It was perhaps inevitable that Blink-182 would reunite, which it did after a pair of tragedies in 2008: the death of longtime producer/mentor Jerry Finn, and more importantly, the plane crash that nearly killed drummer Travis Barker. The band started writing new material in early 2009, but more tragedy followed that August, when Barker’s good friend and DJ partner DJ AM died unexpectedly. That and the band’s continued rewriting considerably delayed what became Neighborhoods so much that Geffen eventually gave the trio a hard deadline to turn in the album.
Unsurprisingly, tragedy heavily informs Neighborhoods, which plays less like a joyful reunion album and more like a darker continuation of 2003’s atmospheric Blink-182. Fans who didn’t enjoy that album’s stylistic detours may be alarmed by the Cure-esque keyboard that opens the album in “Ghost On The Dance Floor,” but it quickly gives way to the guitar/bass/drums core of Blink-182, establishing a precedent: The band begins some songs with electronic flourishes—“Up All Night,” “This Is Home,” and “Love Is Dangerous”—but it returns to its core. That’s most apparent on “Heart’s All Gone,” a stripped-down punk song that sounds like late-’90s Blink in the best way. It’s also one of the few songs where Mark Hoppus sings lead, which is a shame, because Tom DeLonge sounds flat as ever, and has a fondness for clunky lyrics. (“Ghost On The Dancefloor” mentions something about God inventing chills.)
The deluxe edition of Neighborhoods has four extra songs—“Snake Charmer,” “Fighting The Gravity,” “Even If She Falls,” and the thoroughly inessential “Heart’s All Gone Interlude”—but the standard edition is stronger without them. Although Blink-182 has long since left its past as a bare-bones punk band behind, overwrought rock isn’t its forte, either. Neighborhoods finds a nice balance between the two, but it could still use a little less fussiness.