All Star, but every word is ‘average’

Ever wondered what’s the most average song you’ve ever heard? Think of all the thousands upon thousands of songs on your hard drive, not to mention the thousands more you’ve forgotten about – and those are just the ones you like. Below your own threshold of quality there’s millions more which don’t pass muster.

Have a stab at naming your favourite song, like, right now. Can’t decide? That’s fair enough. You’d need to crack out the notepad and furrowed brow for a feverish scribbling session before you can even create a top five.

Even naming the worst song you’ve ever heard will take some effort – not only because of the internet’s (and pop culture nerds’ in particular) eagerness to dub things the worst _____ ever, without actually taking the time to subject themselves to any prolonged exposure to that pain.

But average? That’s way different. Out of all the songs you’ve ever heard? Tough one. What song is neither offensive enough nor inspired enough just to hit the very middle of your all-time music charts? What single song rises enough above mediocrity but sinks enough below inspiration?

One song hit me today in exactly that sweet spot. And before I over-analyse it with the power of nostalgia, I should probably just flat out tell you why this song strikes me as the most average three minutes of pop-rock averageness ever.

Today I heard a cover of Smash Mouth’s All Star by a band called Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! which, all artistic intention aside, was covered pretty much straight up. Apart from the whiny Americanised vocals, some sped-up drums and a bit of Busted-esque guitar upstrokes (and the mandatory pogoing seen in the video), there is absolutely no derivation from the original. Right down to the introductory keyboard flourishes and the whistling / record scratching in the breakdown, there is precious little in the way of experimentation on this cover. Recorded for a series of ‘Punk Goes…’ compilations, it’s possible that the attempt to play each song as straight as they can is all part of the mission statement.

But both the worst and best cover versions can be evaluated as such in their attempt to re-interpret the source material. Whether it’s a competently-performed yet ultimately ill-judged re-working or just a touched-up version of the original, you can always judge a cover song as successful or unsuccessful based on the combination of the song’s suitability for a re-work or the new artist’s interpretation – and ergo, how much that song ‘belongs’ to somebody.

Take (my tears and) Marilyn Manson’s stab at ‘Tainted Love’ for example. It’s crap, but you’ve got to hand it to him/them for trying to plunge a Northern Soul classic into the nu-metal mire. The crunching dirge of the MM effort completely eradicates the soul of the original vocal – and that of Marc Almond’s in the much more suitable (and more famous) version of the song. Manson took a song which was made more famous in the first place as a cover version, and tried to mangle its frustration into something reflecting how he himself saw the idea of tainted love.

Conversely, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor once spoke about the Johnny Cash version of his song ‘Hurt’, and how he felt like “that song isn’t mine anymore”. The idea that someone understood the pain and isolation of a situation more than the writer himself did, and that this was enough for the original artist to disown his very own particular piece of grief, makes it one of the most powerful and meaningful cover versions of all time.

So when a cover version does absolutely nothing in any way for the song it honours, what does it say about the original song’s quality and durability?

‘All Star’ was originally released in May 1999. Try and forget that I’ve just told you that, and give the song a proper listen. I’ll wait.

Okay, now pretend I didn’t tell you when the song came out. Judging by the lyrics, and the top three major-label rock production clichés you hear within it, when did this song come out?

  • Abundance of Pro Tools?
  • Soothing acoustic guitar-led breakdown and rapped rock vocal?
  • Record-scratching in a rock song?

If you guessed 1999, you’d be bang on. (If you guessed May 1999, you’d probably be cheating but be even more bang on.)

The point is, where there are the slivers of a crack in the melodies, or the rough edges of a pretty bog-standard tune, there’s the slick and shine of that late-90s did-it-on-a-Mac-but-christ-they-used-to-cost-loads production. It Polyfillas the cracks and Ronseals the surfaces to produce a completely inoffensive song – ironically enough, almost to the point of itself being offensive.

When All Star was released I was 14 years and three months old – the scientifically-proven age where your pop culture tastes are refined. (Also released in the first half of 1999: Moby’s Play, A Place in the Sun by Lit and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”, not to mention the re-release of Bran Van 3000’s “Drinking in LA” – the latter two of which still feature on my ‘sunny day’ playlists.)

(Caution: You may find that the rest of my argument, more than tinged by my nostalgic propensity for a sunshiny tune, completely renders the rest of my findings invalid, but please do bear with me.)

