Finding the Essence of California

We need to talk about Blink-182. And we’ll talk about Blink-182.

But first we need to talk about California.

2000px-Flag_of_California.svg

California the state is a hugely important and influential part of the United States of America. It is the largest state in the union in terms of population and the third largest in terms of area. Its GDP (about the size of Italy’s) is the largest of any state. California has given us Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the Summer of Love and Skate Punk, Showtime and the Splash Brothers. It taught us how to ghostride the whip and how to pimp a butterfly. Its impossible to overstate how Californian-ized American culture is.

Yet, California is so bloated. There’s too much. Too many startups trying to be the Uber of whatever. Too many superhero movies. For every Warriors win there’s a Kings loss. For every Tyler, The Creator there’s a Hopsin. It gets overwhelming. Sometimes it gets hard to remember what makes California great.

This, of course, brings us to Blink-182.

Blink-182 was one of the bands that took pop punk out of the garage and onto Top 40 radio. The band’s four album run from Dude Ranch in 1997 to the 2003 self-titled release was incredible. Each album reflected the state of the genre at the time of release while shaping its future. Dude Ranch was gritty and fast, catchy and childish. Enema of the State was polished, more melodic and somehow even more childish. Take Off Your Pants And Jacket was self-aware, made for the radio and was still childish. The self-titled was slower, experimental and genre-shifting.

Then things fell apart. In the hiatus years following the release of the self-titled album, the members of Blink-182 took time to explore their own artistic frontiers. The result was countless mediocre sideprojects. The influence of this experimentation was prominent when the band reformed in 2008.

Now its 2016 and Blink-182 is trying to get back to basics (albeit without Tom DeLonge, who has escaped orbit and been replaced with Matt Skiba). On July 1 the band released California, its seventh studio album. The album is 16 tracks of nostalgia; full of call backs to the band’s most popular albums in an unabashed effort to pander to fans. And it worked! California is number one on the Billboard charts right now, kicking Drake’s VIEWS to the curb.

But California is too much. Like the state it’s named after, this album is bloated. Sure it starts off strong, but four songs in you come to “Los Angeles”, which may be the best song Three Days Grace never wrote, and you realize Blink-182 is trying too hard. Half the songs on the album sound forced or just plain bad. And some songs are really good! This album would be better as an EP; so what would that EP look like?

Illustration by Ronnie Harper.
Illustration by Ronnie Harper.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Fremont Republic, a six track EP that cuts the fat from California and leaves the essentials. The opening pairing of “Cynical” and “Bored To Death” works really well on the album, so it gets to stay for the EP. Then we move to “The Only Thing That Matters” and “No Future” before closing with “Rabbit Hole” and “San Diego”.

That’s it. Six songs that take the essence of California and leave the excess on the cutting room floor.

These six songs hark back to the bands golden years: “The Only Thing That Matters” for the Dude Ranch era, “Cynical” and “Rabbit Hole” for Enema of the State, “Bored To Death” for  Take Off Your Pants And Jacket and “No Future” and “San Diego” for the self-titled.

This is what I wanted and need California to be. As it stands, there is no way I can consider the full 16-track beast to be one of the year’s best releases. There are just too many bad songs on it. But, like the state of California, there’s still a lot to love underneath the excess.

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