Music Monday: Return of the Middle-Aged Anarchists

Graphic Credit to Punkstory.com

We can all agree 2016 has been a terrible year, right? I mean, we’ve had an excess of celebrity deaths from Harambe, to David Bowie, Fidel Castro and so many others. In addition, not a whole lot of people were absolutely thrilled with the choices for Presidential candidates, and the racial tension in the country have stayed at a relatively high level.

All of this tension in the air has led to a national feeling of angst, which admittedly is not the best for mental health, but has resulted in a fantastic environment for the re-emergence of several punk bands from the 90s and early 2000s. I mean sure, no one would trade Alan Rickman for a new Britney Spears album, but what about a new Green Day album? Regardless, five bands: Weezer, Blink-182, Green Day, Sum 41, and Jimmy Eat World decided to say goodbye to their wife, kids, and middle-age crises for a few months and record some new albums for those individuals who still enjoy some good ol’ punk music.

I rated each album in the following categories: The album itself, the album in relation to the band, and then the final rating, which serves as a sort of composite rating.

Weezer – White Album (Released on April 1)

Releasing an album on April Fool’s day is always a dangerous move, and the Weezer promotional staff included some sort of small print saying “This is Not a Joke” with all of their release posters. Weezer has had a track record of successful albums (more on that in a little bit), so the White Album had a considerable amount of hype to live up to.

As an album

The first time I listened to the White Album, I was blown away. I immediately played the album over (sacrificing sleep on a debate trip, I might add) and listened to it again. I have no clue about love at first sight, but love at first listen is definitely a thing.

The album opens with the calming sounds of the beach, and transition to the modern rock ballad “California Kids,” one of Weezer’s strongest opening since at least 2009’s Raditude. It’s a near perfect song, and serves as a sign of things to come.

The weirdest song by far is “Thank God for Girls,” and is also perhaps their biggest departure from typical Weezer on the album. It’s very “poppy” (like pop music, not the flower used for opium) but still has the electric guitar that most Weezer sports. Do yourself a favor and watch the music video. You will never hear the song in the same way, nor eat a cannoli again.

At the risk of offending a sensitive reader, the best bridge on the album goes to “Do You Wanna Get High?” The song as a whole is pretty slow (for a rock song), but the bridge is transcendent, and sports the second best guitar solo of the entire album.

Although it’s a decent song in and of itself, “Jacked Up” gets the award for “Highest I have heard River sing,” making it a must listen on the album. Seriously, how does a man’s voice get this high?

My favorite song on the record is the closing number. “Endless Bummer” is absolutely gorgeous in every way, from its poetry and storyline (a rather depressing breakup, something most people can identify with) and the song is solely acoustic guitar and harmonies until the third verse, where light drums and a “baby” electric guitar comes in. As the electric guitar and drum build, you can practically see the breakup happening. What follows is the greatest guitar solo on the album (and honestly one of Weezer’s best over their whole discography.) It’s amazing, and I can’t even put it into words. Go listen to it.

Shout out to the deluxe edition of the album containing “I Love the USA” where Rivers openly drops the Eff bomb and plays the most patriotic guitar solo I’ve heard, outside of Jimi Hendrix.

As Weezer

Most bands change who they are; it’s a part of being a successful band. The White album feels like “The Blue Album,” their best-selling album so far, and it’s a great thing. As a band, they have gone through a lot of different stages, but as a whole, Weezer out of all the bands on this list stays closest to their roots, something you have to appreciate, even if you don’t like their music.

Final rating

Overall, Weezer’s White Album is my third favorite, behind Pinkerton and the Blue Album. The music, lyrics, and “Weezerness” of the album makes it my second favorite punk album of the year. If you want to argue about whether it’s a punk album, that’s another article. Just come find me and we’ll go get coffee.

Blink-182 – California (Released July 1st)

Blink-182 has been my favorite band since high school, and unless they start advocating genocide, or ditch Mark Hoppus (one of the lead singers) they will continue to be my favorite band for a long while. Regardless, when I learned of a new album without Tom Delonge (the other lead singer, guitarist, and one of my all-time favorite artists), I was understandably skeptical. To me, Blink-182 without Tom is just +44trio, and if you understand that, then we should be best friends.

