The bud that grows, once juvenile in its infancy, blooms into petals of nature’s flowery discontent. And once again, discontent’s ire has fueled the desire for growth and torturous change. The one-time jewels of latrine culled pop punk, Blink 182 have finally gotten to their heads that yes, 30-year-old men singing about being stuck in trees with pants dropped ankle high while purporting questions of age, is just as silly as the color-by-numbers music in which such verse was served upon.
Indeed, 1997’s Dude Ranch was truly a fine moment. The apex point in which pop punk’s most capable manifestation met the lucid charm of potty humor and the stricken heart of teenage romance. With the anthemic push of radio hits “Dammit” and “Josie” and the pinpoint emotional accuracy of gems like “Waggy” and “Apple Shampoo”, Dude Ranch was undoubtedly the soundtrack to a many growing soul, and will remain a modern pop punk triumph. However, as they say, lightning rarely strikes twice and as this San Diego trio fought to contain the energy, they could do no better than the pitter patter slump of meager after-showers and dreary weather.
The multi-platinum selling Enema of the State, while the height of the band’s commercial success, suffered greatly from mediocrity trying in all its earnest to show signs of energetic life while pushing itself up the charts. It thrust Blink’s Teen Beat allure into stratospheres seen in punk’s new acceptance only once back in 1994. And like those previous bands who struggled to shed their image of cover friendly models, Blink’s supposed return to “darker, heavier roots” was an embarrassing presentation that juggled more adult topics while trying to tell the kids, “We’re still cool.” Rightfully so, the painfully titled Take Off Your Pants and Jacket exhibits a band who schizophrenically flailed from painting a picture of America’s troubled parenting situation one moment and then the next, on to the conundrums of the first date. It was the distinct low point for a band who once sang so expressively, “Watching your house fade away in my rear view mirror as I drive away / wishing that I could take back all those words that meant nothing that I didn’t say,” the woe of not understanding love’s embryonic stab.
So with their new eponymous (or untitled, whatever) album, Blink 182 have taken their misdirection to a whole new level. With Tom Delonge manning most of the song writing duties (seemingly still afflicted with a bad case of “sideprojectism”), the majority of the tracks, like Boxcar Racer’s album, confusingly juxtapose artistic rock tints with shades of the up-tempo mannerisms found on Cheshire Cat and the aforementioned Dude Ranch. “Obvious” moonlights as heavy rock mangling before launching into very familiar territory while “Violence” boasts what could very well be (discounting that Macho Man CD) this year’s most inept 01:17 period of a song – stagnant synthesizer beats layered with clicking and fidgeting followed by its gung-ho dive into percussion heavy punk riffs before stalling into static … and sure enough, that ridiculously gauche finger-snapping-like clicking again.
Perhaps if there has been one consistent aspect of the group since Enema of the State, it would have to be the animatedly charged drum work of Travis Barker. The much textured, sonically charged dynamic that settles into the backbone comes into full fruition – Barker is given his cleanest palette yet; and his work is one that shines conspicuously. Unfortunately, it does lead to the album’s biggest downfall. Barker’s ability to experiment and successfully traverse into more rhythm and blues oriented styles is a concept completely lost on both Delonge and Mark Hoppus. So Barker has to lead the charge so to speak, driving countless songs (“Always”, “Stockholm Syndrome”, “I Miss You”) into more acceptable fields. When Delonge and Hoppus are given center stage, the results are disastrous. Witness the drudgery that is “I’m Lost Without You”, over six minutes long and rife with mid tempo sludge of pining and cumbersome words of being alone.
The album’s most welcome moment comes in the form of guest vocalist Robert Smith of The Cure. “All Of This”, while musically simplistic, boasts that plaintive echo evoked by Smith’s voice – and the track works on many levels, easily becoming the best work Blink 182 have done since “Pathetic.”
In regards to budding growth, Blink has shed many a wilting petals. Moments on the album are crystalline in their attempt to don new, more credible skin. However, it would seem, for the most part, their efforts at reconfiguration are far too little, far too late, leaving Blink 182to writhe in spectacular unimportance.
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.