When Your Heart Stops Beating
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|When Your Heart Stops Beating|
|Studio album by +44|
|Released||November 13, 2006|
(Los Angeles, California)
Henson Studios, Ameraycan Recordings
|Producer||Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, Jerry Finn|
When Your Heart Stops Beating is the only studio album by the American rock band +44. Produced by Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker and co-produced by Jerry Finn, the album was released November 13, 2006 through Interscope Records. Hoppus and Barker, previously the bassist and drummer of Blink-182, first created +44 as an experimental electronic outfit following the aforementioned band's dissolution. The project first evolved in the spring of 2005, and the rest of the band—lead guitarist Shane Gallagher and rhythm guitarist Craig Fairbaugh—came together later in the recording process.
Recording began for When Your Heart Stops Beating in earnest shortly after the band's co-founders purchased a Los Angeles-based studio, Opra Music. The electro-tinged demos evolved into more rock-based full-band compositions over the course of the recording process in 2006. Longtime friend and veteran producer Jerry Finn came in the studio late in production to oversee completion. Much of Hoppus' lyrical content on the record, which he viewed as his most personal, is dark and revolves primarily around the demise of Blink-182. Musically, the album is upbeat and is inspired by bands such as The Postal Service and The Cure.
Although hotly anticipated by music press, When Your Heart Stops Beating undersold commercial expectations and received mixed reviews from professional critics. Many critics viewed it as a fractured version of Blink-182. The album's title track, "When Your Heart Stops Beating", was released as lead single and charted within the top 20 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. +44 embarked on a worldwide touring schedule to support the album and played the 2007 Honda Civic Tour alongside headliner Fall Out Boy. With the 2009 reunion of Blink-182, When Your Heart Stops Beating stands as +44's only studio release.
By 2004, Blink-182, consisting of bassist Mark Hoppus, guitarist Tom DeLonge, 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).
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.
Geffen opted to refer to the breakup as an "indefinite hiatus," and label president Jordan Schur reportedly told Barker that "any press you do, make sure you say everything is cool." Immediately following DeVoe's phone call, Hoppus and Barker began laying down new ideas. Recording in Barker's basement and Hoppus' dining room, by necessity everything was electronic, with the two musicians experimenting with electronic drums, samples, keyboards and direct computer recordings. While away on a trip in April 2005, Hoppus participated in an interview with MTV News in which he revealed the band's existence, saying "Right now, Travis and I are using the time off to start this project called Plus-44 […] It's very exciting, like a breath of fresh air." When the two regrouped, they decided to stop giving interviews about the new project. "It was strange to be talking about music that we were just in the very first steps of writing," recalled Hoppus. "It didn’t feel right to talk about yet." The band's name is a reference to the country code needed when placing a phone call to the United Kingdom, where Hoppus and Barker first discussed making music alone. "When we first started talking about ever doing anything outside of blink was on the last European tour where Tom was telling us that he needed to take a year off from the band. […] We never did anything about it until Tom quit the band, but that's where it first started," said Hoppus. The basement recordings were ambient and quiet by necessity. "We were recording and we didn't want the cops showing up at our house at 2 a.m. because we recording drums," remembered Hoppus.
Recording and production
The addition of other members to +44 came gradually. In April 2005, Barker invited his friend Carol Heller to provide vocals on a track. Formerly of the all-girl punk quartet Get the Girl, Heller traded and shared vocals with Hoppus on most of the band's early demos. Meanwhile, Hoppus invited friend Shane Gallagher to play guitar on a few tracks the band began working on, and he was soon drafted as a member. Production on the record moved along swiftly once the duo purchased their own North Hollywood studio, which they dubbed Opera Music. The space — which featured two recording rooms, a lounge and a small outdoor courtyard — was purchased in October 2005 from former Poison guitarist Richie Ketzen. After moving all band gear into the new recording center, the entire direction for the band evolved into a more organic sound. Heller became uneasy with the new direction and, with a desire to start a family, parted ways with the band by the end of the year. Shortly afterward, friend Craig Fairbaugh came in to observe and listen and play to songs; by the end of the day, Hoppus and Barker asked him to become the fourth member of the group.
