To many, blink-182 is foundational to their love of music. The band has been the soundtrack to house parties and teenage bedrooms for almost 20 years now. They are the reason I started going to Warped Tour, where I became a fan of bands vastly different from the pop-punk that initially drew me. To say they’ve gone through a lot over those years is putting it lightly, and no one would blame them if they took the route of so many beloved bands from that era and rested on their laurels. All that makes it only more impressive that the band has not only moved forward and continued releasing new music, but that they have continually honed their sound and songwriting through each new album. Their latest release is their ninth, simply titled “Nine,” and it’s further proof that blink-182 is far from done.
Bass guitarist and vocalist Mark Hoppus said, “This record is about being a human being in 2019: the joy, fear, and anxiety of it.” From the opening notes of “Heaven” you can feel the gravity the song carries with it. Serving both as a lament of one’s inaction and a eulogy for the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting in drummer Travis Barker’s home town. The track feels fully realized and complete, like they wrote it in a single night.
Other great songs like “Run Away” and “The First Time” evoke the best of blink’s classic sound, while deeper cuts like “Ransom” and “Hungover You” keep things fresh by finding strange and new ways of telling their stories. Some have pointed to the emo-inspired influence of newest member Skiba as the reason for the new sounds on “Nine.” That might very well be the case, though it’s a combination of styles that suits the trio well, while not leaving behind the playfulness for which they’re known.
When I saw the name of the track “On Some Emo S**t,” I was immediately excited, since I still carry a small flame for that often-overwrought yet totally sincere subgenre. The song delivers, with Hoppus singing in a self-aware style that perfectly captures the naked earnestness of the lyrics. This is a track that clues you in to how much fun the trio have writing songs these days.
When I shared a room with my brother growing up, there were a good couple of years when it was likely that blink was playing in the background when either of us walked in the room. With the release of “Nine,” I can still imagine that being the case for others, as the band’s music has grown with its audience while maintaining the essential tug of war between their dark lyrics and energetic melodies. I can hardly jam to “Nine” in the same carefree way I did with “Enema of the State” or their self-titled “blink-182” back in 2003, but that’s not what I was hoping for anyway. “Nine” is a reminder that the turmoil we find ourselves in right now isn’t so different from that which we experienced when we were younger. The difference this time is that we are a bit more prepared to accept the uncertainty and move forward despite it.