Seven years since their last full-length album, 2014’s The Dream Walker, the arena art rock band Angels & Airwaves return—and a lot has happened in their absence. AVA frontman Tom DeLonge quit blink-182, the genre-defining California pop-punk band he cofounded in 1992; released a debut solo album titled To the Stars… Demos, Odds and Ends; dropped some films and books; and founded an entertainment and aerospace company, also called To the Stars, best known for releasing footage of UFOs three years before the Pentagon chose to declassify it. (Now his company collaborates with the United States Department of Defense.) As diehard fans know, DeLonge’s interest in space mirrors his fascinations with musical performance, so it’s no wonder that Angels & Airwaves’ sixth studio album, Lifeforms, sounds galactic, a whirlwind of cosmic synths and sweeping production not unlike LCD Soundsystem recorded on Mars. And it almost didn’t happen.
“There was a time, not that many years ago, I didn’t know if I was going to play music anymore,” DeLonge told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. A “crazy divorce,” a departure from blink-182, working with “people from the government” on extraterrestrial research, and the COVID-19 pandemic left the musician feeling misguided. Then he made an accompanying movie for Lifeforms and his ambitions were given an identity: “It just ended up becoming everything Angels & Airwaves was meant to be—this transmedia art project about humanity.”
At the center is the record, a collection of songs that ascend to some final frontier: from the post-hardcore, ringing guitars of “Euphoria” and the jangly anti-NRA anthem “No More Guns” to the dark-wave-lite “Spellbound,” The Cure-inspired “Automatic” (Robert Smith was on a blink-182 song, after all), and romantic coda “Kiss & Tell.” “If anything, I just do what I want, and that's the most punk-rock thing that I have in my DNA,” DeLonge tells Apple Music. “And I know that people don't get it, but it doesn't really matter to me, because I know what I'm doing for the most part, 90%.”