As an album

The opening, “Cynical,” is Blink’s best opening track since 2003’s “Feeling This” on their self titled album. And demonstrates the Mark and Matt (The new lead singer and guitarist) could have what it takes to make a decent punk album. The heavy distorted guitar, classic Travis Barker drums (absolutely insane in this song), and punk-pop vocalizations make this song one of the album’s best. “What’s the point of saying sorry now?” may be the catchiest, saddest line on all of “California,” and serves as a painful reminder of Blink’s breakup with Tom. Hey, let me get emotional about this.

“Bored to Death” was California’s lead single, and for good reason. Without the obnoxious synth, it sounds like an old Blink song. It’s catchy, angsty, and doesn’t mean too much: exactly what most teenagers are looking for in music. I personally don’t adore the song, but it’s a decent song overall.

I want to talk about both “Built this Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” in the same paragraph, as they basically serve the same function: they are call backs to Blink’s old days of hilarious short little songs. Sadly, both songs are too short (at seventeen seconds and thirty seconds respectively) to actually be songs in the same way that the B-sides on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket were, or “Happy Holidays, you (expletive).” It sounds like a pitiful attempt to relive the glory days, and is one of the worst things about the album. If a band is going to change as much as Blink has, then they should embrace the change fully, not waffle back and forth between the old and the new.

I personally enjoy “Left Alone,” but it is extremely pop-driven, like the vast majority of the album. Matt Skiba’s vocals are best demonstrated here, and the song works as a whole.

The title track, “California,” is my personal favorite song on the record and continues Blink’s tradition of amazing, emotional closing songs. The harmony in the chorus is haunting, especially for a punk album, and the lyrics sound genuine. Lastly, the final chorus is one of my favorite things Blink has done, and will always get me hype. It’s well done, and shows off the new Blink-182 better than any other song except for “Cynical.”

As Blink-182

Honestly, I’m disappointed in Blink-182. I knew going into the album that it wouldn’t be the same, but like a human, I had hope. Mark Hoppus is the only remaining original member, and it clearly shows. The pinnacle of Blink-182 was only possible with Mark, Tom, and Travis, and the lyrics, music, and album in general are weaker than all of their previous records, except perhaps the second to last, Neighborhoods.

Blink-182 sold out to pop. Most punk bands do, and it’s something that I’d like to write a considerably long essay on one day. The synth, pop vocalizations (those “whoas” and “ooh ahs” get really annoying once you notice them), and lack of whatever made Blink-182 themselves, makes this album fall pretty flat, especially for an old Blink fan.

The biggest reason that this album does not ring as true Blink is due to the producer. Jerry Finn was one of punk’s best producers, and since his passing in 2008, Blink hasn’t been the same. John Feldmann has had a lot of success producing records, but now he has produced both Panic!’s worst album, and now one of Blink’s worst. He incorporates pop into what used to be punk with a little bit of pop, and ruins the music. Stay away from Weezer, John.

Final Rating

Even after all of that negativity, California is still a pretty decent album. It’s not Blink’s best (by far), but it may not be their worst, and it catapulted them back into the spotlight. Who knows, maybe this will convince Tom to come back for a reunion tour. I can dream. Sadly, I rate this album fourth of the 2016 punk albums.

Green Day – Revolution Radio (Release October 7th)

Green Day is quintessential “2nd Punk Wave,” and their last three albums have been fairly mediocre. It’s been seven years since 21st Century Breakdown, their last good album, and twelve years since their best, American Idiot. I was not very excited for this album, and impulse bought it at Best Buy, hoping against hopes that Armstrong may have made a good album again. I was extremely surprised.

As an album

This is Green Day’s best album, short of American Idiot. Really. It’s amazing, and I thank the events of 2016 for inspiring it.

“Bang Bang” was one of the lead singles from the album, and it’s also one of the faster-paced songs on the albums. It’s Green Day, through and through. The vocals, guitar, and drums all scream 90’s punk, and it’s fantastic. There isn’t much out of the ordinary about this song, but it’s a solid middle-of-the-road tune.

