Blink-182 was to the late 90s as what Green Day was in the early 90s, adding pop sensibility to punk rock and bringing it into the mainstream to an audience who were too young to understand what legitimate punk rock actually means, or too old to care about what the scene has become. For all intents and purposes, Blink-182 put out a string of fun pop punk records that featured preteen wit and simple, yet effective riffs that the mainstream audience to get with.
Toward the end of their tenure, Tom DeLonge decided he was bored with singing songs about first dates and rock shows, and wanting something with a bit more integrity. After putting out an overly ’emotionally moody’ Blink-182 record, he formed Angels & Airwaves, a spacey progressive pop act that churned out a handful of mildly entertaining albums that featured songs about outer space, hope for a better tomorrow, and other high concept subjects that a suburbia skate punk could come up with. Sadly, that charm wore thin pretty fast and even faster when everyone realized that he wasn’t having fun with songs about aliens and space colonies, he was serious. Annoyingly serious.
Now I won’t get into the Blink-182 versus Tom DeLonge drama that escalated on social media but in short, they parted ways and not soon after, DeLonge announced that he will have four releases in 2015; two Angel & Airwaves albums, and two solo albums. The first one being To The Stars…Demos, Odds and Ends.
Personally, I don’t believe it’s a wise marketing decision to commercially release an album with “demos, odds and ends” in the title because that proves it will be a collection of music that’s sub-par and too weak to stand on it’s own as an actual release. If you are going to shoot yourself in the foot with your own preconceptions with the title alone, why release it to begin with? Demos are just that; demonstrations performed in home or studio like a musical sketch pad as not to forget an idea or concept. The demo is then worked on, along with a producer and other clientele to further develop the project into something resembling a finished product. Sure there have been plenty of bands who have released demos to the public after the fact as a fun extra for their fanbase, most of the time for free or at little cost and some of them turn out to be fantastic, or at least interesting to hear how a particular song progressed. But as a debut solo release?
With that said, perhaps DeLonge threw the ‘demo’ title on the album in hopes that people will have an open mind when listening and not completely dismiss it as complete throwaway garbage? Well nice try Tom but that’s exactly what To The Stars…Demos, Odds and Ends is: garbage that should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Starting things off we get “New World” which could have very well been a Blink-182 song before Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker got a hold of it and brought back down to earth where it belongs. There is a very catchy Hawthorne Heights meets Brand New style hook in the chorus but it’s hindered by pretentious, inane lyrics and DeLonge’s infamous nasal vocals forced through the needle head of digital compression and inhuman autotune, stopping it dead in it’s tracks. Scary thing is, it’s all downhill from there. The next track “An Endless Summer” also features a promising guitar hook, but surrounded by strange verses that sound like they would have fit better in an early level of Sonic The Hedgehog (and not in a good way).
The rest of the songs range from the embarrassing awkward drivel of a 40 year old singing about wanting to get a new skateboard in “Suburban Kings” to the completely pointless, digital clutter of “Landscapes” which sounds like something you could throw together using royalty free samples and a synth pad in about three minutes. For only being eight songs, they are all over the place thematically but not in an interesting or endearing way, it sounds like this really IS a collection of demos, odds and ends. One’s that NEED to be developed into something that resembles music someone would at least pay a discount price for, or just thrown out all together.
Blink-182 were never my favorite band and to be quite honest, I was probably a few years older than the fan base they were appealing to during the height of their career, but I did enjoy the occasional single from them here and there, and will even go as far as saying, that when they did pretend to be mature, like with the Jerry Finn produced self-titled 2003 release, they sounded like an actual band and not a pre-teen gimmick that most critics sold them off as. With that said, I can appreciate an artist trying to grow, not all of us can stay fourteen years old, musically or mentally. But the problem with To The Stars…Demos, Odds and Ends doesn’t lie within someone trying to do music that is sophisticated beyond their personal limitation, the problem is, it just isn’t any good.
I don’t have an opinion as to what will become of Blink-182 without Tom DeLonge, and I never cared for Angels & Airwaves enough to follow their releases, but regardless if the songs in this collection are demos from either projects, they just suck. I’m sorry Tom, but you need to develop songs before releasing them, and slapping “demo” in title will not give you a free pass here. If I’m going to PAY for a product, it best better be a finished concept or at least a listenable one.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.