Blink-182 have always been living on borrowed time. “I wish that Earth clock/Could often just be stopped,” Tom DeLonge sang on the 1993 demo Flyswatter. To trace the band’s obsession with aging through their discography—“Lemmings,” “What’s My Age Again?,” “Good Old Days,” “Blame It on My Youth”—is to trace the journey from arrested development to desperate self-delusion. Their Peter Pan syndrome is an act of self-preservation: The absurdity and vanity of youth are the generative forces of pop-punk, a genre built on dick jokes and being mad at your parents. For a band like Blink-182, aging—or acknowledging it—would be tantamount to admitting defeat. And so, night after night, fans participate in a collective fantasy that Mark Hopppus is still 29 years old and thinks it’s funny to sing about elderly incontinence (admittedly, it slaps live). Disbelief became harder to suspend in 2021 when Hoppus was treated for stage 4 lymphoma. With the threat of oblivion breathing down their necks, Hoppus, DeLonge, and drummer Travis Barker—who had not recorded together since 2012’s surprisingly affecting Dogs Eating Dogs EP—returned to the studio to cement their legacy. The resulting album, ONE MORE TIME…, clamors with the frustrated energy of a band too engrossed in its own mythology to innovate on the form it helped create.
Blink-182’s inward collapse had already begun on 2019’s NINE, their last record with Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba, where they quoted their own hits on songs like “Blame It on My Youth.” On ONE MORE TIME…, they don’t even try to couch nostalgia with in-jokes. Take album opener “Anthem Part 3,” the capstone to the trilogy of 2001’s “Anthem Part Two” and 1999’s “Anthem.” It starts with a guitar and drum pattern nearly identical to “Part Two,” establishing an uncanny valley of sentimentality that lingers throughout the album. It’s a lazy shorthand for the time lost between releases, a suggestion that if you close your eyes, you too can be transported back to the Mark, Tom, and Travis of 2001. “Work sucks/I know” was transcendent in its minimalism. Here, they feel the need to spell things out explicitly: “When your job has gone to deep shit/If you’ve fallen off of that list/When you’re clenchin’ both of your fists.” Blink-182 have a lot more to say, even if they’re not saying anything.
Since their last full album as a trio, 2011’s Neighborhoods, the most perceptible shift in the Blink-182 dynamic has been the emergence of Barker as a pop-punk svengali, paving the rap-to-rock pipeline for artists like Lil Huddy and Machine Gun Kelly. His overstuffed, cheap-thrills approach to production—starting with drum fills that occupy every inch of breathable air—has seeped into Blink-182’s empty hooks. “Dance With Me” (after Tom’s intro, which made me miss the days of old Blink) channels Machine Gun Kelly’s unrelenting onslaught of guitars and nasal screeching. Whereas previous albums were primarily written by the band members, ONE MORE TIME… adds a bevy of songwriters, including Kelly collaborator Nick Long and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. It feels disjointed and bloated, not to mention heavily indebted to the band members’ existing discography. “Terrified,” originally written for Barker and DeLonge’s side project Box Car Racer, is almost identical to the sound of that band’s biggest hit, “I Feel So.” “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” strips the haunting guitar riff from “Adam’s Song” for parts, just different enough that you might miss it at first. When they run out of their own material, they turn to their inspirations: The cloying “Fell in Love” opens with a synth line based on an interpolation of the Cure’s “Close to Me,” which could have felt inspired if it didn’t force such unflattering comparisons to the old Blink song actually featuring Robert Smith, 2003’s sparse and subtle “All of This.”
The Blink lore-as-lyric bottoms out with “One More Time,” a maudlin ballad that addresses head-on Hoppus’ battle with cancer and Barker’s near-fatal plane crash in 2008, crises that eventually led the trio to reconnect. “It shouldn’t take a sickness/Or airplanes falling out the sky,” Hoppus sings. The story is one of enduring friendship, reduced to vacuous balladry that reads like a high school poetry assignment. But it’s the third verse that determines how you’ll likely feel about Blink’s latest dispatch: If the thought of Mark and Tom harmonizing “I miss you” in obvious homage to their massive 2004 single seems charming, then by all means, let them serenade you back to the George W. Bush era. Such a bald reference softens the blow of having to learn new lyrics and chords, both for fans and the band. But if it sounds self-congratulatory, like a band doing cheap covers of its own songs, the rest of the album is unlikely to convince you otherwise. “Edging,” the Dropkick Murphys-esque single named for the sexual practice of which Barker is an avowed fan, rips a lyric practically wholesale from DeLonge’s other band Angels and Airwaves. To fans who’ve followed Blink-182’s side projects over the years, the similarities are almost offensive, as if those albums were merely practice for their eventual return.
Blink-182 have never shied away from putting songs about prank calls next to serious discussions of depression and suicide, the immaturity of the former serving as a hedonistic outlet for the latter. On “Turpentine,” they attempt both at once and fall flat: It’s hard to take verses about existential despair seriously after hearing DeLonge sing, “Slide your mom on top of me.” Across the album, the deep end is shallower and the shallow songs feel strangely like they are actually beneath Blink-182. They take their singular obsession with youth to illogical conclusions until the songs become immortality word salad. “When We Were Young,” released to coincide with the band’s headlining appearance at the Las Vegas emo festival of the same name, barely tries to make sense: “When we were young/Are you still riding free like every other?” On album closer “Childhood,” the nostalgia snake catches its tail: “Remember when we were young/And we’d laugh at everything?” DeLonge and Hoppus ask in unison, unable to finish the album without referencing an earlier song in its tracklist. By the end of 17 tracks, they sound exhausted, as if worn down by their own charades.
Occasionally, Blink-182 still manage to sound like they’re enjoying themselves: “Blink Wave,” their take on new wave, hums to life with a glimmering synth and blessedly minimal drumming from Barker. It could fit well next to songs from both Hoppus’ project +44 and DeLonge’s Angels and Airwaves, and their radically different registers both work surprisingly well over the energetic bassline. “’Cause the same old fights, they just won’t do,” DeLonge sings in the chorus, his strange So-Cal glissando fighting for the high notes. It’s a shame that it seems that the same old melodies and lyrics will do just fine. Blink-182 want to find eternal life in a state of permanent regression. It’s kind of funny until it’s not.
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