We Need to Talk About Matt Skiba

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Matt Skiba joined legendary pop punk (or whatever we’re calling the genre these days) band blink-182 in March 2015. Prior to the formal announcement, the band members bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker had kicked guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge out of the group. They had also begun featuring Skiba during live shows, illustrating his abilities to take on the role of co-frontman to hoards of screaming fans who were eager to see the band active again. Despite this initially lukewarm response when Skiba was properly added to the roster, he was met more than just a little grumbling from the more “loyal” listeners.

The reaction to Skiba’s addition was singular. Those levels of skepticism and anger had not been seen amongst the band’s fans before despite blink having taken similar actions. In the past, the band had broken up, gone on hiatus, gone silent, changed their music style, changed their hometown, fought, recorded from separate states, and done everything to keep the marriage together. But this was different. This was a change to what many saw as the very DNA that was blink-182. For as devastating words like “hiatus” can be, a hiatus still honors the somewhat sacred nature of the line-up. A hiatus acknowledges the dream team quality of the band. It’s like saying, we’re not dissolving blink, they just not going to be making music for a time. Or they were going to focus on other projects, merely benching blink until they felt like returning it. In all these moments, blink may have disappeared, but it was still blink. Defined as Mark, Tom, and Travis.

By that logic blink-182, which was founded in 1992, wasn’t really blink-182 until 1998 when drummer Scott Raynor was replaced by Travis Barker. What then becomes of the blink splits Short Bus and Lemmings/Going Nowhere, the albums Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat and the EP They Came to Conquer… Uranus? Are they not blink records? It becomes somewhat challenging to defend the whole trinity definition when you consider how good and how very “blink” those releases are.

So perhaps it is the action of replacing DeLonge, not merely any member of blink that set some people off.  Most listeners had experienced blink-182 as Mark, Tom, and Travis, for that was the line-up when the group was at it’s most popular and most successful. They even titled a live album The Mark, Tom and Travis Show during those golden years, forever immortalizing the iteration. This may be why many blink fans are convinced that the band needs to forever be that line-up and that any other amalgamation of people calling themselves blink1-82 is just wrong.

This reaction also draws attention to how much of a creative force DeLonge was in the band. As much as public skirmishes and reported pettiness also painted Tom as a strain on the band, he was also the clever, lyrical, beloved member with the iconic lip ring. It was understood that he was hard to work with, but of course they’d do it for the fans. Of course, they could splinter off. Barker and Hoppus would form +44 during a hiatus. DeLonge and Barker would formed Boxcar Racer during another such break. But amidst all that other music, blink-182 still stood.

It seems then that the problem is you can’t have DeLonge and Hoppus in the same room. Problem is blink really needs DeLonge and Hoppus in the same room. As skilled of a musician Skiba is, the essence of blink was best captured by Mark, Travis, and unfortunately Tom. He wrote some of the best lyrics and licks that the band would ever record. Sure, his electronic influences hedged the band closer to Coldplay territory, but it was better than what’s currently being churned out. The music created by the three now just isn’t blink. It’s a pale attempt at young and angry rather than the cumulative efforts of three very skilled musicians.

As anarchic as the suggestion may sound, maybe they should start a new band. Logistically this might cause legal issues surrounding playing blink-182 songs live, but it’s almost a sacrifice worth the potential pay off. Because let’s face it. Never mind if “Parking Lot,” the most recent song we’re heard from blink, is quintessential blink or not. Let’s just admit that it’s not very good. And their last release California was only passable.

Blink is now on the precipice of releasing a deluxe California, as if no one warned them that sequels are rarely good. But apparently, the band just had too much material and are releasing a whopping additional 11 songs as well as acoustic versions of original California tracks. Guess no one told blink the quality over quantity rule either. The glimmer of hope that could have been “Hey, I’m Sorry,” a Japanese bonus track from California, has been all, but erased from the internet, which frankly reads a little overprotective of what might be the saving grace of the album.

If we are to judge this deluxe California not on it’s previous performance, but rather on the new listen “Parking Lot,” the outlook is still bleak. Skiba/Hoppus’ chorus of “Fuck this place, let’s put up a parking lot” is just a pathetic nodd to Joni Mitchell’s “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot” line in “Big Yellow Taxi” and come on, guys. You can do better. You’re no longer “drink[ing] on the train, on [your] way to the show Chicago / Naked Raygun live at the Cabaret Metro.” And your concerts haven’t cost “ten bucks to get into” for some time. Current seats are selling for anywhere from $47.50 to $400 (with a $8.12 “service change” and considering the tickets are the mandatory print-at-home kind that must be some service.) At the rate that the band is going, I’d rather hang out with the Ladies of the Canyon than the boys of blink. You should’ve stayed together for the kids.

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