Neighborhoods (Blink-182 album)
|Studio album by Blink-182|
|Released||September 27, 2011|
|Recorded||April–July 2009, June 2010–July 2011, at Opra Music Studios, Henson Studios
(Los Angeles, California)
(San Diego, California)
|Genre||Pop punk, alternative rock|
|Producer||Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker|
|Singles from Neighborhoods|
Neighborhoods is the sixth studio album by the American rock band Blink-182, released September 27, 2011 through DGC Records and Interscope Records. Their first album of new material in eight years, its recording followed the band's 2009 reunion after a four-year hiatus. Due to conflicts within the trio, the band entered an "indefinite hiatus" in 2005 and the members explored various side-projects. After two separate tragedies regarding the band and their entourage, the members of the band decided to reunite in late 2008, with plans for a new album and tour. It is the first Blink-182 album produced by the band members without the help of an outside record producer.
The band's studio autonomy, tours, managers and personal projects stalled the recording process, which lasted from shortly after the band's February 2009 reunion to July 2011. The band developed Neighborhoods in separate studios and regrouped at various periods to record. The band's numerous delays in the recording process resulted in the band canceling a European tour and the label setting a deadline for the album to be due. The trio wrote lyrics regarding such subjects as isolation, confusion and death. The band infused inspiration from each member's various musical tastes to form a unique sound that recalled their separate upbringings, leading the trio to compare the album to separate neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods was released to mixed reviews from critics: some felt it was a natural evolution from the band's previous releases, while others found it stale and disjointed. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and "Up All Night" and "After Midnight" were released as singles, with both attracting modest success on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. Despite this, Neighborhoods did not connect on the same scale as earlier releases and the band would depart from Interscope the following fall. The group would later look back on their comeback album with divided feelings; DeLonge would admit that the recording methods perhaps created less unity within the group.
Blink-182 announced on February 22, 2005 that they would be going on an "indefinite hiatus". The decision, in reality a break-up of the group, stemmed from internal band tension, which had arisen in late 2004 during the band's European tour. Guitarist Tom DeLonge expressed his desire to take a half-year respite from touring in order to spent more time with family. Bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker were dismayed by his decision, which they felt was an overly long break. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, DeLonge agreed to perform at Music for Relief's Concert for South Asia, a benefit show to aid victims. Further arguments ensued during rehearsals, rooted in the band member's increasing paranoia and bitterness toward one another. DeLonge felt his priorities were "mad different," and the breakdown in communication led to heated exchanges, resulting in his exit from the group. During the hiatus, DeLonge formed rock band Angels & Airwaves while Barker and Hoppus continued playing together in +44. Two events in late 2008 would lead to the band's eventual reformation: the death of longtime producer Jerry Finn (who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage) and a fatal plane crash involving Barker and collaborator DJ AM.
Immediately the two incidents raised rumors of a possible Blink-182 reunion. Hoppus was alerted about Barker's accident by a phone call in the middle of the night and jumped on the next flight to the burn center. DeLonge found out via the TV news at an airport while waiting to board a flight. He landed and mailed a letter and two photographs to Barker: a photo of Blink aboard a submarine in the Middle East and another of himself and his two kids. "One was 'Do you remember who we were?' and the other was 'This is who I am now,' " DeLonge says. "It was a good moment to put the shit aside." DeLonge also commented that, no matter what happened between himself and Barker in the past, "none of it matters when it comes down to somebody getting hurt." Hoppus first spoke on the matter in a blog post in November 2008, writing that he "hadn't had it in him" to post, adding that "these past two months have been the hardest times I can remember." He also revealed that he, DeLonge, and Barker had all spoken in the aftermath. Barker quashed reunion rumors in December, but noted that they had been getting along.