In February 2006, the band began recording in earnest for the record. The band considered many producers for the album, among those Danger Mouse. Eventually, the record was produced by Hoppus and Barker, with longtime associate and friend Jerry Finn in the role of executive producer. Finn came in late into production to oversee completion, but eventually provided ideas and wrote songs with Hoppus Producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura was called in to "tinker" with a track. Upon completion, the record's tentative title was Little Death. By August, the band decided on naming the album When Your Heart Stops Beating. "We always thought of the phrase 'when your heart stops beating' as capturing the good and the bad in the world in everything," said Hoppus of the title. "When you fall in love with a lady and your heart skips a beat or something great happens. And also, obviously, when your heart stops beating, the end of things."
The album artwork and photography were created by Estavan Oriol. The artwork of the jewel case pictures the words "When Your Heart Stops Beating" in black with the letters "ART" of "heart" standing out in blue.
This sample of "Baby Come On" showcases both the band's electronic influences and soft verse/loud chorus dynamic.
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The tone of the album has been described as "consistently upbeat," showcasing a variety of influences. The music of the album is influenced by artists such as The Postal Service, Missing Persons, and The Cure. The album fuses many different song structures and temperaments, and the first six tracks of the album alternate between uptempo rock songs and ballads. Many critics noticed the similarity between the sound of the music of +44 and Blink-182's final album before their break-up, Blink-182 (2003). The Blink-182 similarity is featured by the soft verse, loud chorus explosion as heard on their single "Stay Together for the Kids". Many tracks display a traditional punk sound (with a much more melodic touch), but also highlight electronica as a key influence. +44's original electronic influence is an undercurrent throughout the record, although it has "ultimately [taken] a backseat to guitar-driven rock".
"The whole album is about everything that's happened, including Blink, and the ugly feelings that were left over afterwards," Hoppus said of the album's lyrical content. "Lyrically, it's some of the most positive stuff I've ever written, but it's also some of the darkest shit, too." The album is composed of both dark and introspective songs, but also upbeat and "positive" tracks. Hoppus also described the music as "the most lyrically personal music I've ever written." For Barker, the writing of the record's lyrics was inspired by the "roller coaster" of new opportunities while starting a new band, such as writing a new song or playing a first show. The feeling is echoed throughout When Your Heart Stops Beating, and Barker described the feeling of the album as being transported to different place. "To me, it brings up feelings of, like, driving too fast or skateboarding down the street in the middle of the night," Barker commented.
The record opens with "Lycanthrope", which was intended to introduce the band but leave the listener guessing. "Baby Come On" was written halfway through the recording process and serves as an assessment of "what the band is about." It contains electronic drums and synthesizers that thicken a slow build throughout the track. The title track, "When Your Heart Stops Beating", features "snotty, mid-range British-sounding Telecasters" and was inspired by the story of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen — "you love your lady and outside of that, fuck everything else," according to Hoppus. "Little Death" is a moody, lo-fi song that went through numerous changes throughout the recording, beginning in Barker's basement. "A little death makes life more meaningful" was intended as an allegory to what Hoppus and Barker dealt with after the breakup of Blink-182. "155" is a heavily layered synth-driven track that contains handclaps and "Cure-esque guitars." The handclaps were Barker's idea, who noticed its prevalence in hip-hop songs and wanted to incorporate into a rock song.
