Having taken some time out from each other to pursue other projects, DeLonge, Hoppus, and Barker regrouped in 2003 for their eponymous fifth album, determined this time to do their own thing and go their own way. Signing with new label Geffen Records to ensure their creative freedom, the band worked together on this album (as opposed to recording each contribution separately, as before), and with the valued production assistance of now honorary 'bandmate' Jerry Finn, blink-182 took an unprecedented eight months for completion.
Taken together as a singular and self-contained work (as it was intended, the band having worked hard to create a sense of progressive continuity between each track) the album is at once darker and more experimental than blink's previous offerings, benefiting from some exciting collaborations and innovative instrumental additions, including cello, upright bass, and bells. It is both atmospherically haunting and in places texturally weird, while still managing to pack a vital enough punch to be recognisably and unmistakably blink.
Lyrically, it was the band's most mature record to date, dealing as it does with the pressures and hardships of adulthood, the realities of relationships, and the existential sorrow and uncertainty that accompanies 'growing up'.
Kicking off with the sharp, loud and relatively upbeat 'Feeling This' (released as a single to illustrate the band's new direction) the album begins in familiar territory before coming in with the melodic piano, gentle strings and electronic drumbeats of the third track and second single, 'I Miss You'.
Continuing to settle into a mellow atmospheric groove are the minimalist third single 'Down', with its arrestingly memorable chorus and melancholy piano outro, and the near-instrumental track 'The Fallen Interlude', a collaboration with Sick Jacken from Psycho Realm that neatly showcases Barker's versatility as a drummer.
'Go' brings some energy back with a short and sprightly pop punk jolt, and fourth single 'Always' plays around with backing keyboards and a catchy eighties vibe before the downbeat atmosphere returns with the band's powerful homage to The Cure, featuring vocals from Robert Smith himself and carried off with some powerful chords and percussion. The album proper closes with the distant vocals, downcast theme, desultory drumbeat, and yet somehow uplifting cadence of 'I'm Lost Without You', and a live recording of 'Anthem Part Two' (from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket) is appended as a bonus track.
Blink-182 was well-received by fans and critics alike. It debuted at number one in Canada and reached platinum and double platinum sales in the UK and US respectively. Reviewers were uniformly impressed by the band's new sound, their sensitive treatment of more serious themes, and their bold capacity for redefinition.