“Revolution Radio” is, not terribly surprisingly, a song about revolution. There are several not so subtle references to the BLM movement, and the general chaos of 2016 is captured very well in the song. Granted, the guitar solo is literally just the melody on guitar, but that’s what Green Day has done, and will do, until they break up.

My favorite song on the album is “Still Breathing,” a tear-wrenching song, surprisingly about hope. Green Day is not known for optimism, being a punk band, but “Still Breathing” is one of the most encouraging songs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s about never giving up, no matter what the circumstances, but it was written in a way that isn’t cheesy. I’m not going to say I have cried a tiny bit while listening to this song, but I won’t lie either.

I once wrote an entire essay on the Eff bomb, and how to use it properly. I’m not sure if Billie Joe Armstrong got a hold of that essay, but this Green Day album is incredibly clean, outside of “Youngblood.” It’s a great, pulse-pounding song, with perfect Green Day instruments, lyrics, killer guitar solo, and nearly everything else it should have, but the line “Are you stranded, like I’m stranded? Do you wanna watch the world fall to pieces? Are you broken, like I’m broken? Are you restless she said F*ck you I’m from Oakland” is enough to make anyone want to coup a government. Yes, I’m using coup as a verb.

As Green Day

Both Weezer and Green Day are essential them in their 2016 albums, and Revolution Radio, is a perfect picture of what Green Day is. Heavy, fast guitars, aggressively simple drum fills, and angsty revolution-inspiring lyrics make this album the “Green Dayiest” album since American Idiot.

Final Rating

Revolution Radio is the best punk album of 2016. The White Album may go down as a better album overall, seeing as it is not nearly as “punk” as Revolution Radio, but Green Day barely beats out Weezer in this one category. As an album by itself, I would struggle to put one over the other, so I just won’t.

Sum 41 – 13 Voices (Also released October 7)

If someone doesn’t know who Sum 41 is, you can typically say “You know that really whiny metal/punk band that all the white jocks listened to in high school?” and they will usually realize who you’re talking about. I personally liked Sum 41 a lot when they began, but have gradually stopped listening to them since middle school. Regardless I gave this album a shot.

As an album

This is the worst album of 2016, if not the 21st century.

There is not one song on this album that I would recommend that you listen to.

“Fake my Own Death” is alright, and sounds a lot like old Sum 41, but the music video ruined it for me. They put a bunch of memes in a music video, desperately trying to reconnect with younger listeners, and it was the grossest thing I’ve seen in recent years.

Please don’t listen to this album. Oh man it is so bad.

As Sum 41

I don’t know what the band members were thinking when they wrote this album, but it might have been something like “Hey let’s commit career suicide and sully our name forever.” It doesn’t sound like Sum 41, outside of a couple songs, and it’s just a bad album. I never loved Sum 41, but I actually hate this album.

Final Rating

The worst

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues (Released October 21st)

I think Jimmy Eat World was one of those bands that people ten years older than me really liked, but I was never particularly into them. Regardless, they are one of the bigger bands out there, and hadn’t really had a big album since 2001, so I went into the album with a fairly unbiased mind.

As an Album

Spoiler alert: This is the third best punk album of 2016, although if you looked at the other albums’ ratings, you would know that.

“You with Me”’s chorus sounds vaguely like “Sweetness,” from their Bleed American album, and is a solid opening song. At 5:18, it’s a little bit lengthy, but the quality makes up for the slightly overbearing quantity.

“Sure and Certain” is the best song on the album, and sounds exactly how Jimmy Eat World sounded at the peak of their popularity. It’s not a heavy song, and serves as a sort of anthemic break after “You With Me.”

“Get Right” has a very edgy guitar throughout, accented by a higher-pitched guitar over the chorus, and actually sounds a lot like an early Fall Out Boy song, something I am all for. It’s catchy, and well done.

“Through” begins with a nice acoustic guitar, and quickly evolves into an extremely 90s complaining ballad about relationships, and it’s perfect.

As Jimmy Eat World

I like it, and with my little experience in Jimmy Eat World, it holds up to their older stuff. This is a really solid album, and one I will continue to listen to.

Final Rating

As I stated before, Integrity Blues is a really good album, but falls short of Revolution Radio and The White Album. It’s in a solid third place, but is one of the better albums that 2016 has put out so far.