We Don't Need to Whisper
|We Don't Need to Whisper|
|Studio album by Angels & Airwaves|
|Released||May 23, 2006|
(San Diego, California)
|Angels & Airwaves chronology|
|Singles from Angels & Airwaves|
We Don't Need to Whisper is the debut studio album by the American rock band Angels & Airwaves. Recorded at Neverpants Ranch in San Diego, California and produced by guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, the album was released on May 23, 2006 through Geffen Records. DeLonge had previously exited his former band, Blink-182, in February 2005 after months of heated exchanges and increasing tension within the trio. DeLonge desired to spend more time with his family, and following the band's break-up, spent three weeks in complete isolation, contemplating his life, career, and future in music.
Equally inspired by personal crises and global events, We Don't Need to Whisper came together over the following seasons as DeLonge taught himself instruments and created his own home studio. He recruited his longtime friend David Kennedy, with whom he had worked with on the Box Car Racer project, for guitar, as well as Atom Willard and Ryan Sinn on drums and bass, respectively. The quintet were primarily inspired by arena rock groups such as U2 and The Police. DeLonge's later public statements regarding the band's music—calling it "the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation"—prompted media interest but also concern from friends and family.
The record peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, and has sold nearly 800,000 copies since. Four singles were released, three of which would chart within the top 20 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, with "The Adventure" peaking at number five. We Don't Need to Whisper received largely mixed reviews from music critics: while many celebrated the album's obvious musical influences, several found its contents rather pretentious. A documentary film based on the recording process of the record, as well the genesis of the band, Start the Machine, was released in 2008.
By 2004, Blink-182, consisting of guitarist Tom DeLonge, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, had emerged as the biggest pop punk act of the era, releasing the seven-times-multiplatinum Enema of the State (1999) and number one album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001). The band took a brief break in 2002 when DeLonge suffered a herniated disc in his back, during which time he collected several darker musical ideas he felt unsuitable for Blink-182, compiling them into a record, Box Car Racer. The album, recorded with the help of Hazen Street guitarist and longtime friend David Kennedy, was intended as a one-time experimental project but evolved into a full-fledged band with Barker behind the kit. The side project would cause great division between DeLonge and Hoppus, who was not included and felt betrayed. The moody subject matter and music on Box Car Racer edged its way into the Blink sound as well, and the band explored experimentalist elements on their next effort, an eponymous fifth studio album (2003). Geffen Records, after the success of Box Car Racer, offered DeLonge a solo recording deal, which he declined, feeling that it would cast a negative shadow over the band. Nevertheless, the possible deal loomed over the band in addition to growing internal tension.
The trio embarked on a European tour the following fall, during which DeLonge felt increasingly conflicted both about his creative freedom within the group and the toll touring was taking on his family life. He eventually expressed his desire to take a half-year respite from touring in order to spend more time with family. Hoppus and Barker were dismayed by his decision, which they felt was an overly long break. DeLonge did not blame his bandmates for being disappointed with his requests, but was dismayed that they could not seemingly understand. In addition, DeLonge protested the idea of Barker's reality television series, Meet the Barkers, which was being produced for a 2005 premiere. DeLonge disliked television cameras everywhere, feeling his personal privacy was invaded. 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. He considered his bandmates priorities "mad, mad different," coming to the conclusion that the trio had simply grew apart as they aged, had families, and reached fame. The breakdown in communication led to heated exchanges, resulting in his exit from the group. Geffen announced on February 22, 2005 that Blink-182 would be going on an "indefinite hiatus", and DeLonge would not speak to Barker or Hoppus—whom he once considered his greatest friend—for several years.
In the wake of the band's break-up, DeLonge underwent a complete readdressing of his priorities—a move "bearing the hallmarks of a nervous breakdown"—and went on a three-week "spiritual journey" in complete isolation away from family, contemplating his life, career, and future in music. DeLonge was hurt by the band's dissolution, likening it to a divorce and calling it a "traumatic experience" and a "disaster." He had been known for his role in the Blink-182 as "the low-brow prankster," and desired to start from scratch musically, without worrying whether fans would find him funny. The earliest origins of Angels & Airwaves directly can be traced back to DeLonge's endorsement of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, in which he traveled the political circuit with the Democratic candidate. He was entranced by Kerry's desire for change on a massive scale and likened it to a drug, remarking later that it "really changed [me]." DeLonge rediscovered the epiphany developed during his traveling with Kerry during his isolation, and applied that to his new band's philosophy. DeLonge redefined himself musically during this time, learning to play piano and self-produce, and forming his own home studio.
