“I think on California, we really had an idea of what we wanted that record to sound like and it was going back to the foundation of what blink-182 is all about,” bassist Mark Hoppus tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “[NINE] is everything that blink-182 should be in 2019.” How one reads “2019” in this particular context is a question of sonics and songwriting just as much as social mores. The world has changed a lot in the three years since the kings of pop-punk reunited—with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba in place of founding guitarist Tom DeLonge—for California, a wild, wheelie-popping return to form that, by definition, returned to everything that made them unlikely pop stars at the turn of the century: adolescent nursery rhymes taken to almost diabolical lengths, with lines like “There’s something about you that I can’t quite put my finger in,” as heard on the vintage 30-second outburst “Brohemian Rhapsody.” By design, NINE finds the trio not only dispatching with dick jokes entirely, but fully embracing modern electronics and textures—as well as beats that drummer Travis Barker had originally intended for other artists. The result resembles the pop and alt-rock of the current moment more than anything they’ve recorded until now, be it in the titanic guitar swells of “Happy Days,” the skittering rhythm of “Black Rain,” or the saturated tones of “Blame It on My Youth.” On the towering “I Really Wish I Hated You,” Hoppus even makes a subtle attempt at rapping, without any wink or trace of irony. To get to this point creatively, he says it was about letting go, “just trying to write great songs and not worrying about ‘Is this the quintessential blink guitar-heavy distorted sound?’ If you plug your guitar into a computer and it sounds great, then run with it.”

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