Blink 182 has become somewhat of a touchy subject in the punk community. They undoubtedly became one of the largest bands ever spawned from the ever-expansive genre as they released an unprecedented number of hit singles and successful albums during many years of music production. Where they fall on the scale of respect is quite another issue, and a more debatable one at that. Whereas thousands honor them as pop-punk pioneers, countless others blaspheme them as trite, overly immature, and unbearable. The group’s reputation transcends all demographics. The former opinion is expressed by aging fathers while the latter takes place even among the visitors of a site originally intended in large part to be a fan site for the aforementioned band.
Whether a person loves or hates Blink 182 is not the point; what one must understand instead is that seemingly everyone has a strong opinion and vicious bias regarding the legendary crew. Thus, as Tom Delonge departed from the largely defunct Blink 182 to form the outlandishly hyped Angels and Airwaves extensive comparisons loomed inevitable. Many veteran proponents of Blink craved another charging disc inundated with power-chords and fart jokes. Detractors shrieked in agony at the announcement that Angels and Airwaves was in fact not a practical joke but rather an actuality. Regardless, when such an epic band member such as Tom Delonge commences work on another project their output is bound to earn a watchful eye and a careful ear from throngs of music fans about the world.
Adding to the pressure of meeting standards of success set by his past group, Delonge commented in confident fashion about his band. He declared their music to be epic and the best work of his career by a long shot. We were promised one of those long-lasting albums with multiple tracks clocking in at over five minutes. These bold declarations coupled with the historied past of each individual musician made for one of the most pressure-intense debut albums in all of music.
That being said any listener finds it extremely difficult to take a blank slate into this project, and few can objectively assess We Don’t Need to Whisper. Tom exuded confidence that ultimately both garnered the attention of the rock community and readied pessimists to pounce on an opportunity to label this record the biggest disappointment or most overrated disc of the year. It seems that the band had so many ambitious goals that they were bound to fall short in a few arenas, if not all. Upon a brief glance at the track listing we recognize a shortcoming in length; only three songs of ten songs surpass the five minute milestone and the work as a whole plays in just under fifty. This, however, represented the least important of factors in evaluating Angels and Airwaves.
The actual music on We Don’t Need to Whisper proves impressive even without the pedigree of the collective band. It is altogether too easy to criticize the flaws in the work; lyrics, especially choral work, run repetitive and often drum parts do the same. But such nitpicky details fail to reign costly in the overview of the whole CD. Angels and Airwaves’ sound represent an inspired one, reaching beyond anything Tom has created in past years toward a more legendary, arena sound. Reminiscent of the U2 of past, We Don’t Need to Whisper could be the album to catapult these gentlemen into the realm of the universally appreciated artists. A much more expansive range of percussion instruments surface and infinitely more mature songwriting is delivered here than ever came about during the Blink 182 era. Angels and Airwaves seem to be aiming for a grand sound that will captivate their audience. Many tracks stun and paralyze listeners much in the same manner as does the Mars Volta’s Frances the Mute while simultaneously energizing them like simple energetic pop-punk pieces from a group like Cartel. But needless to say We Don’t Need to Whispersounds nothing like anything either of those two bands would release. Its songs can be boiled down to aspiring arrangements bent upon achieving epic status worthy of sold out arenas of temporarily comatose adoring fans. Spacey instrumentals, hollow and echoing drumming, and maturing vocal work from Tom Delonge push the group toward its goal of such proportions.
Drawbacks exist of course. Overproduction seems apparent, although not all too detrimental, as effects run rampant about the record. It is almost as if effects are used simply for the sake of using effects. Delonge’s voice also can stand between the group and their aspirations for a truly epic sound. His nasal albeit improving voice does not seem to be in accord with the sound Angels and Airwaves looks to be attaining. As counterintuitive as it may seem, tracks like “The War” where Tom drives his croons and nearly returns to the pre-AVA Blink 182 type singing turn out to be some of the most impressive. Faster paced tracks thrive in comparison to decelerated ones in which his voice seems strained to stretch across the expanded time his notes must carry.
It would be ignorant to entirely cast aside and disregard the previous work of the members of Angels and Airwaves and most notably that of Tom Delonge in Blink 182 while assessing their debut release. It would be equally if not more ignorant though to allow preconceived notions and an abundance of hype alone to establish your view of We Don’t Need to Whisper. An open mind and accepting ears allow for a much more enjoyable listen to an impressive album. Angels and Airwaves may not yet be epic, but they’re certainly bounds away from Blink 182 and nearing that legendary status.