One of the biggest and most common critiques that can be found in nearly every circle of music is “I miss the old stuff”. This can take on a myriad of forms… “The music is too serious now”, “They write too many ballads these days”, “I miss the songs about masturbating and smoking pot all day”, but essentially all these complaints really mean the same thing. Sure, there will always be an audience for a band somewhere, regardless of the changes made to the band’s music, but it’s extremely rare to ever see an entire fanbase collectively agree about how much they like the change in direction that a band has taken- especially in this day and age of anonymity and dissent on the Internet.
Last year Blink-182 released their first album since returning from their hiatus, Neighborhoods, to mixed reaction from more or less the entire world. Among the negative complaints (other than from the traditional punk rockers who have always hated blink-182) was that there was a huge influence of the band member’s other projects that was found squeezed into the disc, particularly Tom DeLonge’s very un-punk band Angels and Airwaves. This should have been expected, given that the band members spent four years apart working on their own individual projects, but I digress. Once the album dropped, it was common to find YouTube videos of people who either remixed the audio files, or just re-arranged the songs themselves to sound more like “classic” blink-182. But what if some band was to be ambitious enough to re-record the entirety of Neighborhoods in the style of “classic” blink-182? If you think no band would be idiotic enough to attempt such a thing, then you must be unfamiliar with Sweden’s Future Idiots, who have done just that very thing with their newest album Neighborhoods & Morningwoods.
Given that Neighborhoods & Morningwoods is essentially nothing more than a tribute album (on multiple levels too, that title is something that the blink-182 of 1999 would have never passed up), it would be un-fair to treat it the same way as if it were an album full of original material. It’s very clear that Future Idiots have taken a lot of influence from blink-182 (particularly 1997’s Dude Ranch and 1999’s Enema of the State), and the band really understands how to cop the style and re-arrange the songs to make them sound ten years older than they really are. This works well on the songs that were already a huge departure for blink-182: “Up All Night”, “Love Is Dangerous”, and “Fighting the Gravity” are all given the “sped-up-tempo-and-added-harmonies” treatment, creating new listening experiences for fans. Future Idiots opted to not cover the “Heart’s All Gone Interlude”, and for some reason included a second version of “Up All Night” tacked on to the end of Neighborhoods & Morningwoods in its place. The second version is more or less the blink-182 version, but played faster (“Natives” and “Snake Charmer” also suffer from this fate), whereas the first version takes more creative liberties, even going as far as to include a slow piano interlude that’s very similar to the one found in “Adam’s Song”.
On the original Neighborhoods there is a string of songs that alternate between sounding like what would happen if modern blink-182 tried to re-record Enema of the State (“Wishing Well”, “This Is Home” and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (“Kaleidoscope”, “MH 4.18.2011”)). On Neighborhoods & Morningwoods, these songs are played with the distortion cranked up and more palm-muting. Given that these songs already kind of sounded like blink-182’s earlier material, there wasn’t a whole lot to do with them, although the band does try to present them in a new fashion.
Then there are the re-arrangements that are kind of questionable. The blink-182 recording of “Heart’s All Gone” was already praised as one of the strongest songs on the original album, even garnering comparisons to Bad Religion. Rather than going for a straightforward cover, Future Idiots re-work the song to make use of elongated syllables and fast, choppy guitar work. Kudos to the band for making changes to these songs to make them more of their own, but sometimes being creative doesn’t always work out. The band’s cover of the Deluxe Edition song “Even If She Falls” suffers from sounding more or less like the original, but the band lucks out as “Even If She Falls” was one of the better songs on Neighborhoods anyway.
As a novelty project, Neighborhoods & Morningswoods is a pretty fun listen for blink-182 fans. Sure a majority of the songs don’t do a whole lot other than drop the long intros or weird synthesizer parts, but the goal was never to re-record the album as if Radiohead or Pink Floyd had written it- Future Idiots merely wanted to inject a different life into the album while also paying tribute to one of the most influential mainstream acts on the modern pop punk scene.