Unlike those last two songs, which most would forgetfully and gladly lump into the same bargain bin as ‘All Star’, Smash Mouth’s biggest hit is drenched in the pop-rock polish liberally sprinkled into songs by everyone from Uncle Kracker to Sugar Ray – not to mention the video which tied into the Mystery Men film’s promotional campaign. Len and Bran Van 3000 were each more of a breakout act from respected songwriting/performance art roots in the Canadian underground, and so were more deserving of a listen to distract from the rest of the blandness being bandied around the airwaves.

Astro Lounge

To that end, ‘All Star’ still does demonstrate high levels of competence and imagination – the likes of which you ought to expect from full-time musicians already well ensconced in ‘the biz’. Astro Lounge was Smash Mouth’s difficult second album, made all the more pressuring by the success of ‘Walkin’ On The Sun’, the lead single from the first. ‘All Star’ would go on to feature in about 57 different films that you’ve watched in passing, after reaching number four on the Billboard charts.

There’s still guitar and drums on the track, and a fair amount of keyboard, which does to me demonstrate more than the bare minimum. But it may be those standards which undo the song – that instant when you first hear a song and know it’s going to be successful the charts because it has been sanitised and refined for all it’s worth. For all that competence and experience, the artificial nature of the production demonstrates close to zero in the way of passion.

Passion or perfunctory?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been willing to try out any style of music where you can just tell the artist is trying as well. It’s more a sad indictment on the state of the pre-packaged, manufactured preferences of the music industry than anything else, but it does mean I get to enjoy a wider range of music than my baggy-shorted 14-year-old self would have permitted.

Of course you can’t write a hit song without some amount of allowance for the audience, some sort of sonic experimentation and knob-twiddling to ensure it has a broad enough appeal. But ‘All Star’s squeaky-clean production does nothing to disguise the fact that it appeared to have been magicked out of thin air onto someone’s Mac. For the maximum amount of compression, clean-up and polish that the song was given ready for its assault on the ears worldwide, I do still hear more than the absolute minimum in the way of a band choosing to put its heart, soul and sweat into their music. Going by this extremely delicate balance between soul and sanitisation, between heart and hard drive, we approach a tipping point.

‘All Star’ doesn’t possess enough of the passion of a song whose writers needed someone to hear their message – the way Johnny Cash could hear Trent Reznor’s pain and put his own beautiful soulful pain on top of it. But by the same token, it doesn’t contain enough of the robotic, soulless automation that plagues the rest of the pop field and reduces it to mindlessness motions.

I’ve heard cover versions of songs that are subjectively better or worse because the cover artist makes a good or bad choice. From hearing their take on ‘All Star’, my view is that Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! choose to play it right down the middle because the original gives them no inclination or indication to do anything but. I can’t think of a single song whose cover version caused me less consternation either way. I don’t know who that’s on.

Because of the original song’s indecision – not quite soulless enough to be flat-out bad, but too overproduced to be good, ‘All Star’ does more than approach the tipping point – it is the tipping point.

So the next time you hear a song and can’t decide if you like it or not, ask yourself – is it better or worse than ‘All Star’? Then you’ll know, because I now believe that ‘All Star’ is the most average song of all time.

Making Mixtapes For Girls

So this weekend I’ve been getting a music education. And by that I mean, I struck a deal with a colleague.

Apparently the deal was, she linked me to songs by Mariah Carey and Beyonce, and I died a little inside each time I pressed Play.

In return I got two of my best shots in – a boozy, depressed Alkaline Trio number and a downbeat but defiant Tom Waits effort.

This experience, along with a memory of a ridiculous bid to impress an ex-girlfriend that I remembered while out on a recent tune-filled stroll, has got me thinking about all those lengths I used to go to, to let the music do the talking for me.

Moe the simpsons declaring intentions

Everybody’s got their views on mixtapes – Rob from High Fidelity, Barney Stinson and his friend Not-Moby among others. But for all the tapes and CDs I made with romantic intentions, I still couldn’t resist including a couple of tracks that were more just ‘this is what I like, and you should like it too’. Not especially romantic, not especially friendly even – for every ‘nice waking up next to you’ there was a ‘this is a rock ‘n’ roll takeover’ that blurred the message somewhat.

But more than my insistence on enriching a special someone’s music experience with whatever I was listening to that month, comes the annoyance with myself for taking the lazy route. It may be that ‘all my favourite singers have stolen all of my best lines’, but looking back I wish I’d still exerted a little more energy in expressing my own true feelings.

