Despite garnering a lot of attention and sales with their new album, NINE (2019), Blink-182 haven’t had the best track-record with their past few releases. Mixed critical reception has followed both NINE and California (2016), but as far as I’m concerned, they’re probably the worst and most stale studio albums yet; unsurprisingly. While the departure of Tom Delonge didn’t necessarily change their identity or sound very much, I think Matt Skiba didn’t provide anything when he came on board. The only real difference is perhaps a stronger emo side, but that doesn’t tend to look good when you’re in your mid 40’s. All of that being said, they still remain a popular band, easily peaking in the top 10 charts every time, and the music video looked interesting, so I decided to give their newest single a chance.
Read my review of their latest album, NINE, here.
It may surprise you to hear that the song actually starts off with a big positive – for the first 6 seconds… The introduction starts with a really heavy, harsh, fast, and distorted bass riff, accompanied by both sleigh and church bells, which I was really digging at first. I immediately expected some sort of loud, intense, and maybe poorly-produced punk song, but no… I don’t know why I would give myself expectations of 2019 Blink. After those initial 6 seconds, everything is amped up, guitar is added, noise-ringing drums are as well, and it could honestly pass for static at that point. The overlayering of the production goes ham, meaning you can’t distinguish each instrument, and the whole Christmas theme is lost.
After that fiasco, everything cuts out, and we’re left with Travis’ drums and Mark’s voice, and it honestly sounds like something out of 2001 for Blink. The main problem with that is, they’ve recycled it and so has everyone else, so what may have sounded okay 18 years ago is no longer very fun or interesting. The other issue is once again, Mark’s voice is overproduced! This was a huge point in my review of their latest album, where whenever Mark or Matt sing, they sound alien, or plastic. Neither of them have great voices – they sing in emo/punk bands – but their attempt to correct that leaves them with silky smooth garbage that doesn’t sound good at all. And where you may have had some emotion seep through back in 2001, it doesn’t here, and it begins to sound lifeless.
Watch the music video to “Not Another Christmas Song” here.
Speaking of lifeless, the lyrics are going to be the next topic of discussion, and oh boy, do I love them! I think Mark and Matt, or whoever is writing a lot of Blink’s new material, can’t seem to get out of their 18-25-year-old head-space, and as a result, their portrayals of it keep getting more and more generic. Choruses like “Another year not in a coffin/Growing up, or whatever you call it/Sometimes you get what you got/But it’s not what you wanted at all,” are laughable. And this one particular makes me almost respect how shallow and simple it is, but not quite, because I don’t think it’s on purpose. I could point out other golden lyrics, but there are so few that I would be selecting the whole song at that point, and I don’t want to be too harsh.
The final point I’m going to make is about the most enjoyable part of the song, and that’s the drum break around 2 minutes in. In it, we’re given Travis’ drum solo, and the initial bass riff that carried throughout the song up until this point. And even then, I’m not the biggest fan. I will always stand beside Travis Barker’s drumming skills, like anyone else probably would, but in this, he’s not doing anything different or skillful, so there’s nothing to really enjoy. It mainly serves as a bit of a tempo change, before going back to the chorus once again.
Coming into another Blink-182 song meant expectations were low, but I let them get raised by the initial instrumentation of the song, and I think that’s why it feels so bad. It could’ve easily found its way onto NINE, as it shows pretty much all of the same traits of those tracks, but even then it wouldn’t be one of the better ones on that album. If you were to remove the overlayering of the instrumentation and the overproduction of the vocals, you’d be left with a decent-sounding, well-produced pop-punk song that lacked good songwriting – and that wouldn’t be horrible. Sadly, they ruin even the passable parts in an attempt to sound like their modern, overly-loud peers. The best parts of this song were the enjoyable claymation, and hearing Matt Skiba shout “I miss f***ing in the rain,” from the background. I just hope I’m not stuck with this in my head until Christmas.