Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship DeLonge. It’s now a decades-long mission to convince the world that ‘Aliens Exist’ in what appeared, at first glance, nothing more than a goofy song title by his former band. Here, the bid is to seek out new life and new genres outside of pop-punk. To boldly go where no SoCal skate punk has gone before!
There is so much to talk about with former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge that it inevitably takes a while to come back around to his music. There is, of course, his interest in ufology with his To The Stars Academy, a project that started off as a punchline and now has been referenced in reports by The Pentagon. There’s his reunion with ex-bandmate Mark Hoppus and his continued support throughout his cancer diagnosis, which inevitably is leading fans to openly consider another Blink reunion. What sometimes gets lost in this shuffle is that DeLonge has been working on his own band, Angels & Airwaves, for nearly two decades.
A&A was always touted as a more “serious” project for DeLonge, allowing him to indulge his love of sci-fi, synth-pop, and prog rock well before To The Stars was actually searching for ETs. Since 2006’s We Don’t Need to Whisper, A&A has been making operatic space rock that felt miles away from the preserved in ember immaturity of Blink-182. For anyone who only knows him as the guy with the weird voice belting out ‘All The Small Things’ and making dick jokes, Angels & Airwaves can seem at best bizarre and at worst, horribly pretentious.
Have no fear if you fall into this camp because, on their new LP LIFEFORMS, DeLonge proves that he’s still Tom DeLonge, no matter what setting you put him into. He’s still going to have that crude edge to him, even if he’s floating around in space. The best way to illustrate this is to comb through the lyrics found on the new LP. “Like having sex while on fire/There’s no putting you out” is a highlight line from ‘Spellbound’. I can’t tell if ‘No More Guns’ is a sincere political statement because I’ve never used the term “sincere” and “Tom DeLonge” in the same sentence before.
With all that being said, I can’t say that I didn’t have fun listening to LIFEFORMS. Like an idiot savant whipping out works of genius, DeLonge has always had a preternatural gift for hooks and melodies, which remain intact on tracks like ‘Automatic’ and ‘Timebomb’. Never afraid to go big and basic, DeLonge has turned four chords and sing-along choruses into an art form, and just because he’s taking his cues from Pink Floyd instead of Black Flag, that doesn’t mean that he’s changing his signature vocal style or love of monster earworms.
Every time I see something to do with DeLonge, my first instinct is to roll my eyes. Here’s a man who once upon a time wanted us to listen to him prattle on about when “aliens fly into your butt” only to turn around and ask the same audience to take him seriously on the same subject matter. There has always been a little too much cognitive dissonance in there for me to truly enjoy Angels & Airwaves, and LIFEFORMS isn’t going to do anything to change that. And yet, every time, I roll my eyes a little less. The man is dedicated, and it seems like he’s getting results, so if I can’t give him true fandom or enjoyment, I can at least give him some begrudging respect.
LIFEFORMS is available to stream on September 24.