Recording and production
After recording several demos in his home studio, DeLonge embarked on a mission to assemble his band. Following the band's break-up, DeLonge received calls from musicians of higher profiles offering to collaborate on music, but declined them. Instead, DeLonge recruited longtime friend and Box Car Racer guitarist David Kennedy. Atom Willard and Ryan Sinn soon followed, but the latter dropped out. Sinn was reluctant to join another band so soon after the collapse of his previous group, The Distillers. Kennedy found him in a similar situation with his band Hazen Street, and found the new environment refreshing. While uncertain on joining the band, DeLonge offered Sinn a job working at Macbeth Footwear's warehouse, where he worked until he committed to the band full-time that August. The band members put forth several sayings and rules, which included "Friends and family first; band second."
The record was inspired by a mix of both personal developments and global events. During production, DeLonge studied World War II, which he considered the "last great war clearly a battle between good and evil." Following the war, he saw America entered a period of prosperity, and he felt it an analogy for what could be possible in his life. The album was inspired by other personal crises as well, such as DeLonge's father's diagnosis of leukemia and his brother's deployment to Iraq, which DeLonge felt was "a war where people didn't need to go in the first place." While the band considered the project lightly progressive, the album lacks guitar solos the genre is commonly known for in place of melodies inspired by 1970s rock bands, such as Pink Floyd, Rush and Led Zeppelin. DeLonge found himself listening to Peter Gabriel, U2, The Police and The Cure for influence, which were all bands that achieved stadium-level success and inspired DeLonge's desire to reach the widest audience possible.
The overlying message the band intended for each song is that "tomorrow could be the best day of [your] life." Track one, "Valkyrie Missile", opens the record with a cinematic organ melody, 1980s-recalling guitars and the sound of an astronaut's voice asking, "Anybody out there?" "Distraction" follows and is peppered with hand claps and a keyboard melody over verses lamenting death and destruction. "Do It for Me Now" originated from a beat DeLonge created in 2004 for rapper Talib Kweli, who turned it down. The Morse code beat was later adapted by the band and inspired DeLonge's vision of the song being the soundtrack to young lovers watching the sunrise. "The Adventure" is an "exhilarating ode to a beckoning future with a huge guitar sound reminiscent of The Cure." "A Little's Enough" was inspired by an idea relative to religion, in which a God came to "fix everything" on the planet, whether it be terrorism, war or famine.
"The War" is an anthem that was inspired by the Iraq War and the amount of casualties caused in battle. "It Hurts" was inspired by a friend whose wife committed adultery and was manipulating him. The situation touched DeLonge deeply enough that he spent a night up crying for him, in which he wrote the track. During recording, DeLonge would often take his daughter, Ava, to an ice cream shop in San Diego. On one occasion, the father and daughter wandered into a next door toy store and DeLonge was enchanted by the sound of a pink toy piano, which he would eventually purchase. DeLonge placed the piano in his shower and recorded the results, which became "Start the Machine". The track attempts to paint a picture of "being on a boat as you're leaving a city in flames," only to find a tropical island and a much more beautiful place ahead. DeLonge considered it a reference to his past with Blink-182 and central to the theme that the band strove for - that "something special [can come] out of destruction."
In September 2005, after months away from the public eye, DeLonge announced his new project, Angels & Airwaves, promising "the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation." His statements—which included the predictions that the album would usher in an "entire new culture of the youth," that would lead to him "conquering the globe"—were regarded as highly grandiose in the press and mocked. His main desire lay root in his belief that his album would become a recording critics would refer to two decades on as the album of the 2000s, or the sole successor to what he considered the most recent "important" album, Nirvana's Nevermind (1991). DeLonge also contended he began writing Whisper immediately following the release of Blink-182, seeing it as a "force to be reckoned with" that he "knew [he] had to beat." Desiring to take the project to "that Police level, that Joshua Tree level," DeLonge would remark in interviews that "before Blink took its break, I knew that Angels was going to be the biggest band in the world. We knew that we were the only band that could do something like that." The other band members did not refute DeLonge's press statements, viewing them as tongue-in-cheek and offering little substance.
