It feels telling that the proper campaign for One More Time began with its title track. For the first blink-182 release since 2012 with Tom DeLonge in the fold—as a restoration of their classic lineup—it’s not a song that feels very ‘classic’. It’s stripped-down and primarily acoustic, more a mediation on life than the rambunctious, never-gonna-grow-up pop-punk for which they’re typically known. But at the same time, One More Time as a song probably isn’t supposed to be like that. When there’s so much cynicism that can be thrown the way of DeLonge’s decision, particularly when blink-182’s Matt Skiba era did underperform, it’s the kind of salve to address that skepticism and toss it firmly aside.
Further to that, there’s a sense that this reunion is important, not just for the fans who’ve been clamouring for it ever since DeLonge left in 2015, but to the band themselves. Titling your album after a song about open reconciliation proclaims that in no uncertain terms, as does the knowledge of how, despite the wildly varying personal lives of these three men, there’s clearly still a connection. Mark Hoppus was diagnosed and subsequently recovered from stage 4 lymphoma; Tom DeLonge has inadvertently helped prove the existence of UFOs; Travis Barker married Kourtney Kardashian and has become the de facto mentor for pop-punk acts in the 2020s. They’re individually long, winding roads that have reconvened once again, in a decision that genuinely feels motivated by humanity than profiteering.
The real question comes in how that’s represented in the meat of a new album. It’d be very easy and likely tempting for blink-182 to go full-pelt in trying to completely replicate the feel and tone of their classic material, especially when that’s what a lot of fans clearly want. To some, DeLonge’s return may signify an embrace of the halcyon days of Enema Of The State and Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, particularly after a few years of generally lukewarm auras around their work overall. But the problem was never DeLonge not being there, or Skiba in his place. More so, it was blink-182 losing sight of what could make them the most fun; there’s a difference between maturity and joylessness that a surprising amount of people don’t seem to have grasped. And with One More Time…’s cycle making such a big deal of a remended camaraderie—and an album title that swells incessantly from it—that’s the signpost that this is all back on track.
For those who felt that Skiba’s presence marked a fallow period especially, One More Time… willreally give the impression of pieces that have been sporadically chopped and changed over the years assembling to click into place. The consolidation of tones is especially impressive, seeing as blink-182 arguably have more to juggle now than ever. Obviously they’re looking to recapture past glories in boyish jokery, more in-your-face on Edging and Turn This Off!, but also in the gleeful, young-at-heart sentiment of Dance With Me or Fell In Love. But then there’s also the more mature side of things, both from the perspective of gratitude from reconnecting after periods of tragedy, and also the natural place in the world of three men in their late-40s and early-50s. The latter comes more naturally within their recent mould, particularly when it comes to songs that feel comfortable moving past the bawdiness and rambunctiousness. In terms of songs with genuinely solid lyrical breadth, the likes of More Than You Know and Turpentine throw in a songwriting heft that blink-182 have really taken to in recent years, framed in the emo contexts applicable to a younger fanbase without flagellating themselves too harshly with it.
But obviously, the main attraction is the story of bringing the classic lineup back together, and where One More Time… carries its most worth. The title track is the centrepiece in that, in its frank discussion of broken brotherhood and how much pain and suffering it’s taken to reunite both camps; the line “Do I have to die to hear you miss me?” stands out so much for a reason. Further to that, there’s also You Don’t Know What You’ve Got about Hoppus’ cancer diagnosis and his taking stock of his own life, and Childhood, in which the line “I never thought we’d end up here / We’re back in time to the best years” acts as the album’s capping sentiment with such tremendous gumption behind it. There’s a mingled comfort and thankfulness and enthusiasm behind where blink-182 are now; compared to the tense air of Neighborhoods and especially Dogs Eating Dogs, back when they were in a similar position, One More Time… makes a point to acknowledge how free of any baggage it is. It can be a more grown-up album when necessary, but not at the expense of fun for both the listener and the band themselves, and though it’s taken dire circumstances to get to that realisation, it’s so satisfying to see it being reached.
Of course, the extent of ‘fun’ can definitely vary. For as much as the element of nostalgia has been weaponised to shape One More Time… at its very essence, like it or not, this isn’t an old blink-182 album. It’s an issue that’s persisted all throughout their modern incarnations in terms of production, usually front-loaded with John Feldmann-isms that have watered things down rather significantly. Here, it’s not as bad—Travis Barker has handled production himself—but it’s hard to just erase what became so fundamental to their approach. The phaser effects on the drums are never good, and more chronically, the sanded-down edges and fined-coated sheen aren’t exactly conducive to a punk vibe. It’s most distracting on Fell In Love, where the chirpy tone and a considerable downscaling of complexity in Barker’s drumming taps into a saccharine zone that’s a little much. (It’s also a Ryan Tedder co-write, so it makes some sort of sense, doesn’t it?)
Pleasingly though, moments like that do appear to be the minority. While the gloss persists, the excitable jolts of a band with old energy to reassert is more noteworthy. Hell, the very first song is called Anthem Part 3; they’re borderline spelling it out! And with the classic pop-punk judder and “Olé, olé, olé, olé!” earworm of Dance With Me; the supernova-bright gallop of Other Side; and even the returning glances towards new wave à la the self-titled era on Blink Wave, there’s some great stuff that definitely feels like the magic is back. It’s more common than it isn’t too, yet another sign of how significant this swing is for blink-182. There’s clearly no readjustment period to wade through, not when they’re already this energised and game to take every possible angle in stride.
It’s quite evidently a result of falling back into a system that was so well-oiled for so long, with the primary intent of simply doing it again. The vocal trade-offs between Hoppus and DeLonge are as solid as they always were, with DeLonge maintaining his more eased-back diction, albeit with the nasal tone that’s characteristically his. As far as exuberance goes, they’re both totally in their element, between their individual guitar moments and basslines, and the sense that this is still something they can have a good time with. As always, though, Barker is the MVP, without whom blink-182’s modern incarnations probably would feel a lot less substantive. He’s well-known as one of the best drummers in the business, but it’s still astounding how elevating his presence is, in terms of flair and speed and—for lack of a better word—legitimacy he adds. It’s why tamping him back on Fell In Love feels like such a mistake; it’s removing the killer app from the equation, and the results crackle a lot less without him there.
So to wrap it all up, One More Time… mightn’t be a special album, but for where it comes and what it sets out to achieve, it’s difficult to see how this could’ve been better. The journey to get here has clearly had a profound effect on each member of blink-182, and to have them bury any hatchets and come together in a way that feels like genuine friends making music again is easily pop-punk’s fairytale ending of the year. And you can feel that in the air; people haven’t been this enthused about blink-182 in over a decade. They’re such a formative act for so many, and getting back to the core of strength that the majority of the fanbase will have grown up on is a wonderful thing in itself. And when it’s more than just flagrant nostalgia-trafficking, and there’s actually an impetus to do new, good things that’s acted upon, that kind of feeling transcends most others.
For fans of: +44, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte
‘One More Time…’ by blink-182 is out now on Columbia Records / Sony Music Entertainment.
Words by Luke Nuttall