imageDestined to be judged oh-so-harshly on this, their first album in seven (ish) years, Blink-182 have returned from the abyss with ‘Neighborhoods’.

It’s incredibly hard to take the album at face value because of that vast gap in activity, and also hard to escape feeling that the band sound a little dated, though that’s largely not their fault: it’s a lose/lose for the band – if they try to progress from their self-titled album and branch out, they’re going to get stick, and if they try and pander to fans who expected a return to “their roots”, they’re going to get stick. Here, they’ve gone for the former, and as the album leaked online they… got some stick.

In all honesty, some of that stick is fair – beyond stylistic preference, ‘Neighborhoods’ isn’t, by a long way, the most impressive Blink-182 album ever and it’s probably not even the second. Travis Barker tends to make things sound a little messy throughout and Tom Delonge’s vocals seem a caricature of the nasal, yet charming yelps they once were.

The first trio of tracks that the band (intentionally) put oline are the strongest of the bunch, and though it seemed to band were going to balance the airy mid-tempo style from the self titled (‘After Midnight’) with an updated version of the more “classic” Blink-182 sound (“Hearts All Gone”), overall it’s a bit of a mush of different ideas that don’t sound quite as cohesive as any of the previous three records they’ve put out.

That said, ‘Neighborhoods’ does drag you back in to find something you’ve missed, and it isn’t a bad thing to see a band with the weight of expectation try new things. Is it worth the wait? Probably not. Did it ever have a chance to get judged fairly? Definitely not. Most definitely a record to spend some time with if you’re not sure initially, but don’t be surprised if you end up thinking it sounds like three strong personalities with three very different visions making things a bit over complicated.

TOM AYLOTT