he started hunting extraterrestrials (you can even see him featured on History Channel’s Ancient Aliens!)

The production of NINE throws away most of the raw, stripped-down qualities of punk or even pop-punk for a super-smooth, polished, and way-too-overproduced sound. Synthesizers and Auto-Tuned vocals prevail on every track. What counteracts the sugary pop is the drumming of Barker, but he plays way too busy (maybe he’s showing off?)(he is!) for this type of music. It’s distracting, although many of the drum tracks are obviously programmed in. It’s a big fake hot mess and more akin to Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, and the like than classic Blink-182. Matt Skiba’s vocal additions, much like they were on California, still seem to be a little out of place.

The old-school Blink fans critical of NINE are likely the same ones that didn’t care for California. One of the biggest complaints is the songwriting. Without Tom DeLonge, Blink is missing its primary songwriter, now for a second record. On this new record the band doesn’t just depend on itself, but on a “team” of songwriters – Ali Tamposi, the co-writer of Kelly Clarkston’s “Stronger” as well as Captain Cuts and the Futuristics. Having a team of songwriters is so punk rock, man! How half-assed and cheesy.

NINE takes a band that was already safe and lame and somehow makes them even safer and lamer.