Blink 182 (yes, that band from middle school) is back in a big way, after releasing their new single “Bored to Death” on April 27th. The angsty tune is a throwback to classic Blink at the height of their success, yet noticeably mature and different enough to feel unique and new. The release of the single, coupled with the announcement of the forthcoming album California, came as a bit of a shock given the departure of founding member Tom DeLonge one year ago. The exact cause of this seemingly-final split (and resulting new roster & impending album) isn’t just one specific incident, but the culmination of years of miscommunication and mistrust, tracing all the way back to the pinnacle of the band’s popularity in 2001.
Riding the coattails of 1999’s Enema of the State, Blink 182’s fourth studio album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, debuted at No. 1 in the US, Canada, and Germany. The album catapulted the band to international stardom, despite many bumps throughout the recording process. Sessions were often heated and contentious, with Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker wanting to keep the more upbeat Pop-Punk sound that had won over the critics with Enema, while DeLonge felt that the band should mature and he strove for a more heavy/dirty guitar-driven sound. In 2002 Tom formed Boxcar Racer as an outlet for his artistic frustration stemming from TOYPAJ, and asked Barker to record the drum tracks to save money. This move alienated Hoppus, who felt betrayed by his long-time bandmates. Barker also took this time to team up with Tim Armstrong from Rancid to form the Transplants, whose sound was a far cry from anything Blink or Boxcar were doing.
After taking 2002 for their side projects, the trio returned to the studio in 2003 to record their untitled fifth studio album. This time around, it seems like Tom got his way a bit more in the studio with a much different sound (clearly influenced by their side projects and maturing lifestyles): sweeping guitar riffs and looping drum tracks with live sets played over the top. The band even swapped out their electric instruments for a standup bass, cello, acoustic guitar, and soft drum brushes on the hit “I Miss You” – all of which was met with critical acclaim, even if fans were torn on the new direction. After a grueling world-wide tour to promote the album, tensions seemed to be higher than ever, fueled by the hard schedule, new sound and Tom wanting to spend more time at home with his family. Hoppus would even attribute the Boxcar Racer “betrayal” as a big cause for the rift and trust issues that continued to grow and erode the band’s chemistry.
The lack of communication, endless arguments and ever-increasingly-heated exchanges about the band’s future (sound, recording, touring, etc.) came to a head in February 2005, when record label Geffen released a statement on the band’s behalf announcing DeLonge’s exit. In the fall of 2005, DeLonge announced the formation of his new projected, Angels & Airwaves, promising “The greatest Rock ‘n Roll revolution for this generation.” Angels & Airwaves released two albums in 2006 and 2007 despite touring extensively. While it wasn’t known at the time, DeLonge later revealed he was heavily addicted to painkillers. Hoppus and Barker used their newfound freedom to form +44 and started recording shortly after the breakup. They released their debut Album in 2006 to lukewarm reviews. Besides +44, Hoppus also worked as a producer, while Travis continued to play with the Transplants and touring with his friend DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) as TRV$DJAM.
Tragedy struck the band hard in the fall of 2008: Barker and Goldstein (who would later die of an accidental drug overdose in August of 2009) were in a horrific plane crash on September 19 that killed four people, leaving the two as the only survivors. Barker suffered severe second and third degree burns all over his body, had 16 surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. DeLonge was hit hard by the news of his former bandmate’s accident and reached out immediately, despite not speaking to Barker and Hoppus since the breakup in ‘05. The trio eventually met in the hospital while Barker recovered, laying the foundation for their reunion, which led to another meeting in October at Hoppus and Barker’s Los Angeles studio.
The band made their first public appearance together in four years at the 2009 Grammy awards, then embarked on reunion tours in North America and Europe from July 2009 until September 2010. The recording process for the band’s promised sixth studio album was stalled often by the extensive touring, side projects, an endless carousel of managers, and more. Additional European tour dates for 2011 were canceled so the band could get back to the studio and finish Neighborhoods. The trio decided to produce the album themselves after the death of longtime producer and friend Jerry Finn. Post-breakup distrust and communication issues had caused each member to hire their own lawyer, with all correspondence going through them instead of talking directly, as well as DeLonge recording separately in San Diego while Barker and Hoppus remained at their joint LA studio. Additionally, Travis was recording a solo project at the same time, DeLonge was still touring and working with Angels & Airwaves, and Hoppus was flying to New York City each week to record his show, Hoppus on Music. Despite all the setbacks, the album was finally released in September 2011, and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. They immediately returned to touring, headlining the Honda Civic Tour from August-October 2001, finishing the previously-canceled European dates in 2012, and touring all the way through mid-2014 while also releasing the EP Dogs eating Dogs in December 2012, which received lackluster reviews.
The group was set to record their seventh studio album in January 2015, to be released later that year, which was actually scheduled for a 2013 release. Shortly after, DeLonge’s manager abruptly informed Hoppus and Barker that Tom intended to spend more time on “non-musical activities” and was indefinitely leaving the band, effective immediately. This was almost identical to DeLonge’s original exit in 2005, when he cited creative differences and wanting more time with his family. Following DeLonge’s second departure from the band, Hoppus told Rolling Stone “It’s humiliating to be in a band where you’re apologizing for one person all the time.” Both Barker and Hoppus gave the impression they were fed up with DeLonge’s shenanigans for good, while Tom continues to insist he was kicked out and the breakup potentially isn’t permanent. Instead of canceling three important upcoming previously-scheduled shows, the band enlisted the help from their longtime friend, singer/guitarist Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio. Skiba became a permanent member in late-2015, playing more shows and entering the studio with Barker and Hoppus. All 16 tracks originally written with or by DeLonge were scrapped in favor of new material.
Skiba brings a different sound and feel to the band (as heard in the video below) and his influence can be felt heavily in “Bored to Death,” with simpler guitar riffs, angsty lyrics with a call/shout-and-response chorus, and classic harmonies. While he only provides backing vocals here, it will be interesting to hear Skiba’s lead vocal tracks on California when it drops July 1st. Watch for their headlining tour this summer with supporting acts A Day to Remember, All-American Rejects and All Time Low.