Talk of a reunion commenced weeks after the trio began speaking again. After a two-hour phone conversation between DeLonge and Hoppus, an arrangement was made for the trio to meet up at Hoppus and Barker's Los Angeles studio in October 2008. DeLonge was the first to approach the subject of reuniting. The trio had, in Hoppus's words, "two gnarly heart-to-hearts," during which the three opened up. "Tom had just kind of come out to Los Angeles for the day," recalled Hoppus, "I remember he said, 'So, what do you guys think? Where are your heads at?' And I said, 'I think we should continue with what we've been doing for the past 17 years. I think we should get back on the road and back in the studio and do what we love doing.'" Eventually, the band appeared for the first time on stage together in nearly five years as presenters at the 51st Grammy Awards on February 8. The band's official website was updated with a statement: "To put it simply, We're back. We mean, really back. Picking up where we left off and then some. In the studio writing and recording a new album. Preparing to tour the world yet again. Friendships reformed. 17 years deep in our legacy."
Recording and production
|"We weren't even in the same room […] We were barely talking; we were in different studios. No one really commented on each other's parts, no one pressed anyone's buttons. Everyone was on eggshells."|
|— Tom DeLonge, reflecting on the album's production in 2012|
The band began recording demos of new material in 2009. All three members brought song ideas that they worked on for years. As the band got back together, Barker said that the trio immediately "got inspired" by practicing their old songs and listening to them again, and they decided to record demos. There were four demos done, and only one was near completion, "Up All Night". The trio wanted to release it as a single then, but quickly they realized that it was too ambitious to complete it before their reunion tour began in July. Sessions were stalled by the summer 2009 reunion tour, during which the band reconnected musically and emotionally. During the tour, Barker got the phone call that DJ AM had overdosed and died in New York, which heavily affected him. In addition to the tragedy regarding DJ AM, DeLonge was diagnosed with skin cancer the following year, but it eventually was cleared. The band did a large amount of writing before leaving on tour, but upon completion of the tour, they took time off to "take a couple of months and chill and do other stuff," with intentions to regroup in 2010. In June and July 2010, the band spent time at their rehearsal spot, and their intention was to wrap up touring by September, and stay in the studio for the rest of the year until the album was finished. The album sessions will be partially documented in The Blinkumentary.
The recording and release of Neighborhoods was delayed multiple times. The recording's delay was due to the way the band chose to work — in bits and pieces, alone and together, in a pair of California studios — in addition to each member's busy schedules. The album was recorded at both DeLonge's studio in San Diego and in Los Angeles by Hoppus and Barker. Recording in separate studios was DeLonge's idea, and ideas were exchanged via e-mail. Various engineers met up in person to trade files on hard drives. Although the three musicians were rarely in the same room while recording, opting to work on their parts individually, DeLonge asserted that the method of recording was a more efficient way of working considering the schedules, not due to a lack of unity within the band. In addition, Barker was releasing a solo record, DeLonge was involved in Angels & Airwaves, and Hoppus had to fly to New York City once a week to film his television show, Hoppus on Music. The record was the band's first to be self-produced, due to the death of long-time producer Jerry Finn in 2008. Not only did Finn helm their last three studio albums, but he served as an invaluable member of the band: part adviser, part impartial observer, he helped smooth out tensions and hone their sound. "I honestly still feel like he’s in the studio with us, because for me, personally, everything that was about recording and being in a studio, I learned from Jerry," said Hoppus. Instead of a producer, each band member had their own dedicated sound engineer. DeLonge, who was against using a producer after self-producing most of his Angels & Airwaves records, described the band situation as "very democratic," noting that he learned during the recording process to "let go and be okay with not being able to control everything."