VH1’s (hiding) behind the music

In everyday life just as in my life’s worth of mixtape-making, I have this awful habit of hiding behind pop culture, when I should just be expressing my raw feelings and emotions instead. Rather than making an accurate articulation of my hurt, or pride, or surprise, or affection, I immediately make a lateral move into an impression from that episode of Frasier where he bellows “I…am…WOUNDED!” instead of just saying it in my own voice. Instead of dealing with the feeling from my gut, I find myself reaching past it into my brain for an equivalent from TV or films because it’s easier not to admit it out loud.

But before that, I settled for the long and drawn-out efforts of filling up 74 or 90 minutes of CD or tape with a bunch of songs that said more about my likes than my feelings. That’s why, if you were the unlucky lady somewhere between 1998 and 2006, you were more likely to get Every Time I Die than Elvis – a generational thing, I can only suspect.

(Out of interest, how do young men and women make their intentions clear nowadays? A Spotify playlist doesn’t have the same done-it-myself level of care taken, and you can’t use all your different coloured pens to make a nice cover either.)

I was reminded of an early and embarrassing romantic gesture the other day; my head full of all that nonsense I mentioned up top, a song came on my iPod which made me remember one of the first albums I ever gave to a girl. Trust me, there’s nothing on here that makes you think what a romantic sod I could secretly be – I’ve checked.

But the fact of the matter is, she wasn’t particularly that type anyway, so even if I had dared to give her something that was of the more flowery variety than this post-hardcore classic, she’d have laughed me out of the room.

Back then, at the age of 17 or so, I was hardly likely to possess the emotional intelligence to say much beyond ‘thanks for paying attention to me, now can I see your boobs?’ (In fact, that could’ve been the title of the first mix I made.) I definitely didn’t have the confidence for it – talking to girls was never something for my Lurve CV – so in a way it was something of a rescue. To be able to hide behind someone else’s music to promote feelings that, if not genuinely shared by me, occupied a close enough space in my head that I didn’t feel like too much of a fraud for setting up shop next door.

While I’m glad that I don’t really need music now to tell someone how much I care for them, thinking about those CDs I used to burn in lieu of spoken affection does make me wish I’d tried a bit harder to express myself back then, so that maybe it wouldn’t be so much of an issue for me in the future.

Dave Bowie, from t’ Dave Bowie Band

I’ve had three Bowie albums in my Amazon basket for over a week now. Even though they’re physically out of stock, they’re still hovering in the ether, waiting to be bought.

David Bowie died, and made a hole in the B section of the Rock & Pop shelves at HMV.

David Bowie Low album cover

He had his own section at the front of the store. I thought the grief-vultures had already moved to maximise their profits but then I remembered Bowie had a new album out anyway, so it was probably already there – along with a couple of 90s efforts that they just wanted shifting.

Bowie made music while he knew he was dying – probably because he knew he was dying. Nothing like teetering on the edge of forever to get you feeling creative. It’s bound to add some sense of perspective.

Everybody had something to say about him, even those who have wasted 140 characters of their life on Twitter to say that they have nothing to say about him. Maybe they just didn’t want to feel left out.

I’ve been trying to work out how best to say it myself. A brilliant talented man gone, having touched so many of the people in my life:

 

David Bowie Heroes album cover

My dad, a fellow cancer victim, absolutely loved him. His vinyl collection is in the corner of this very room; there’s definitely some Bowie in there.

My older brother who, like me, grew up liking all the same stuff our dad inflicted on us. We don’t normally text each other with ‘OMG did you hear’ texts, but this time it felt more than necessary.

My fiancée, who was charmed and frightened in equal measure as a little girl by seeing Labyrinth so many times. When we first met, ‘Bowie and his massive package’ was the subject of more than one drunken discussion with friends. The inclusion of ‘Magic Dance’ in our wedding ceremony was and is up for debate, even before he died.

There’s been more than a bit of hand-wringing for each ‘national treasure’  that we’ve lost since, in what’s been an absolutely horrible run of it. But for all the usual outbursts of ‘aww, not that guy, he was cool’, Bowie’s death actually turned me silent, contemplative, inwardly reflective.

That quiet reflection was best summed up today, which is why I wanted to write about it. It’s a nice bookend to the whole thing.

