We have to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming here at Reminiscent. Yes, for those of you waiting on the three-part series analyzing Adam Schlesinger's role in the film "That Thing You Do!" you will have to wait. If you came for an analysis about whether we could have predicted that the Netflix adaption of "Umbrella Academy" from the mind of Gerard Way was going to be just OK based solely on the lyrics to the My Chemical Romance Song "Teenagers" then well you, unfortunately, will have to wait. If you came for more Taylor Swift talk, well then maybe we should just take the hint already because certain metrics have us pinned as one of the top Swift pods on the market (legitimately).
Anyhow, the Blink-182 family tree of side projects has borne fruit once more. Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth have released new music under the group name "Simple Creatures" and given us six songs to chew through this week.
We can think of about three reasons why this came to be -- one, they are middle-aged artists vying for a "song of the summer" a la Maroon 5, Mark can't live with the fact that +44 ranks dangerously low on the Blink-182 family tree of side projects and doesn't want to be bested by Tom, or, finally, he and Alex are buds and wanted to indulge decades worth of pop urges, have the means to, and enjoy doing it.
1) Is this an attempt at a late-career song of the summer?
Probably not. Even if it was clearly that, which it isn't, the release would be a week late. Old Town Road is here and will save us and take care of us and help us when we are down, giving us warm milk and cookies to ease the pain of an ever-warming world.
Credit where credit is due, we suppose, Maroon 5 releasing a pop song every spring to wind up on algorithm-driven summer playlists is a good use of time and resources, all things considered. They got their Super Bowl half time show, Songs about Jane is fine, we don't have to go out of our way to upset ourselves. That's what they've been recently and if people want a soundtrack for their drives through the suburbs, they have every right to want Adam Lavine to voice that soundtrack. Weezer hopped on that train recently as well, gifting and/or torturing us with "Feels Like Summer" and their Toto cover in recent years, filling the airwaves with tunes for that year's warm months.
But this effort from Simple Creatures doesn't appear to fall into this camp. Though the first two songs are fun (to quote Mark Hoppus "bops that do slap and also fornicate"), this is a legitimate "effort" on the part of Hoppus and Alex, the All Time Low frontman. (A good or bad effort is up to the listener, but, pander to summer radio airtime it does not.)
-to hear our full discussion about this EP, stream or download the podcast below-
2) Is Mark self conscious about how +44 stacks up to Angels and Airwaves and Boxcar Racer on the Blink-182 family tree?
Mark Hoppus continues to write songs and lace Nightmare Before Christmas fan fiction in between base riffs and catchy hooks, and this particular EP leaves little doubt as to who contributed what as the first track is full of "nananas."
(This shit is nananas, n-a-n-a-n-a-s, as it were, etc. Anyways.)
The drawing of lines from the Aquabats to various efforts featuring Tom Delonge's voice on the Blink-182 family tree is a fun game, but it never leaves you with a great feeling. The results are conclusive, and +44 was always an act driven by but also limited by Markus.
Hoppus would fare well in a Scott Pilgrim universe, proving, most likely, to be a worthy opponent with the baselines and nananas and talk of fallen angels and grave grass and so forth, but every yin needs a yang. Alex proves to be a worthy one, and this EP feels more fun than ambitious, and it's not likely Hoppus is driven by an unquenchable urge to outduel anybody. We can love Mark for what he is and what he's brought us without going out of our way to make everyone feel bad about it.
He seems content. His hair is fun, and this EP is fun too, which leads us to the third and most likely reason this whole thing exists/what it is exactly.
3) Mark and Alex wanted to have fun and have the means to do so and they're really not bugging anyone so why don't you just shut up about it
There are many reasons why Blink-182 is great and why All Time Low would probably be nominated for best Guilty Pleasure band (2000-2010) if that award show were ever to be produced (stay tuned for future pods).
The duo comprising Simple Creatures know how to write catchy songs. If Alex and Mark were limited in any way by their respective genres in the past 20 years, they seemed free to nurture any and all pop sensibilities on this EP, which gets off to a fast start but ultimately runs out of steam by the third and fourth track, never really regaining the energy of tracks one and two.
It's fine and fun and early reviews seem to point to the notion that the live performance this group provides is also fine and fun.
"Strange Love" feels like it has parallels to a late-career Weezer release in that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and ultimately isn't hurting anyone. We all remain free to go on with our days. No careers were ruined by this art, and a few playlists here and there may be bolstered by its tracks.
Alex and Mark have earned, at the very least, this first experiment with pop in pursuit of bops that they hope slap and also fornicate. About 1/3 of them do.
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