When blink-182 finally announced an end to their hiatus in 2009, a lot had changed for the band. Travis alone was engaged in a number of side-projects, from running his own record label and opening a fish taco restaurant, to collaborating on TRV$DJAM and drumming for rock group +44 with Mark, who in his turn was hosting a chat show called Hoppus on Music. Tom DeLonge, meanwhile, was causing a stir with alternative rock supergroup, Angels & Airwaves.
It was this diversity among them – the same musical and aspirational melange that had once led to tensions – that the band hoped to harness for their sixth album, Neighborhoods, its title having been chosen to reflect their reconciled differences (it taking a broad mix of neighbourhoods, after all, to form a city).
Following the tragic loss of their close friend and three-time producer, Jerry Finn, the band opted to self-produce this album, which they recorded piecemeal, in separate locations across San Diego and Los Angeles, between February 2009 and July 2011.
Lyrically and thematically, Neighborhoods is their bleakest album yet, having been heavily influenced by the tragedies besetting the band prior to and just around the time of their reformation – not only Jerry Finn's passing, but also Barker's near-fatal plane crash, and the death by overdose of his collaborator, DJ AM. Hence, the album deals with loss, separation, upheaval, and doubt, as well as addiction, estrangement, and depression.
Musically, the album represents a healthy fusion of the trio's individual styles. 'Ghost On The Dancefloor', which opens the record, combines DeLonge's taste for expansive, arena-busting space rock with the light and catchy riffs more typical of blink, which also kick off the next track, 'Natives' – a whirlwind, dual-vocal reverie for the band's pop punk early days.
The first of the album's two singles, 'Up All Night', fuses Tom's power chords with an indie rock edge and hi-hat artistry from Barker, while the second single, 'After Midnight', again returns to the pared-down power of the band's earlier work, albeit with some of the airy presence of their more recent releases.
Meanwhile, the experimental streak of their last pre-hiatus album lives on in the deluxe edition – namely in the 'Snake Charmer' intro, the densely instrumental 'Heart's All Gone Interlude', and the dark and vibratory 'Fighting The Gravity'.
Sales of Neighborhood have been small by comparison to those of its predecessors, but the album was well-received by critics as courageous, inventive, and honest. Certainly the loss of producer Jerry Finn diminishes somewhat the overall quality of the record (also jeopardised by the band's energy-sapping schedules) but where the trio come together on co-written tracks like 'After Midnight' and 'Kaleidoscope', they really shine through the superficial flaws, and this kind of strength in unity is what the album is all about.