David Bowie Lodger album cover

My local independent record shop; 1.30pm, Saturday afternoon. I decide that I don’t want to wait and see if those Bowie CDs are in stock at Amazon before I order them and have to wait some more.

There’s a Bowie section in here, too – but again, there always was. Right next to The Rolling Stones.

That’s an especially poignant placement because as I approach the shelves, I realise what’s playing in the shop – his cover of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ from Aladdin Sane.

These shelves have been well ransacked too; no copies of Station to Station or Young Americans. Not even Ziggy. Even HMV had a couple of copies of Ziggy left.

Only a few left in here, including the exact three I wanted: Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Multiple copies left of each.

I approach the counter. The bloke looks up and takes my CDs off me.

Let’s Spend gives way to Suffragette City; there’s a weird feeling in the air as I go for my wallet, buying Bowie CDs in an otherwise empty record shop that’s playing Bowie.

He only tells me the price. I only tell him thanks. No more needed to be said, really.

——

With him gone, there’s fewer people around who can so effectively suck up all that creative energy out of the air and turn it into something beautiful. This evening I’ll be listening to the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ and trying to figure out how I can hoover up my fair share of it.

Five For Friday: Self-Titled Albums

In the continuing series of weekend-opening list posts, this week I tackle the thorny issue of lazy musicians. Well, not lazy per se, just uncreative – with some examples proving my case even further than others.

five for friday self-titled albums

Self-titled albums; usually the masterstroke of a band keen to add some brand equity to their breakout debut albums. Sometimes the last resort of bands who are really struggling for some inspiration and so are forced to fall back on something familiar-sounding – maybe just to make it easier to ask for in shops.

Whether it’s an act of genius or an act of madness, today I’ll be writing about five of my favourite eponymous albums.

Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Back again with the Rage boys; and theirs is by far the best example on this list of a band’s sound summed up within its name – and so the most acceptable use of a self-titled debut album. Because when your album contains such impassioned musicianship and lyrical messages, anything else than your equally incendiary name (and album cover to boot) seems pretty redundant.

rage against the machine debut album

I’ll mention later on a band that possesses a conviction; a need to be heard, but there are no bands out there that demand your attention, and are so vital as this one. Especially in the songs where the political rhetoric and awesome riffing go neatly together – ‘Wake Up’ would be my favourite example of this. Their debut album is, for me, the band’s boldest political statement – albeit not my favourite collection of songs.

 

Rancid (1993)

A typical Tuesday night round about the turn of the millennium involved going out for a bit of the old underage drinking; we’d get our pre-drinks at my friend Ben’s house, where before booting up the PS2 for some Grand Theft Auto 3, he would play this album…specifically track nine. On repeat.

Whether it was his heavy-handed way of mocking someone during various girl dramas, or just because he really liked the song, I can’t be sure. However, what did annoy me was the fact he took ages getting around to playing the rest of the album, because it’s just bloody brilliant. The debut album from Rancid is very…let’s say, spiky. Not just because of the haircuts that the band sported, but because of the brilliant realisation of their spiky attitude through Donnell Cameron’s spiky production, and the youthful but desperate songs they play. They needed this.

 

Weezer (1994)

Weezer’s (first) self-titled album is one of those where just scanning your way down the tracklisting would make you go “holy crap, there’s ‘Jonas’ and ‘No One Else’ and…” but while with most albums you’d be skipping a couple, on Blue you’d just end up reading back every single song because they’re ALL gold. I assume that it’s the mark of producer Ric ‘Cars’ Ocasek that sheer pop shines through on every track; the fuzzy guitars are there, as are the thumping drums, but all through the album there’s the catchy, catchy melodies, the amazing vocal harmonies and glossy production.

Example:

The fact that this isn’t even the best song on Blue tells you exactly how good Blue really is.

Weezer would go on to take the piss slightly with (to date) two more self-titled albums, but while both are distinctly lacking compared to their first, there is a band that can just about get away with releasing a second eponymous album in 2000.

 

Rancid (2000)

And that’s because it’s equally as vital as their first, seven years later. Over 22 tracks but under forty minutes, Rancid found that the best way to come back from an ambitious dose of ska on Life Won’t Wait was to take it back to basics; self-titled, fast and furious – the latter no more evident than on ‘Rattlesnake’, a snarling ditty reportedly squarely aimed at a former manager of the band. “You’re a rattlesnake / and you’re full of shit”. Indeed.