"Lillian" features programmed drums and acoustic guitars, and was inspired by Hoppus' residence in San Diego, before the move to Los Angeles. "I lived in a part of San Diego that's one of the most beautiful places in the country, but it's also one of the most evil sickening places," said Hoppus. "People are just ugly to one another." The title was inspired by a woman who started a strict homeowners association in the city. "Cliff Diving" was inspired by Hoppus' teenage summers growing up, where he would embark upon his friend's house and dive into the pool from the rooftop. The track is therefore about "embracing the unknown," further incorporating influence from the breakup of Blink-182 and the beginnings of +44."Interlude" is most representative of the earliest work Hoppus and Barker put together. It was placed as a musical break to separate the upbeat pop punk track "Cliff Diving" and the record's "darkest" song, "Weatherman". That track is another early composition that was written directly following the breakup of Blink-182. "I was driving to Travis' house and the whole Blink thing had just gone down […] We had been talking about making a really dark, dirty song." The song was launched from the line "Just let me slip away, I'm barely holding on," and the music was intended to reflect that theme.
The song most directly inspired by the end of Blink-182 is "No, It Isn't", which was also inspired by feelings of betrayal afterward. "[The song] is about coming out a year later and telling the truth," Barker said. "For a year, people were saying that what Tom did was valid or called for. It eats at you. So maybe you have to talk about it, and maybe you have to write a song about it." The Postal Service influence is noticeable in "Make You Smile", which makes frequent use of boy-girl exchange and lament. The anthemic "Chapter 13" closes the record and was inspired from chapter 13 of Dante's Inferno, which revolves around suicide. "I had this image in my head of a guy seeing a woman across a crowded room and in that instant, he knows exactly what's going to happen: He falls in love with her, goes crazy, and kills himself in a hotel room," said Hoppus. "That's a good way to end the album, huh?"
The release date for When Your Heart Stops Beating was heavily anticipated and publicized by the music press. As early as August 2005, Internet rumors began to circulate that the album would be released in January 2006 although the band's management denied the claims. Thanks to Hoppus and Barker's silence on press interviews, misinformation flooded the Internet in the months prior to the record's release, such as countless impostors posting fake songs online. "It's kind of flattering that some kids would go out there and post songs under our name," Barker added. "I mean, at least it means that people are excited to hear our stuff." "No It Isn't" leaked in December 2005 and caused speculation as it addressed the break-up of Blink-182 head-on.
Hoppus did not give any formal interviews before shortly prior to the release of the album, instead spending time updating his blog, producing tracks for Motion City Soundtrack, and working on the album in relative secrecy. "During that time, their former bandmate, Tom DeLonge, did the opposite, peppering blogs and magazines with quotes hyping his new band and putting the blame for the Blink situation squarely on their shoulders," reported James Montgomery of MTV News. While it "pained" them to do so, Hoppus and Barker refrained from speaking to media, instead burying themselves in the studio in the recording of the album. "We just bit our tongues and didn't say anything, and now that the record is done, we get the chance to tell the truth about everything," Hoppus said. "We were silent for a year, and we couldn't put into words what we were doing, so we just decided not to say anything and let the music speak for itself," Barker added. "Now it's time for people to hear that music and hear the truth."
When Your Heart Stops Beating was officially released November 13, 2006. On October 19, 2006, When Your Heart Stops Beating debuted at #22 on the ARIA Albums Chart, and #2 on the Rock Albums Chart. In the United States, the album debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200 with approximately 66,000 copies sold in its first week. The album artwork was made available in three different colors: blue, pink, and green. Each version had a different acoustic track,. Interestingly enough, many of the edited versions were pressed on the versions with blue covers; green contained the unedited.
As of September 2011, the album has sold over 274,000 copies in the US.
|The Daily Princetonian||(mixed) |
|The New York Times||(favorable) |
|The Washington Post||(favorable) |
The album received generally mixed reviews 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 60, based on 11 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews". AbsolutePunk's Drew Beringer deemed the album "a very diverse and potent debut album", and suggesting it as "one of the most honest records of 2006". The Washington Post described +44 as being in the same spirit as Blink-182 ("adorable, cuddly pop punk,") and The Gauntlet called the record the best post-Blink project. The Maneater's Joey Vergara compared the album to Blink-182's previous self-titled album, believing it improved and a solidified version. Aidin Vaziri, writing an editorial review for Amazon was in agreement and noted, "songs like "Baby Come On" and the spooky "Little Death" show the musicians finally delivering the substance that was promised on Blink 182's self-titled 2003 release." Deseret News named When Your Heart Stops Beating both better and "fuller" than former bandmate Tom DeLonge's new project, Angels & Airwaves' We Don't Need to Whisper, and The New York Times described as it as "zippier and catchier" than Whisper. The latter newspaper, however, ended their review with the conclusion that neither band was as good as Blink-182.