Hoppus attributed the album's delay to the band learning to work by themselves without Finn, and both DeLonge and Hoppus expressed frustration during the sessions at the band's cabal of publicists, managers and attorneys (which DeLonge described as "the absolute diarrhea of bureaucracy"). A result of the band's split was each members hiring his own attorney, and, during the sessions of Neighborhoods, the band had four managers. Hoppus moved to London with his family late in the recording process, also complicating matters. Under pressure, the band released a statement in April that effectively rescheduled all European tour dates due to the album's prolonged recording. The decision — a "hugely expensive" one — was protested by DeLonge but pushed forward by Barker, who felt the trio had made commitments to only tour with new material. The biggest argument of the recording process ensued, which resulted in Geffen Records setting a July 31 deadline for the record amid concerns about the volatility of the band, explaining there would be penalties if the album was not turned it on time. DeLonge joked that, "We'll probably actually drive it to the (Geffen) president's house at two in the morning and hand it through his bedroom window at the last possible minute." The band, as a whole, only entered the studio for "one or two weeks" following the release of the statement in the spring, with only three days dedicated to writing. Recording lasted through May and into the summer, and by the time of the July 31 deadline, the record was near completion and finally completed over August.
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"Ghost on the Dance Floor" is specifically about "hearing a song you shared with someone that's passed." The track resonated with Barker, who called DeLonge one night because the song affected him while listening to it, because of the death of DJ AM. "After Midnight" was one of four new songs birthed from a last-minute writing session after the band canceled their European tour. Barker's favorite track (and originally titled "Travis Beat") was written in separate studios but composed and recorded together. "MH 4.18.2011" was originally titled "Hold On", but DeLonge thought the new title sounded cool, likening it to a virus. "Snake Charmer", initially titled "Genesis," as a reference to the Book of Genesis, is based on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. Hoppus wrote lyrics dealing with breakdowns in communication and trust and tackled with themes of isolation and confusion, but these lyrics were not specific to any of the band's history. "Kaleidoscope" was written about the album's lengthy recording process and the transformation of the band. Hoppus struggled with writing upbeat, happy songs for the album and attributed to dark lyricism to the heavy events occurring shortly before the reunion.
Pre-release, the album was described by the band as ambitious, weird, and expansive. The music of the album was inspired by each musician's tastes: DeLonge's contributions bear hints of arena and stadium rock, Barker infuses hip hop into his drum tracks, and Hoppus felt compelled by "weird indie rock." Hoppus stated early on that a goal for the album was to try many new things, but to remain a catchy and "poppy" sensibility. The lyricism of the album was influenced by heavy events in each member's lives during the latter part of the decade, elements considered dark by Hoppus. The band made sure to produce a few throwback songs recalling their sound in the "mid-90's." While Blink-182 had already begun evolving into deeper, darker pop territory on 2003' Blink-182, the reunited band were anxious to demonstrate new growth in a new decade, with DeLonge desiring not to lose the band's original angst-filled sound, a sound described by Rolling Stone as "frustration and fast, sunny hooks." Keeping the newer music connected to the band's history was Hoppus' main goal. Barker felt the album was the logical extension of everything done on Blink-182.
MTV News called Neighborhoods the "bleakest thing Blink have ever done, haunted by specters both real — depression, addiction, loss — and imagined," noting the constant lyrical mention of death in many tracks. The album mixes the electronic flourishes of +44 and the "laser-light grandeur" of Angels & Airwaves into what MTV News called "a sound that recalls nothing so much as dark streets and black expanses, mostly of the suburban variety."
Packaging and title
The title Neighborhoods evolved out of the trio discovering that each bring a very different aesthetic to the band, each like different neighborhoods in a city. "Everybody in the world thinks of something unique unto themselves when they hear the word 'Neighborhoods'," said Hoppus. "To some it is a big city, others a small town, others suburbia, everything. The world is wide, exciting and very different. That's what Neighborhoods means to me." The album artwork for the record was revealed on August 4, 2011, featuring the band name written atop a city skyline. The Neighborhoods sleeve contains many names close to the band, including Chloe (DeLonge's pet Labrador Retriever), Ava and Jon (DeLonge's daughter Ava Elizabeth and son Jonas Rocket), Jack (Hoppus' son), Landon, Alabama and Ati (Barker's son, daughter and step-daughter, Atiana), G! (Mike Giant, designer of the cover), and lastly, a memorial to DJ AM.
