With California leaking over the weekend, we now have our first Blink-182 album without Tom DeLonge, who left the band in early 2015 and was replaced by Matt Skiba. While DeLonge is a very talented songwriter and was an integral part of Blink-182’s success, this article is about why Blink-182 are better off without DeLonge in 2016, and why Tom himself is better off without Blink-182.
1. California sounds more cohesive than Neighborhoods
While Neighborhoods had some very underrated songs that showed off Blink-182’s more mature side, including “Up All Night,” “After Midnight,” “Ghosts on the Dance Floor,” and “MH 4.18.2011,” it sounds like an album that could have easily been right up there with Blink-182’s strongest work if they had worked together more on honing the songs. This was a challenge, as DeLonge recorded his parts separately from Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus, and the disconnect was obvious with the DeLonge and Hoppus songs sounding like they came off of different records at times.
California is a much tighter album because it sounds like a band in a studio focused on writing good songs. Most of the album’s tracks came together in a month, they didn’t overthink it, and the result is a cohesive record full of nonstop hooks.
2. Tom isn’t really missed on California
While it’s easy to imagine Tom singing the choruses to “Bored to Death” and “Home Is Such A Lonely Place,” I didn’t find myself missing him while listening to California. This is immediately established on album opener “Cynical,” where Matt Skiba delivers one of Blink-182’s most memorable refrains: ‘What’s the point of saying sorry now/not sorry you’re not sorry.’
Mark Hoppus also shines on California after taking a backseat on Neighborhoods and Dogs Eating Dogs, turning in his most inspired performances in a long time on songs like “Bored to Death,” “She’s Out Of Her Mind,” and “Left Alone.” Hoppus knows how to keep things simple and not over-complicate songs. It’s pop punk, not everything needs to be a 7 minute epic with an instrumental interlude.
3. Matt Skiba is the perfect replacement
To compare Blink-182’s situation to Stone Temple Pilots, STP’s 2013 hiring of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington ultimately failed because Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots’ styles were completely different, despite Bennington’s STP fandom. They were bands from completely different eras with little in common musically and songwriting wise. The fanbases had little to no cross section because of this, and the little music they released (the 5-song EP High Rise) didn’t have the power to legitimize the lineup. Bennington’s Linkin Park fans for the most part didn’t care, and many STP fans saw Bennington as a poser, despite his very respectable live performances.
Matt Skiba’s band Alkaline Trio is actually a contemporary of Blink-182, they both come from the same genre so the fanbase has been more accepting. While it’s too early to tell if Blink-182 with Skiba could be pop punk’s equivalent to Van Hagar, the partnership is off to a great start. Skiba’s guitar playing, vocals, melodies, and lyrics fit onto California seamlessly.
4. Tom wasn’t as into live performances
Tom’s lack of passion for Blink-182 became evident as the reunion reached its later years. He even wore an Angels and Airwaves shirt at just about every show on one tour. His guitar playing and vocals at times were also lackluster, his heart just didn’t seem into it every night. Since Matt Skiba joined in 2015, Blink-182 have been re-energized as a live act.
5. Tom didn’t want to record
While Blink-182 did followup 2011’s Neighborhoods with the Dogs Eating Dogs EP the following year, DeLonge continually kept pushing back the writing and recording of the band’s next studio album for 2 years. According to Hoppus and Barker, he demanded a record label contract, but balked at the terms when it seemed like an agreement was set in stone. He then bailed on entering the studio in January 2015, telling his bandmates that he had no plans to do anything with Blink-182 in 2015.
6. Blink-182 could have become a nostalgia act
To followup the previous point, Tom’s lack of motivation to record had Blink-182 on the verge of becoming a nostalgia act. They had only released one studio album (and an EP) in the 5 and a half years they had been back together, and in their last 2 years of touring they had done an untitled album 10th anniversary tour, and a series of 2014 shows that weren’t backing any particular record.
7. California has classic Blink-182 songs
While California is a very polished and poppy record, it accomplishes what it set out to do. It’s an album full of made for radio songs, and they’re as catchy as anything in Blink-182’s discography. “Cynical” is on par with previous album openers, “Bored to Death” would fit right in on a Blink-182 greatest hits album, “Los Angeles” is a ready for ESPN highlight packages pop anthem, “Sober” and “She’s Out Of Her Mind” are tight pop punk songs, while “Left Alone” combines Blink-182’s best melodic and heavy elements. The lyrics aren’t anything too deep, but the simplicity is the key to this record’s success. It’s a pop punk record by dudes in their 40’s in 2016, this isn’t Dark Side of the Moon.
8. Tom is focused on his UFO research with the CIA
Tom is more passionate about researching UFO’s and aliens, and focusing on projects like Angels and Airwaves, To The Stars, and Sekret Machines.
DeLonge talked about his departure from Blink-182 in a recent interview with Mic, “Well it’s not so much about Blink. It’s about what I’m doing with my life now. When you’re an individual like me, dealing with something that’s a national security issue, and you’re being gifted with the opportunity to communicate something you’ve been passionate about your whole life — something that has the opportunity to change the world over time — being a small part of that is enormously important for my life path. But I can’t do everything. I can’t tour nine months out of the year with enough time to do the enormity of what I’m setting out to do.”
He also wrote on Instagram, “Am I currently working with people in the Government on something important? YES. Including the DOD, Intelligence and Executive Branch? Absolutely.”
He later added, “Sometimes, I would be up late at night, sending messages back-and-forth to people within the CIA and DOD, discussing the best way to position certain information within the Sekret Machines Novel, finding a better way to lay the foundation to what will be said over the course of the project. I was on the computer at midnight, talking with an Advisor about why the secrecy was so important… The answer gave great clarity to why our government builds space craft out in the desert, and far underground away from prying eyes… As many questions that there are, this will all make sense very soon.”
9. It’s better than a breakup
If Blink-182 had broken up like they did in 2005 the first time Tom DeLonge quit, the songs would lie dormant. The argument can be made that the band could have used a different name with Matt Skiba, but it doesn’t make sense with the way DeLonge departed, and the fact that they are still performing sets full of old Blink-182 songs.
10. Everyone involved will release more music
Tom will release more music with Angels and Airwaves, and Mark and Travis will release more music with Blink-182. Mark spent years waiting at Tom’s beck and call to write Blink-182 music, and fans will now ultimately see more music from everyone involved in Blink-182. If a reunion ever happens, it will hopefully be because Tom is excited and passionate about wanting to record and tour with Blink-182.