In contrast to The Daily Princetonian citing +44 for "lacking originality", The Avion Newspaper declared the band as "undoubtedly original [...] and sure to please with every track". Channing Freeman of Sputnikmusic called the album "standard pop punk music", stating it was not a large departure from Blink-182. While many punk- and a few mainstream-oriented publications gave it a high grade, other namable sources such as Rolling Stone and Alternative Press were less impressed with the album.
+44's first show took place at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on September 7, 2006 with a second appearance following at the London Astoria. The band embarked on a promotional tour of the United Kingdom shortly thereafter. Barker was in constant pain but soldiered through the performances, altering his kit set-up to accommodate. "He is now using his left foot as his right arm, Def Leppard style," confirmed Hoppus. A doctor informed Barker he had broken a bone in his arm during the band's video shoot and was instructed to immediately rest and not take part in the band's upcoming live dates, including early 2007 jaunts to Australia and Europe. Barker nevertheless took part, but after an excruciating Amsterdam gig, the band drafted Gil Sharone, then of The Dillinger Escape Plan, to fill-in for him.
The tour rolled on with Australia and Japan, where the band busied themselves with press junkets and appearances. Crowds were, according to journalist Joe Shooman, mainly Blink-182 fans. Hoppus relished the opportunity to return to smaller, more intimate club dates rather than the massive areas of latter-day Blink. The band spent April to June 2007 on the Honda Civic Tour of the US and Canada alongside Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is… and Paul Wall. The band began slipping old Blink songs—"What's My Age Again?" and "The Rock Show"—into setlists, despite the band's stance against doing so months before. "Travis and I love our history with Blink-182, and it seems a shame to let those songs sit dormant forever because of what happened two years ago," said Hoppus on his blog. Hoppus later joined Panic! at the Disco on one date for an acoustic run-through of "What's My Age Again?".
Further August 2007 dates were postponed for unclear reasons; Hoppus stated the band had decided to re-enter the studio in preparation of a second studio album. Blink-182 reunited in February 2009 and Hoppus confirmed in an interview with Alternative Press that +44 was on hiatus: "I don't consider it done. We'll never say never with anything," he remarked. "As soon as you say, 'I'm not gonna do that anymore,' you find yourself in a situation where you wanna do that. Shane [Gallagher] and Craig [Fairbaugh] are awesome guitarists and great fun to play in a band with, so we definitely won't say that the band is done. But obviously, for the foreseeable future, all of our energy is going into Blink-182."
|When Your Heart Stops Beating|
|2.||"Baby Come On"||2:46|
|3.||"When Your Heart Stops Beating"||3:12|
|10.||"No, It Isn't"||3:32|
|11.||"Make You Smile"||3:44|
|UK and Australian bonus track|
|13.||"Baby Come On" (acoustic)||2:52|
|UK bonus track|
|Australian Albums Chart||22|
|Canadian Albums Chart||8|
|French Albums Chart||134|
|Swiss Albums Chart||79|
|UK Albums Chart||50|
|U.S. Billboard 200||10|
|2006||"When Your Heart Stops Beating"||U.S. Billboard Hot 100||89|
|U.S. Modern Rock Tracks||14|
|U.S. Pop 100||1|
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|Irish Singles Chart||2|
|German Singles Chart||2|
|Australian Singles Chart||4|
|Austrian Singles Chart||4|
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