Utterly consumed by the band, DeLonge often obsessed over minor details and beamed with ideas for accompanying films and short films. By the end of the recording process and shortly after his press statements, his management came to DeLonge and had an "intervention" in which they pressed him on his frame of mind. In reality, DeLonge was addicted to Vicodin due to his back problem, which fueled his ambitious beliefs. He quit Vicodin cold turkey when he was unable to get it for a week, hallucinating and deep in withdrawal.
|The A.V. Club||C-|
We Don't Need to Whisper received largely mixed reviews from contemporary music critics at the time of its release. Alternative Press was generally the most effusive of the positive reviews, calling Angels & Airwaves' debut "everything a rock band should be in 2006." The publication found the 10 tracks nothing too heavy or thought-provoking, writing, "While the lyrics might be DeLonge at his most soul-searching, the music is built for nothing smaller than football stadiums." IGN was also very positive in their assumptions of the record, writing, "This album is like a post-millennial concept record that beckons to be listened to with the lights dimmed and the headphones clamped tightly around your aural receptors. [...] It may not be your cup of tea, but kudos to the quartet for not merely re-treading the blink market with more mature lyrics." Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B- rating, commending its obvious influences while also criticizing his vocals: "If only DeLonge's nasal vocals on We Don't Need to Whisper were more suited to the Robert Smith romanticism of tracks like It Hurts; unfortunately, he often sounds like a high school kid working the drive-through mic at Del Taco."
Rolling Stone summarized the record and the mixed reviews simply: "DeLonge yanks heartstrings with so-so results." Continued, writer Christian Hoard felt the atmospherics were a bit too much: "The combination of desperation and bombast borders on overkill." Spin was similarly mixed: "Here, his three sidemen elevate [DeLonge's] emo tendencies to something grander and more timelessly romantic--though somewhat less exciting. Blender criticized the composition of the music: "The resulting batch of songs... just pad out the duller bits of blink, then add walls of mid-'80s-era U2 guitar chimes."
Many critics felt the album pretentious and awash of self-importance. "We Don't Need to Whisper feels like 50 long minutes of DeLonge proving himself as an artist," wrote The A.V. Club. "Coming from a former punk goof, all this sentimentality feels somewhat po-faced," said UK magazine Uncut. Allmusic commended the change in musical style from his past, but were still mixed in their opinions: "Lord knows it's an admirable break from his juvenile past, but good intentions don't necessarily make for good music, as We Don't Need to Whisper makes abundantly clear." Continued, reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that "It may not make for a successful record, but it does make for an interesting one, particularly in how DeLonge's desire to be taken seriously has led him to use the serious music of his adolescence as a signifier that he's serious now, but We Don't Need to Whisper is too doggedly dour and amorphous to be more than a curiosity."
The album was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in a Video, Best Special Effects in a Video and Best Editing in a Video for "The Adventure," as well as Best Band of 2006 for We Don't Need to Whisper.
|3.||"Do It for Me Now"||4:33|
|5.||"A Little's Enough"||4:45|
|10.||"Start the Machine"||4:11|
|International bonus track|
|11.||"Do It for Me Now" (Live from FUSE 7th Ave. Drop)||4:39|
|UK bonus tracks|
|12.||"Do It for Me Now" (Live from FUSE 7th Ave. Drop)||4:39|
|iTunes bonus track|
|11.||"The Adventure" (Live from Whispers Studio)||6:04|
|Wal-Mart bonus track|
|11.||"It Hurts" (Live from FUSE 7th Ave. Drop)||4:21|
|Australia||20 May 2006|
|South Korea||22 May 2006|
|Canada||23 May 2006|
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- Angels and Airwaves' official website
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- Original promotional trailer for We Don't Need to Whisper and AVA documentary on YouTube