My personal favourite track on this song was written by the bass-vocals god that is Matt Freeman; it still baffles me to this day how live footage of the band can exist on YouTube using any other angle than staring at his bass-playing, slackjawed with wonder.

A love song to life on the road and the girl he’s giving up on for it. Beautiful stuff, tenderly sung by the gruffest man in punk rock. Don’t worry; this is by far the mellowest moment on an otherwise very intense album.

 

LCD Soundsystem (2005)

It starts off with that annoying brag about Daft Punk (see my witty reply here) and ends with a hauntingly beautiful piece of music called ‘Great Release’ – more than six minutes of atmospheric synth built atop two piano chords and a distant vocal from music’s biggest fan, James Murphy.

And that’s why I love this first album; LCD Soundsystem were the world’s best tribute act to music. Combining influences as far-reaching as The Beatles (‘Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up’) and Brian Eno (‘Great Release’), Murphy’s group wore their influences on their sleeve – no, above their heads on giant placards – and managed to blend them through this post-everything tight group of talented musicians to put new spins on all kinds of generic works.

You can tell Murphy’s something of an experimental type outside of LCD – his latest project apparently involves turning data from a tennis tournament into music – and this album is their most eclectic statement of all three.

Five For Fridays: Top 5 Side One, Track Ones

In a new weekly post entitled ‘Five For Fridays’ I’ll be tackling a Top Five list of various items from just about anywhere – books, TV, films, music and gaming.

We’ll kick off with some good rockin’ tunes.

Five For Fridays

If you’ve seen or read High Fidelity you’ll be aware that the boys down at Championship Vinyl have a tendency to make top five lists when they’re bored. As a nice way to kick off the new series of Five For Fridays – a (hopefully) weekly top five list of my own covering all things geek – I thought I’d start by blatantly ripping off one of their very own lists.

Side One, Track One

A good album needs a great song to kick it off, to get you excited to hear the rest of the album rather than leaving you sad and confused as to what else might be ahead before you’ve even reached track two. The opening track should serve as a statement of intent; a hook to snare you in and prepare you for the rises and falls of the next few songs. So without further ado, my Top Five Side One, Track Ones (in no particular order) are:

Rage Against The Machine – Testify

I nearly, nearly went with ‘Bombtrack’ on this one because the mood it creates is much more menacing; the noodling riff that’s gentle but creeping, leading in with the drums to make the first sonic announcement of a great band’s great debut album. But ‘Testify’, kicking off Rage’s third album, is a perfect summation of where we were all at when we met again. It seems to say, yep, we’re that rock band that has that amazing guitarist who does trippy things to his gear, and there’s the drums and BOOM we’re back in the room, people.

Reuben – Cities On Fire

On the other hand, the intro Reuben’s third album is a much mellower affair than we should be used to, with a gentle guitar sequence that absolutely lulls the listener into a false sense of security, before all hell breaks loose in the first verse. ‘So fire it is / to make our dark streets clean again’ screams Jamie Lenman, almost resignedly seeing as that first quiet section didn’t work and so we’ll need some noise in here to tell what’s what.

For my life, I could not pick a favourite Reuben album out of their back catalogue. It’s fairly likely that my own separate top five, top ten even, songs by this brilliant band are split evenly across all three – and that they only made three is such a sad loss.

And have I mentioned I named this blog after a Reuben song? Probably.

The Blood Brothers – Guitarmy

But when you really want to make a statement of intent on the first track, it often helps to have a song that’s thrashy, loud, fast and barely 40 seconds long. That’s what The Blood Brothers manage on the opener to ‘…Burn, Piano Island, Burn’ and it’s an absolute stormer.

At The Drive-In – Arcarsenal

Another interesting one for the first-time listener – of which there were many once the hardest-working band in the world made it to a major label release. At The Drive-In pulls out all the stops on ‘Arcarsenal’, with squalling feedback and a rather shouty vocal from Cedric Bixler.

Alkaline Trio – Private Eye

‘Stupid Kid’ was the first Trio song I heard, and as much as it intrigued me I was much happier to hear their next single, which also serves as the full-speed-ahead opening to what’s probably my favourite Trio album. I was fairly obsessed with the Alkaline Trio at one point – particularly the superb singing of Dan Andriano – and this is a great reminder of why.

The Odd Bit

During the write-up of this post I was amazed to discover two things:

  • Out of the five bands I’ve written about, only one of them is still going strong, and
  • ALL FIVE tracks selected here are from each band’s third album.

