For years, Blink-182 have been evolving away from the pop-punk soil that their roots were planted in. 2016’s California would be a significant indicator of this, with songs that branched out even further into the pop world, albeit containing more originality. That album’s follow-up Nine is similarly crafted, basking in many of the same waters that made-up its predecessor. But I will admit that the melodies do throwback a bit more to the 2003 self-titled album, which made for a different product overall.
This approach is quite apparent right away, from the moodier cuts that make up the first couple of tracks. The deeper you go, the more you will find songs that would appeal more to the pop music hunters. “Blame It On My Youth” shows that off vocally, as well as with the way the percussion is arranged. “Heaven” bears a strong resemblance to “Bored To Death” off of the previous album, and one of the issues here is that a lot of the songs come from way too similar of a basis. Mostly, the watered-down riffing is to blame for that. There’s also some poorly hidden auto-tune, and the lyrical content at times still feels like a teenager wrote it.
Solid gems do lie within, however. The super-short ditty “Generational Divide” is the only sign that Blink-182 ever followed the punk rock bands, having a Bad Religion type of feel to it. I do enjoy some of the pop numbers as well; after all, that’s what made the self-titled disc so much fun. “Run Away” is serviceable and smooth, while “Happy Days” is packed with strong rhythms backed by Travis Barker’s signature drum tactics. Mark Hoppus delivers a lot of memorable choruses, with Matt Skiba acting as his right-hand man, which can be heard in “Pin The Grenade.” And lastly, you’ll get your corny, self-aware digs such as “On Some Emo Shit.” I can’t say that that’s a very enjoyable tune, though, as it feels overly robotic.
Despite all of this, there’s a weak feeling that takes over just a bit too much of the newest Blink effort. The last album did a solid job of proving that they could still go hard without Tom Delonge, but what made it unique fell right through the cracks on Nine. Even the tunes that do stand out rely entirely too much on past glory. It’s also quite unfocused and doesn’t seem to know what kind of audience it wants to draw in. I’ll chalk that up to the lyrics sounding like a teen wrote them.
The short response is that classic Blink-182 fans may have a harder time enjoying Nine. There are standouts that very much feel like a throwback to 2003, and some hooks that mostly rely on catchiness. Any unbiased fan could probably dig some parts of this here or there. Unfortunately, there’s also a large amount of mundane and done-to-death nonsense to get through, some with problems just a bit too sharp to overlook. Also, for those that wonder why their eighth album is titled Nine, they’re counting the first demo Buddha in the run.
Nine was released on September 20th, 2019 through Columbia records.