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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Plus-44 rises from Blink's end

Nov. 14, 2006

There are some things you take for granted until they are gone — such as Blink-182.

After a several-month hiatus, the band announced its breakup amid a mountain of rumors. I feel bad for the generations of angst-y teenagers that will grow up without experiencing the band's pop-punk genius and potty humor firsthand.

The first posthumous effort by Blink guitarist Tom DeLonge, Angels and Airwaves, arrived earlier this year drenched in pretensions and a lack of creativity. If this lame attempt at "changing the world of rock music" is to be the future of Blink, I would have preferred complete retirement.

Later, I heard Plus-44, which features former Blink bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker along with guitarists Shane Gallagher and Craig Fairbaugh, when a demo version of "No, It Isn't" surfaced. It is easy to tell Hoppus and Barker aren't going to return to what Blink used to be. Neither are they going to change their music completely, but they are still capable of producing great, amazingly catchy songs.

Plus-44's debut, When Your Heart Stops Beating, plays more like a solidified version of Blink's last, self-titled record. It's a whole lot less fun than Blink's earlier material, but many of the tracks feature the soft verse, loud chorus explosion as heard on "Stay Together for the Kids."

When it comes to lyrics, Hoppus has stopped singing about first dates, making the lyrical content on When Your Heart Stops Beating much darker — in the vein of Blink's serious material like "Adam's Song."

On "Little Death," Hoppus deals with the meaning behind life and death, a big change for a guy who used to sing about having sex with Grandpa.

Things have also come full circle for the guys of Blink. After parting ways with its original drummer Scott Raynor, the band recorded "Man Overboard." With "No, It Isn't," complete with goodbyes and resolution, the men of Plus-44 find musical closure with the estranged DeLonge.

Behind the pop-punk power chords and nonstop drumming, Plus-44 has packed its love of electronica into the mix. Amid synthesizer melodies and rapid-fire hi-hat, "155" can't help but come off as a slightly cheesy '80s throwback.

Other tracks such as "Lillian," "Cliffdiving" and the opener, "Lycanthrope," have a more traditional punk sound, albeit with a more melodic touch. The album's first single, "When Your Heart Stops Beating," combines all of these elements best.

She is not officially in the band anymore, but Get the Girl's Carol Heller lends her voice to the album. "Make You Smile" stands out for its beautiful combination of Hoppus and Heller's voices. It's a shame she didn't stay with the band permanently.

It's easy to get stuck in the mindset of comparisons to Blink-182 or DeLonge's current musical venture when it comes to this record. To be fair, Plus-44's debut stands tall by itself. Musically, Hoppus and Barker explore sounds they haven't fully ventured into previously. It is a cohesive record pumped full of honesty and obvious personal growth.

Because Blink-182 played a role in so many people's adolescence, it's hard to overstate its influence today. If Hoppus and Barker play their cards right with Plus-44, their new band just might reach a similar status.

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