I have no idea what this could mean. But weirdly it doesn’t feel like a coincidence.

A Tune For Tuesday (and the rest of the week) – Seven Days In The Sun

At the time of publishing this post I’ll be on my way to the airport with my good lady for a well-earned week in the sun.

We got the packing out of the way this weekend so that I could really get down to some difficult decisions on Monday; namely, what books I’m taking and the all-important contents of my iPod.

So with a couple of new books for my Kobo, the entire back catalogue of the excellent Calling Spots wrestling fanzine and plenty of podcasts stored up, we’re heading off for a week.

To celebrate, here’s a couple of my very favourite summery tracks.

 

The Beatsteaks – Summer

 

I’ve loved this song ever since it showed up on the P-Rock music channel, many many years ago. The video shows life on the road for a rock band and the ways they can combat boredom, while also being a very sweet tribute to the bonds of band brotherhood.

 

Feeder – Seven Days In The Sun

 

You know when you’re walking somewhere with your headphones on, you turn a corner and see the sun coming out. The sun gives you a little rush, then a big tune comes on and you feel an even bigger surge?

This song is THE song that just started playing.

 

What gets you in the mood for summertime? Comment below! See you soon!

Why did Tom DeLonge leave Blink 182?

I heard about not one, but two rather distressing attempts to ruin my adolescence this week, but rather than a film director who literally doesn’t know when to stop (as he keeps changing his mind), we’ll get into something about punk rock music instead.

When I heard that Tom DeLonge had quit Blink 182, I’d honestly forgotten that they were at some point in the recent past still together anyway. What I thought were just a bunch of reunion gigs in 2009-10ish actually turned out to be the promotion behind an album. Thinking back, I struck upon the last time this kind of creative and personal conflict came up between the three punk kids done good.

box car racer blink 182

Box Car Racer

I was 17 when Box Car Racer released their only album in 2002; DeLonge wanted to do something that “didn’t feel locked in to what Blink was”. Having found Blink at precisely the same moment as everyone my age – after ‘Dammit’ but before ‘What’s My Age Again?’ – you could see how much of a departure this album was for DeLonge, but apparently not so much of one that fellow 182ers couldn’t be involved. (Travis Barker was the band’s drummer just so DeLonge didn’t have to stump up for a session musician, while Mark Hoppus sings on one of the tracks.)

When Blink returned in 2003 with their self-titled fifth album, there was certainly a mix of both early Blink and Box Car on there, you could see how the side project had to take place for these fresher songs to emerge.

Hoppus was understandably rather offended that he wasn’t invited to fully contribute, but I guess the record company and management wanted the next Blink record to be strictly Blink – the likes of ‘I Feel So’ and ‘All Systems Go’ wouldn’t have been acceptable for a band world-famous for dick jokes and spiky pop-punk riffs.

Hiatus and the death of Jerry Finn

Blink took another hiatus in 2005 while artistic and personal differences reared their ugly heads. This time, Hoppus snagged Barker for a new band, +44, while DeLonge spread his wings into Angels + Airwaves. Both did alright, but neither were Blink.

The sad death of producer Jerry Finn – if you like any band from California in the 90s (and I did), chances are he was at the console – got the three bandmates talking again, and soon they were back in the studio, differences resolved and alternate artistic outlets suitably chased down, ready for another go.

Reading some news stories today I discovered that their sixth album Neighbourhoods was recorded in different cities: DeLonge in San Diego, Hoppus and Barker in LA. It’d be one thing if they were on different coasts, but even in a state as large as California I don’t see the need for this distance unless there were still some wrinkles to iron out. Unsurprisingly, they were unhappy with the results of recording, as were their label with its sales.

So when it came time to record for their new one earlier this year, DeLonge said that, with A+A back on the road and several film and book projects in the pipeline, he found it “hard as hell to commit”. Hoppus responded by alleging that DeLonge was “holding Blink 182 back” from carrying on, and have since played a live show as Blink 182 with a new guitarist/vocalist. But we’ve covered that already.

Why did Blink 182 split up?

why did Blink 182 split up

image author: IllaZilla

Look back along the timeline and you may see a key event which led to something of a breakdown in communications between two lifelong friends: Box Car Racer. You can understand DeLonge’s frustration at, as he’s called it, not being allowed to use any more than one colour on the canvas Blink were painting, but in choosing to release a new album with one bandmate and not the other, you can also see why Hoppus felt some resentment about the whole arrangement, especially as he didn’t see the need to nip out for a sandwich between meals like the others.