Release and promotion
|"I was in London at the time looking for a house. I remember having an awful conversation [on the phone] about the tour and going to Carnaby Street afterwards. I walked into a store and this guy came up and said, 'Dude, I’ve got tickets to your shows! I’m coming to see you this summer.' We hadn’t made the final decision at this point, but I felt such an ass. I felt so duplicitous."|
|— Mark Hoppus on canceling the UK tour in order to complete the album|
Expectations for Neighborhoods were described by Alternative Press as "truly gigantic, both within the music industry and the record-buying mainstream." MTV News called Neighborhoods one of the most anticipated albums of 2010 when the album was scheduled for that year, and then again as one of the most anticipated rock albums of 2011. Kerrang! also called it one of the most anticipated releases of 2011, and it was also featured on a list of Spin's "26 Fall Albums That Matter Most". The album title and release date were officially announced in July 2011. In preparation of the deluxe edition, the band compiled ten tracks as well as three extras. The deluxe edition tracks are sequenced differently than the standard version. "Up All Night" was released as the album's lead single on July 14, and the band band began streaming another new song, "Heart's All Gone", through a dedicated website on August 4. The second single from Neighborhoods, titled "After Midnight" premiered on BBC Radio 1 on September 6, 2011. The album leaked two weeks before its release, despite being under a very high level of security. Hoppus commented to NME that he was surprised it took so long to leak and was relieved rather than annoyed that it had, reading warm comments about the album online.
Blink-182 returned to Interscope Records to distribute the album, but found the music industry landscape dramatically different since the band's last effort. "The label itself has no resources or capital to do what they used to," DeLonge said in an interview with Billboard. "They just have you locked up on a contract." Interscope, since the band's break-up, have greatly pared down its rock department, in contrast to other labels. Blink-182 broke up at a heightened popularity period for pop punk, but Neighborhoods was released in an era for the genre in which Billboard described as "lacking exciting mainstream representation," in addition to falling sales for peer bands. The band approached sponsorships, song releases and social media incorporation during the rollout of Neighborhoods. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter were present throughout each stage of the album, which Hoppus believed allowed more direct access and control over the band's music. Although Modlife, DeLonge's revenue-sharing online service, was not involved in the promotion of the record, the band's personal business projects were integrated, such as Macbeth Footwear and Famous Stars and Straps. Retailers such as Hot Topic and Interpunk.com carried different-colored vinyl editions of Neighborhoods that included MP3 download cards. The band partnered with AT&T in order to promote the album, appearing in a national spot for the HTC Status; the band also partnered with Best Buy, which sold a uniquely colored HTC Status preloaded with the band's music. Television ads through networks such as ESPN were explored the week of release. In addition, Hoppus and DeLonge appeared in a "film festival" for the fan montage video of "Up All Night", honoring various Internet fans through tongue-in-cheek categories.
The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 151,000 copies sold in its first week. Despite this, sales were not as smooth as Interscope hoped: "Despite the extended hiatus between albums, Neighborhoods failed to connect on the same scale as earlier releases." As of December 2012, it has sold 322,000 units.
|The A.V. Club||B-|
Neighborhoods was met with mostly positive feedback from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 69, based on 18 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews." A pre-release review from NME called Neighborhoods the band's best album, calling it "bravely progressive" and noting the dark lyricism and random experimentation. James Montgomery of MTV News called the "long-awaited, decidedly dark comeback album" a new transition for the band, calling Neighborhoods a "deep, dark, downright auto-biographical effort." AbsolutePunk staff writer Thomas Nassiff called Neighborhoods a "great record" while awarding a score of nine out of ten. He noted the album's "bleak and dark" lyricism, while describing the album's sound as containing elements of the trio's various side-projects, as well as a natural progression from their 2003 album. Dan Rankin of Blare Magazine gave a favorable review and awarded Neighborhoods three and a half stars out of five. He noted that the several personal circumstances of the band prior to recording helped form "grittier and generally more somber lyrical content", while "instrumentally the album represents a fairly natural continuation of the sounds heard on the last LP. Even late into their thirties, they’re still very much the patron saints of angsty youths, but damned if they don’t have some poignant things to say that will resonate with more than just emotionally-stunted males." British rock magazine Kerrang awarded Neighborhoods a "good" three out of five score in their review. Critic Mark Sutherland noted that while "the finished product is inevitably disjointed, Blink emerge as a surprisingly serious rock proposition." He went on to add that, "While it occasionally sounds like Mark, Tom, and Travis are playing three different songs at once ('Kaleidoscope', 'After Midnight'), the band are still capable of producing genuine moments of magnificence."
Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly awarded the album a "B-" grade, opining that, "the peaks on Neighborhoods — their first disc in eight years — do little more than recall past triumphs. Outside of some latent goth leanings ('This Is Home') and a gauzy detour ('Ghost on the Dance Floor'), it's mostly twitch-crunch-whine-repeat." Michael Brown of Drowned in Sound gave a mixed review, awarding the album a lukewarm five out of ten. He critiqued that, "Blink have the potential for much more than their past reputation may convey, but Neighborhoods is reminiscent of that first awkward conversation after a heated argument, as no-one's quite sure where to go next." Writing for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine remarked that Neighborhoods is "a different beast than any of the cheerfully snotty early Blink-182 albums, as the band picks up the gloomy thread left hanging on its eponymous 2003 album ... yet it's far better to hear Blink-182 grapple with adolescent angst via the perspective of middle age than vainly attempting to re-create their youth. Perhaps Blink could stand to sharpen their words but it's better that they concentrated on their music, creating a fairly ridiculous yet mildly compelling prog-punk spin on the suburbs here." Scott Heisel of Alternative Press remarked that the album is "very good at times, and damn-near perfect at others. But it's not without its faults, either", praising the first four tracks as sounding "new and fresh, with some truly exciting musical ideas worked in" and complementing DeLonge and Hoppus' dual vocals on these tracks: "The interplay between the two humanizes both the record and the band themselves, since so much of Neighborhoods was recorded in separate times in separate studios." He was critical of some of the deluxe edition's bonus tracks, however, saying that "'Love Is Dangerous' wouldn't be up to par for Angels and Airwaves' worst album, and the Hoppus-fronted 'Fighting the Gravity' is the disc's biggest dud." He attributed the album's flaws to the lack of an outside producer and the fact that only a few tracks were written and recorded as a group: "Blink-182's members are still capable of writing good songs, but without a strong outside influence (i.e., a producer) and no real desire or effort to consistently work in the same room with one another, the amount of truly transcendent, classic material is minimal. Ultimately, Neighborhoods is a slightly awkward entry in the band's catalog that shows as much potential as it does flaws." Chad Grischow of IGN called Neighborhoods a "startlingly great rock album" in which the band "hits an artistic growth spurt", summarizing it as "the most mature, rewarding, and best album of their career." Tom Goodwyn of NME remarked that it finds the band "completely at ease with its past and confident enough to acknowledge their early work, with nods on the album to moments from their whole back catalogue."
Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone gave the album three stars out of five, noting elements of sophistication, introspection, and darkness in the music and lyrics and commenting that "Some Clinton-era pants-dropping might've been a fun nostalgia move. But those days are gone; it's their early-2010s nightmare as much as anyone else's." Kyle Ryan of The A.V. Club noted that the tragedies surrounding the band's reunion heavily informed Neighborhoods, remarking that it "plays less like a joyful reunion album and more like a darker continuation of 2003's atmospheric Blink-182." He was critical of DeLonge's vocals, saying that he "sounds flat as ever, and has a fondness for clunky lyrics", concluding that "Although Blink-182 has long since left its past as a bare-bones punk band behind, overwrought rock isn't its forte, either. Neighborhoods finds a nice balance between the two, but it could still use a little less fussiness."
