NINE is the eighth studio album from legendary pop-punk trio Blink 182, in which the band emphasizes their pop over punk sensibilities. Like the rainbow neon tinge of its album cover, NINE is bright, it’s sleek, it’s highly-polished and sugar-coated. But not all that glitters is gold, as is the case here.
After founding member Tom DeLonge left the band in 2015 to start his own X-Files-esque organization in the search for evidence of the existence of aliens and UFOs, Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba came onboard to fill the void. Joining Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, the newly-formed threesome made another comeback with 2016’s California, which elicited mixed reactions.
NINE follows suit of California’s more mature, introspective themes, expanding on an emotional front. Songs about dick jokes are replaced by songs about loneliness, depression and regrets. “Angel wings at the bus stop / Halos left on top of the bar / Heaven doesn’t want me now,” Hoppus sings on the heartfelt “Heaven.” This moody darkness permeates NINE, but is balanced out by enough upbeat radio-friendly anthems to jolt listeners back to a happy state of mind.
Unfortunately, many of the themes get bogged down in some bland songwriting. “The First Time” features the worst throwaway lyrics (“First love, first high, there ain’t nothing like the first time / Passed out last night, there ain’t nothing like the first time.”) And then there’s “Ransom,” where “Now she’s holding him for ransom” gets repeated ad nauseam.
There are a handful of gems scattered across the record’s tracklist. “Pin the Grenade” is a standout arena anthem with a sing-along chorus, followed by the album’s fastest track “Generational Divide” with its short fuse and even shorter runtime, clocking in at 49 seconds, sadly. And, to no surprise, Barker absolutely slays the drum work across the board, a tribute to his status as a madman behind a drum kit.
Between the peaks and valleys are plenty of duds. Included among these are the lead single “Blame It On My Youth,” “Darkside” and “Hungover You.” They’re not all awful—some are even repetitively catchy and hooky—but not worthwhile either, weighed down by ultra-processed bells and whistles that prove to be unnecessary distractions.
At its best, NINE is catchy but forgettable pop-rock candy that’s too sweet for its own good.