A ten-year ripple effect of personal and professional problems has led to DeLonge’s departure from one of my teenhood’s most influential bands – itself very much predicated on an ‘us vs them’ attitude which punk rock gives us – which leads me to wonder why, short of fulfilling some distinctly non-punk legal obligations to tours and an album, Blink 182 can’t just call it a day for the third and final time.

Matt Skiba joins Blink 182

Twenty years of growing fame, family commitment, near death experiences and professional pressures mounted on Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge, leading to bandmates Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus announcing his departure from the band.

But at the time of writing, Blink 182 have played two shows and are on the bill for another with a brand new guitarist-vocalist.

The new line-up played a warm-up at The Roxy in LA on 18th March, and here’s a song that Tom should be singing:

 

It’s a bit blurry, so in case you didn’t recognise him by his vocals or the loud F-bomb he drops during Mark’s verse, here’s a new photo:

Matt Skiba Blink 182 Alkaline Trio

In his resplendent Hurley t-shirt you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s just his head photo-shopped onto Tom’s body, but – holy crap – that’s Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio!

Billed as ‘Blink 182 with Matt Skiba’, they’ll be headlining MusInk Festival on Sunday night.

From the video it’s kinda hard to tell with so much crowd participation – and Travis Barker’s usual enthusiasm on drums – but you can tell Matt’s very into it. (You could say he’s feeling this…I’ll get me coat.)

For now it’s a temporary gig, as Skiba’s already announced he intends to continue with his bandmates in the Trio. Did you ever think this would happen?

It’s blowing my mind a bit more than it really should, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since I saw the above footage for the first time last night. I’ve had plenty of ‘dream band’ discussions with friends at practices and after a few beers, but I never thought that lifting Skiba out of the Trio and into Blink would figure in the equation.

And to be honest, it still doesn’t – I much prefer Skiba’s musical talents over DeLonge, but Blink 182 just isn’t right without Tom. Alkaline Trio were once one of my very favourite bands, in fact they probably received the baton from Blink once I’d heard Private Eye for the first time, but in the days before I Miss You and Feeling This, Blink were much further along the poppier, sunnier side of the road than Alkaline Trio ever were, a gateway band into punk rock for me along with The Offspring.

If nothing else at least it’s a fun novelty.

Whether that fun novelty should ever find its way into a recording studio is another debate entirely. I’ll be posting later in the week about Blink 182 – let’s see if we can nail down the root of the problem.

A Tune For Tuesday – ‘All My Friends’ in Lego

LCD Soundsystem depicted in Lego – everyone’s a winner.

This weekend I’ve been enjoying the DVD of the final ever LCD Soundystem gig, the very definition of going out with a bang; with the band’s tight performance superbly overlaid with a strong sense of occasion by charismatic leader James Murphy.

Given the sporadic nature of my weekly Tune For Tuesday I recalled a pretty stunning video made for their amazing song ‘All My Friends’ – a definite highlight of that final performance due to the context – “this could be the last time, so here we go” – that needed to be featured the very next time I remembered to post one.

The actual video itself is pretty bloody special – another gem discovered at the end of a long night’s drinking with friends and so padded with its own special meaning to me.

But this particular version is something all geeks are sure to enjoy – the entire video remade in Lego form.

Take it away, Brick James.

A Tune For Tuesday – ‘Civilization’ from Fallout 3

The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye, with a standout track from a game that’s already brimming with soundtrack quality, Fallout 3.

To celebrate the fact that I’ve put a silly amount of time into another playthrough of Fallout 3 during some holidays from work, I thought I’d share one of my favourites from the game.

Of course it’s from Galaxy News Radio – because I’m not about to share anything from Enclave Radio (unless it was ‘Stars And Stripes Forever (hopefully not forever)’ from The Simpsons.

“That’s some nice flutin’, boy.”

I don’t know how popular The Andrews Sisters were – before my time, obviously! – but they’ve also featured in BioShock, Mafia II and L.A. Noire – so they must be the go-to group for that old-timey feeling when setting the scene.

This is ‘Civilization’, recorded with Danny Kaye.

Which is your favourite song from the GNR soundtrack? Leave your answers in the comments!