12 new songs from the kings of pop-punk.
B-sides are, by their very nature, not as good as the real thing. That’s why sports teams don’t play their B-team when it really matters. That’s why plan B is never quite as good as plan A, and why you can bet your arse bands don’t bring their B-game to their live shows.
There are loads of reasons B-sides end up as B-sides, and the 12 songs on this extended release from Blink-182 certainly don’t boast the qualities that made 2016’s ‘California’ the pop-punk tour de force it was and is – but as far as album cast-offs go, this isn’t half bad.
There’s certainly nothing here to rival the nursery rhyme brilliance of ‘Sober’ or the raking radio rock of ‘Los Angeles’, but there are flashes of what made those ‘California’ sessions so invigorating for Mark, Matt and Travis.
Matt Skiba comes to the fore even more than on the original album through the likes of the sombre ‘Misery’ and rollicking lead single ‘Parking Lot’, while the mid-paced pop-rock of ‘Good Old Days’ harks back to the early ’00s when Blink were finding their feet as a big, (relatively) polished rock band in the best possible way.
There are a couple of curveballs here, too. Looking past the fact that ‘Don’t Mean Anything’ is littered with more of the “whoa”s that filled the original ‘California’, it has some Simple Plan-esque hooks that breathe new life into even this fresh Mark + Matt + Travis Blink-182 formula and elsewhere, ‘Bottom Of The Ocean’ sounds like a latter-day All Time Low song, showing that old dogs can learn new tricks. And you know what? They’ve got them down almost as well as the young pups.
There are patches, however, where it’s abundantly clear why certain tracks were consigned to the cutting room floor when the band were selecting songs for the album proper.
The frantic 35-second punk of ‘Can’t Get You More Pregnant’ (we’ll leave it to you to figure out the meaning of that one) feels a little too juvenile even for Blink, while morose half-ballad ‘Long Lost Feeling’ bubbles under the surface without ever exploding into life like it rightfully should.
Skiba’s spoken-word part on ‘6/8’ would surely fit right in on an Alkaline Trio song, but jars in the midst of Mark Hoppus’ croon and Travis Barker’s thunderous drums.
But despite the missteps, there’s plenty for Blink enthusiasts to get excited about here. Whether that’s giving long-time fans another opportunity to find a new favourite oh-so-underappreciated song or the simple fact that Blink-182 are actually just making music again, this album shows all the hallmarks of a band reinvigorated.
The deluxe edition of ‘California’ is set to be released less than a year after the main version – an album that took three and a half years to come to fruition – so if you (somehow) still thought Blink-182 were finished, the bulk of these 12 songs offer conclusive proof that there is life after Tom.