I never really confessed to enjoying California, last year’s Blink-182 comeback album that dragged far too much polish with it in addition to new guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba. Regardless, the band have re-released the record this year with 12 new tracks added to its roster as California: Deluxe Edition (why they didn’t release a new EP with the material is beyond me, but hey, it’s their album).
Skiba-driven lead single Parking Lot opens the door to this second disc; all in all, it carries on the thread that California started, shelling out pseudo-youthful anthems about “forgotten young suburbia” and listening to Violent Femmes. It strains itself over a chorus reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, although not quite in the same league. Deluxe proceeds to pick itself up a little, though, with the song ‘Misery’; Matt Skiba’s harsh vocals work well in the frantic chorus, and a bridge reference to being lost in a Hitchcock film is one of Mark Hoppus’ lyrical high points on the album.
Most of California: Deluxe Edition is typical Blink-182 affair, with most of the songs on the record fitting snugly in 3-minute single territory. The glossy production from California is still all too present on the release, with electronic drum-backed ‘Bottom of the Ocean’ sticking out like a sore thumb in particular. It’s not entirely consumed by them, but when you have a drummer as talented as Travis Barker on board, I’m lost as to why you’d use them at all – in fact, Barker’s drumming is a constant gleam of light throughout the release, consistently fantastic and effortlessly light-fingered with his fills across the 11 original tracks.
‘6/8’ is a standout track from the album, mostly due to its titular timing – it’s rare for Blink to deviate from their habitual 4/4 timing, but still, it says something about their creativity for them to consider that fact unique enough to name the song after. The track features some awesome drum work from Barker, and Skiba’s cracked background vocals and spoken word performance give the track an added edge.
Beyond a couple of standout tracks, however, California: Deluxe Edition is kind of forgettable, and a sure sign of the current problems with Blink-182’s approach – an unwillingness to deviate from their eternal sound, and overly crisp production that needs a strong holistic approach to bring back to full force.By Jowan Mead