+ 44 | When Your Heart Stops Beating (Interscope)

44If his new band's debut album is any indication, Blink bassist Mark Hoppus didn't take the breakup all that well. "Please understand/ This isn't just goodbye/ This is I can't stand you" he wails on the dark "No, It Isn't."

 

 

Like the Peter Pan of pop-punk, Blink-182 seemed destined to never grow up. That's why 2003's Blink-182, the band's sixth and final album, was such a shock: a mature, sonically rich musical statement that seemed light years ahead of its sophomoric predecessor, 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. With the band finally reaching an artistic peak, it was even more surprising when guitarist Tom DeLonge unceremoniously quit the band in 2005.

If his new band's debut album is any indication, Blink bassist Mark Hoppus didn't take the breakup all that well. "Please understand/ This isn't just goodbye/ This is I can't stand you" he wails on the dark "No, It Isn't." Listeners can sense DeLonge's absence from the album opener, "Lycanthrope," and its call-and-response chorus that seemed destined for DeLonge's nasal whine. Hoppus and latter-day Blink drummer Travis Barker's new band, christened +44 after the country code required to call the United Kingdom, is most definitely a different beast than Blink's streamlined power trio. Backed by new guitarists Shane Gallagher (The Nervous Return) and Craig Fairbaugh (The Forgotten, Mercy Killers), +44 has an even broader musical palette to work with, giving the rock songs a more muscular tone while letting the slow songs breathe.

This isn't to say that Hoppus and Barker have completely left behind their roots. Where DeLonge sought to create music that was "anthemic" and "epic-sounding" in his new band Angels and Airwaves and ended up with an album that aped the Edge's guitar-playing for 50 minutes, +44 sounds like a more logical extension of the maturation of Blink-182. There's thankfully no shortage of thrashing rockers like "Lycanthrope" and the massively catchy title track, while "Cliffdiving," with its driving guitars and Barker's stuttering drumbeat, anchors the album's back half. Hoppus also explores the Cure obsession that Blink's "Miss You" belied on a number of tracks, most notably the bleating synths on "155" and "Interlude," a catch-your-breath instrumental that sounds lifted from the Cure's 1992 album Wish. Throughout the record, Barker proves to be the band's not-so-secret weapon, possessing not only superhuman speed but a versatility that few rock drummers can match.

Surprisingly, the initial plans for +44 were for it to be an even more radical departure, the original lineup featuring vocalist Carol Heller and songs built on keyboards and samplers for a heavily electronica-based approach. While the decision to remain a straightforward rock outfit was probably for the best, elements of the band's beginning bubble to the surface and make one wonder what might have been. If "Make You Smile," a Postal Service-esque duet between Hoppus and Heller with sequenced drumbeats and a simplified guitar riff, is any indication, it could have been a fine album. But as it stands now, When Your Heart Stops Beating stands as not only a very good rock album, but a more natural continuation of Hoppus and Barker's late, lamented former band. A- | Jason Green

RIYL: Blink-182, Hey Mercedes, Jimmy Eat World

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