It has been two-and-a-half years since Blink-182 announced its re-formation, not long after drummer Travis Barker's brush with death in a plane crash. Since then, the band has toured the world, headlined huge European festivals, and embarked on solo albums (and, in the case of Barker, toured with Lil Wayne). Details of their heavily delayed sixth studio album have remained scarce, though. Although far from being a Chinese Democracy-esque situation, rumors that Geffen gave the band a summer deadline to turn in the album and Tom DeLonge's stating the obvious -- "recording is never really finished; you slide or limp into home base" -- have created a sense of anticipation for the new material that can't possibly be matched with "Up All Night," the first new song to emerge -- or can it?
A lot has undoubtedly happened since Barker, Mark Hoppus, and DeLonge last recorded together. When
Blink initially broke in 1999, Limp Bizkit was the biggest band in
the world, and many of the 15 million people who bought Enema of the
State will simply not care about this kind of music anymore. Or perhaps they
view the band nostalgically rather than artistically worthwhile. For many, Blink-182 is simply an
enduring guilty pleasure or a reminder of a simpler time -- probably at
high school or college, when people bought CDs and comedy acoustic songs
about fucking a dog could be conflated with tightly constructed and
vitalized punk-pop. And let's not forget that DeLonge has spent the past
five years fronting his vaguely evangelical stadium-rock band Angels
and Airwaves -- which has yielded more ridicule than changed lives.
"Up All Night" opens with an ominously phased guitar intro and quickly
settles into a downtuned muscular guitar riff that recalls DeLonge and
Barker's "serious" side project, Boxcar Racer. The verse feels much more
vintage Blink, as the exchanged back-and-forth vocals gradually build to
a rousing chorus with a hint of the surging Auto-Tune that
characterized Angels and Airwaves slightly embarrassing '80s rock.
Fortunately, it's all kept under control, and despite the composite of
dynamic shifts that seem to be going on (for a Blink-182 song), it all
seems to nicely fit together with a sense of tight production and
an arrangement that I'm sure they'll claim justifies two years of studio
During the chorus, it's apparent that this isn't a track about what it's
like to be at a Dazed and Confused party that goes on all night -- as one would
hope, and what they might have sung about ten years ago -- but
something altogether darker, mature, and universal: "Demons, they keep me
up all night/They keep me up all night." The whole thing feels like a
retrospective reminder that at a certain point, probably around 2002,
Blink became self-consciously serious about everything -- claiming to be
influenced by Fugazi and Refused, drafting in Robert Smith to sing some
verses, listing the different guitars/tunings they used to record, and
not making videos where they'd run about naked.
This is an impulse that the guys are clearly still embracing -- understandably
so, considering the circumstances of their reconciliation. As if to
reinforce this, just as the track seems to logically finish before the
three-minute mark, the band breaks into a reprise of the opening and jams
out the big heavy riff for another 30 seconds. It doesn't really add
anything to the song's construction and feels like a rehearsal-room
moment or maybe a live improv playing to the crowd. Maybe someone told
them that their big comeback song had to be longer than three minutes and
they went back to the studio to jam it out. It still sounds lean, focused,
and determined and most important gives the very real sense that
they're enjoying playing with one another again.
Stream: Blink-182's "Up All Night"