Touring and aftermath
Blink-182 first began touring in support of Neighborhoods with the 10th Annual Honda Civic Tour in August 2011. The 2011 tour marked the tenth anniversary of the tour, which Blink-182 headlined in its first incarnation. The trio headlined the 10th Annual Honda Civic Tour with My Chemical Romance, which ran from August to October 2011, with additional dates scheduled in Canada with Rancid and Against Me!. In 2012 the band embarked on a worldwide 20th Anniversary Tour. The band continued touring in 2012 with their 20th Anniversary Tour, where they performed the rescheduled European dates originally canceled in order to continue recording. They were scheduled to headline the Bamboozle 2012 Music Festival but cancelled when Barker had to undergo an operation for tonsilitis. The 20th Anniversary Tour extended into Australia for in 2013 as part of the Soundwave festival, as well as 4 sideshows along the east coast with punk acts The Vandals and Sharks. Barker, who still suffers a fear of flying, did not attend; Brooks Wackerman of Bad Religion filled-in for Barker's position for the Australian tour.
The band has looked back on Neighborhoods more recently with a divided reaction. In 2012, DeLonge would concede that the recording method, originally his idea, led to a loss of unity, noting that e-mails dictated the majority of recording of the record, due to the hectic schedules of the band. "There's some songs on there that I love, but for the most part it was disconnected," Barker recalled. "It was like, 'You do this part in your studio, and then you're gonna play on it and send it back to me.' When we're not in the studio together, you don't have the opportunity to gel off each other." In addition, Barker was still recovering from his 2008 plane crash, which made things difficult in the studio. "Dude, I was still healing," he told Rolling Stone. "I had scabs all over my body and was, like, a bloody mess. It was just way too soon."
All songs written and composed by Blink-182 .
|1.||"Ghost on the Dance Floor" (DeLonge)||4:17|
|3.||"Up All Night" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||3:20|
|4.||"After Midnight" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||3:25|
|5.||"Heart's All Gone" (Hoppus)||3:15|
|6.||"Wishing Well" (DeLonge)||3:20|
|8.||"This Is Home" (DeLonge)||2:46|
|9.||"MH 4.18.2011" (Hoppus)||3:27|
|10.||"Love Is Dangerous" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||4:27|
|1.||"Ghost on the Dance Floor" (DeLonge)||4:17|
|3.||"Up All Night" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||3:20|
|4.||"After Midnight" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||3:25|
|5.||"Snake Charmer" (DeLonge)||4:27|
|6.||"Heart's All Gone Interlude"||2:02|
|7.||"Heart's All Gone" (Hoppus)||3:15|
|8.||"Wishing Well" (DeLonge)||3:20|
|10.||"This Is Home" (DeLonge)||2:46|
|11.||"MH 4.18.2011" (Hoppus)||3:27|
|12.||"Love Is Dangerous" (DeLonge/Hoppus)||4:27|
|13.||"Fighting the Gravity" (Hoppus)||3:42|
|14.||"Even If She Falls" (DeLonge)||3:00|
- Mark Hoppus – vocals, bass guitar, producer
- Tom DeLonge – vocals, guitar, producer
- Travis Barker – drums
- Additional musicians
- Neal Avron – mix engineer ("Even If She Falls")
- "Critter" – co-producer
- Paul Frye – assistant recording engineer
- Femio Hernández – assistant recording engineer
- Chris Holmes – co-producer, mix engineer ("Heart's All Gone Interlude", "Heart's All Gone", "Kaleidoscope", "Love Is Dangerous", "Fighting the Gravity")
- James Ingram – recording engineer, additional engineering
- Paul LaMalfa – assistant recording engineer
- Tom Lord-Alge – mix engineer ("Ghost on the Dance Floor", "Up All Night", "After Midnight", Snake Charmer", "Wishing Well", "This Is Home", "MH 4.18.2011")
- Andy Wallace – mix engineer ("Natives")
- Mike Giant – illustrations
- Estevan Oriol – photography
- Liam Ward – layout and design
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