January 23, 2013
Record Reactions: Blink-182 – Dogs Eating Dogs EP
Blink-182 takes a lot of flak. After an illustrious career as the pop-punk band that no one took seriously, the trio had to hurdle some obstacles. Over the years, they have dealt with a breakup, internal conflict, a six-year hiatus, a plane crash, and worst of all, a finicky fan base with stratospheric expectations.
As a result, Blink-182 is a complex band. The music they make, while poppy and accessible on the surface, is in reality complex in its motivations and its difficult to listen to, and even to pass judgment on.
I used to be the biggest Blink-182 fan in the world, and I still am. I consider them talented songwriters – they have an uncanny ear for hooks, catchy tunes, and a confidence to pursue their ideas with abandon. But it’s undeniable that, since their hey-day in the age of MTV, they’ve recalibrated their sound.
Tom DeLonge, guitarist and lead singer for the group, took his time in the post-breakup hiatus to hone a new, poppier sound. Travis Barker, the band’s ever-versatile drummer, pursued more projects with hip-hop. And Mark Hoppus found himself the star of his own TV show on Fuse – his influence is the only one left relatively unfettered.
Since Blink-182’s reunion LP Neighborhoods, everything the band has put out has been an amalgam of these three wildly different influences. They hit on many different styles across the five songs of this EP: stadium rock jams, fast punk grooves, and even a bit of acoustic balladry. These three have done a lot of growing over the years, and now they’re proving it, with wildly different writing styles on every song, yet still coming together under the classic umbrellas of pop and punk.
Dogs Eating Dogs, the new EP from the group, is more of the same. It features bursts of ethereal synths and heart-on-sleeve lyrical content, interlaced with hip-hop and pop-hop beats and sounds, but it is all funneled through that same old pop-punk sensibility. The result is a sound that may be a little uncertain, but is in no way a disappointing listen.
The title track “Dogs Eating Dogs” is equivalent to the song “Hearts All Gone” on Blink’s last LP Neighborhoods – the last semblance of that old style before Tom went all synth-balladeer. Hoppus always seems to retain the old fast, hard, fun punk roots of Blink’s sound.
Opener and likely standout “When I Was Young” is a perfect example of Blink, with all its new parts working at near-optimum levels. Tom’s influence is noticeable: a shinier vocal delivery and some light little synths. But when the track kicks in, it boasts a powerful and catchy chorus, complete with those harmonies fans of Blink have come to love so much. That track, as well as album closer “Pretty Little Girl,” are the most definite statements Blink makes on this EP. Look out for the guest spot from Yelawolf tagged on at the end of “Pretty Little Girl.”
Pop-punk’s literal definition is music characterized by “frustration combined with sunny hooks.” If that’s the case, then this the new Blink isn’t making as much of a change as people are saying. They’re just trying something new.
Detractors may point to inconsistent writing, a poppier sound, and a gimmicky guest verse from a rapper. But fans will look past that to see what this EP really is – just a talented group, trying to make some music that’s fun and that sounds cool. Just like they always have.
And I’m not going to say anything about the cover art. But that’s questionable.
Image Credit: Blink-182