As the first EP to be released since the split in October, the EP also proves that there was some truth that the recording methods on Neighborhoods was less than perfect. The idea that the band could record in separate studios and email in their recordings was an experiment gone wrong.
Sure, there were some songs fans could stand behind, but the album felt like the recording process. Dogs Eating Dogs is different. Mark Hoppus (vocals, bass), Tom DeLonge (vocals, guitar), and Travis Barker (drums) stepped into the studio on Nov. 5 and produced a handful of tracks that were ready for release during a week when so few bands or labels put out new music.
Dogs Eating Dogs is Blink 182 on their very own again.
There is plenty to like off the EP. The opening track, When I Was Young, is an authentic look back on childhood. Blink 182 neither glorifies nor defaces it, taking the good with the bad and the bad with the good. The sound is smoother and more relaxed, in some ways reminiscent of their earlier work.
The title track, Dogs Eating Dogs, is easily the most aggressive song on the EP. Naturally, all things are relevant, even the most aggressive track on this release doesn't compare to the most aggressive tracks across their career. There's nothing menacing about it.
Suffice to say that with Hoppus leading the song, it's more pop than their punk roots but still brilliant. Instead of grabbing people in the throat, there are moments in this song where the sound will just wash over any space where it is played. The musical arrangements, particularly toward the back half, become exceptionally fluid. And yet, the band never allows a single beat, chord or musical nuance to drop by the wayside. It all counts, every detail.
The back half of Dogs Eating Dogs is perfect in introducing the even more anthemic song Disaster. Just don't let the fullness fool anyone. The song is all about love, death and resurrection. It could play well as a song about loss or a paranormal romance, which seems odd but somehow works nonetheless.
On the whole, both songs showcase a band that sounds more confident. The confidence doesn't come across as rising punks ready to take on the world, but rather competent and talented artists settling into something remarkable. You can even hear it in their cobbled together interview clips that made up the EP teaser last week.
Boxing Day, which was originally titled The Day After Christmas, begins as an acoustic until it gets bumped up by a drum kit. It has become one of the most popular tracks off the EP because it's pretty. Too pretty, really. It's my least favorite track on the album as this is one time Blink 182 infused too much style over substance in making a feel good breakup lullaby.
Pretty Little Girl, which was originally written by DeLonge for his wife, starts out shaky with weak open but then builds into something memorable. Skip the first 20 seconds and the song powers up into something significant as an overview of a relationship from beginning to an almost end.
It's easy to be torn on the guest delivery by rapper and former pro skateboarder Yelawolf (a.k.a. Michael Atha). DeLonge nails it down in the writing and Yelawolf does the delivery justice when he weaves in some of the most compelling lyrics in the song.
Where it feels slightly wrong, almost like the opening of Disaster and possibly Boxing Day, is that the contrasting styles don't always complement each other. It would be interesting to hear all three tracks played straight, with Boxing Day retaining only the folk acoustic, the rap section in Pretty Little Girl dropped back into the verse, and Disaster without the manipulated radio frequencies.
Dogs Eating Dogs By Blink 182 Bites 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Dogs Eating Dogs and When I Was Young are easily the best two tracks off the album. The other three are excellent tunes that work despite wondering how they could be arranged differently. (That's not a criticism as much as a curiosity.) Stack it all up any way you like, but what is obvious is that Blink 182 isn't blowing smoke when they say they want to bring the band back better. They obviously mean it.
The Dogs Eating Dogs EP by Blink 182 is available on iTunes. The EP is an excellent testament to how the band has evolved over the course of two decades, including the disastrous split that they have since made the best of after reforming the band. For tour dates before they sell out, make sure to visit their Facebook page or take a long look back ten years ago at Blink 182 by Tim Footman.