I think that with Neighborhoods they were trying to have their cake and eat it too by pulling the band in two directions at once (old school quickie pop punk vs. what they call the "arena" songs and the more experimental stuff). Problem was there was little compromise, it almost sounded like a weird career retrospective in the wild variation between songs rather than a more cohesive unit that combined elements of their past and future within a well-defined sound running through the album (as in "Untitled"). It feels like a few good directions (and a few bad ones) fighting for air, but dammit (ha!) if I still can't get "Kaleidoscope" out of my head, what a great tune.
That said, I find "Dogs Eating Dogs" to be a tremendous return to form as far as unified sound and songwriting go--they seem to be getting down how to use the non-classic elements (long intros, weird effects, rapping) in a much more subtle fashion that adds spice to the mix rather than completely overpowering it. Its not perfect yet, but it feels like a terrific step in the right direction and plays like a short B-sides collection to great full-length.
If I may address the Blinkers directly for a moment, however...
Now that you guys have given the mature direction a try, had some time apart from each other to stretch you legs, start new bands, produce records, start websites and clothing companies and all that, why not capitalize on the positive vibes coming at you from this release and take a moment to sit back and decide what Blink-182 really means to you, specifically in regards to your relationship with us fans and that weird magic thing that happens when we all get in a room together. Sure, we've grown older, our tastes and interests have changed a bit and the world seems a lot more serious now, but what we've always loved and seen in you guys hasn't changed a bit. You made it less scary to grow up in an oft-terrifying world by showing us that even grown men can get on a stage in front of thousands of people and brag about shitting their pants or spew out thirty curse words in a row just for the hell of it--your use of genuine immaturity as an aesthetic (whether you were being tongue in cheek or just total jackasses, I suspect a little of both) provided a shield against evil that proved that no matter how shitty things get, we can always laugh at shit.
I saw you guys in your first live performance after September 11th, 2001 (at the Long Beach Arena)... I was a broken 15 year old kid without a clue what to think about where the world was headed, but when you took the stage to a giant, flaming "FUCK" and Mark walked out in a Superman outfit to state "I'm Super-Fuck-Your-Mom-Guy and I'm going to FUCK up bin Laden!" I knew that everything was going to be okay...Your fearlessness to mock a person that made us all feel helpless gave me strength and helped me to cope like nothing else in the world at the time.
I can fully understand that like Green Day in the shadow of Dookie you wanted to get out from under the umbrella of your past successes, but I hope you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! You proved that you can write a musically sophisticated, lyrically introspective record with "Untitled," but the feeling in the music and videos that accompanied that album are undeniably Blink, from the bright colors in the "Feeling This" video to the soaring chorus of "Always." Since your return I have really enjoyed much of the new material you have put out, but I can't help but feel that you are (perhaps subconsciously) suppressing your past rather than embracing what we grew to love about you and letting it stand proud next to you new found sensibilities. Videos of you performing in black clothing in a burning suburb or an airplane hangar are fine, as is the somewhat bleak artwork that has accompanied your last two releases, but coupled with the seriousness of the music and lyrics it definitely loses the power of that shield you had when you weren't afraid to let your immaturity shine through in your overall aesthetic. First and foremost you definitely need to feel satisfied artistically so if this is miles off from what you are going for please discount all the words that I have said, but based on Tom's Twitter feed and your onstage antics, it feels like you guys are still holding something back in the records.
We love the songs dealing with pain, divorce, death and all that, but with the foil of tunes about aliens, adolescence and Ben wah balls to go with them you become an unstoppable force for good, untouchable by the hellish hipster culture that is constantly threatening to swallow up everything we love about this scene. I'm not saying that you should write another Dude Ranch or include a song about sodomizing a dog on you next record, I just hope you realize that all we really want is for you guys to be the same selves we hear onstage and in interviews in the songs that you write. We respect your maturity but hot fuck do we miss the other side of your personalities. This EP feels like a step toward perfect Blink equilibrium... Serious with a touch of joy. Comedy comes from pain, after all--you should never be afraid to make us smile.
Came in here expecting to write one sentence. Jeez.
If that's just accepted amongst reviewers though, and there's no attempt to ensure commensurability between the numerical ratings reviews are given, that kinda defeats the informative point of putting a number on these reviews in the first place... These numbers only have meaning in relation to other other scores (or no meaning at all).
I love blink-182. Self-titled is one of my favourite records. But I think that +44 and AVA are good bands separately, not mashed together. For now I feel like Neighborhoods > Dogs Eating Dogs, although the ep is showing some hints of a cohesive sound.