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Angels & Airwaves

Splintered from BLINK-182 (while on a mid-to-late 00s hiatus), this indie-punk-pop supergroup were led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom DeLonge, together with guitarist David Kennedy (his long-time cohort in other off-shoot BOX CAR RACER), bassist Ryan Sinn (ex-DISTILLERS) and drummer Adam “Atom” Willard (ex-OFFSPRING, ex-SPECIAL GOODNESS, ex-ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT).
No longer swept up by pop-punk idealism, Democrat Party campaigner DeLonge and his AAA – invert the middle A logo-wise to become Ava, the name of his daughter – spent several months in San Diego, California, coming up with a blend of heavenly sounds for an album. Preceded by attendant hit, `The Adventure’, it was no surprise when the “Blink” connection heralded a Top 5 debut set in WE DON’T NEED TO WHISPER (2006) {*6}. Influenced by the politics of war, plus U2, The CURE, NEW ORDER and a tinge of post-prog, fans of his former act would show subsequent disapproval at this cheeky change of direction. Sure, DeLonge had suffered a recent epiphany after a nervous breakdown, but record buyers felt taken for a ride on all but best bits, `The War’, `The Gift’ and second single, `It Hurts’.
On the back of a tour supporting TAKING BACK SUNDAY, Matt Wachter (ex-THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS) duly filled the berth of Sinn. Once again, lukewarm reviews beset A&A in their quest to bury punk-pop via Top 10 sophomore set, I-EMPIRE (2007) {*6}. A concept of sorts depicting the i-pod culture, the anthem, air-punching nature of opener `Call To Arms’, The CURE-cloned `Everything’s Magic’ (a failed 45) and `True Love’, were indeed stuck in a murky 80s groove.
Prompted by a private plane crash in 2008 which nearly killed drummer Travis Barker (the pilots and some passengers did not survive) and the passing of long-time producer Jerry Finn from a heart attack, the BLINK-182 trio decided to reunite in order to help Barker recover from post-traumatic stress. Several months down the line from announcing their intentions at the 2009 Grammys (on February 8), DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Barker (the +44 alumni) were well on their way to unveiling their sixth set, `Neighborhoods’, but delay upon delay usurped its release date until late 2011.
In the meantime, ANGELS & AIRWAVES polished off album three, LOVE {*7}, issued free by DeLonge’s own To The Stars imprint on-line for Valentine’s Day as part of a “corporate underwriting”. Devoid of anything remotely punk, the U2/CURE aspect was gelled by Tom’s other influence: space-rock kingpins PINK FLOYD. A slow-burner in all its romantic, cosmic glory, the non-commercial, modern enterprise approach overshadowed its nicer touches such as `Hallucinations’ and `Epic Holiday’. While `The Flight Of Apollo’ or `The Moon-Atomic (…Fragments And Fictions)’ were no masters of ENO ambience, A&A had finally come of age.
As for LOVE ALBUM PART TWO (2011) {*4} – recorded the previous summer – the quartet seemed to be going through the motions, probably in space time continuum. Exploring the themes of love, God and hope, the only significant break-up factor of the Top 30 set was the subsequent absence of Willard; superseded by the younger multi-instrumentalist Ilan Rubin (from LOSTPROPHETS and NINE INCH NAILS) in time for the remix EP, `Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal’ (2012).
Down to only two members by 2014 (DeLonge and Rubin); Wachter’s berth was filled by THRICE’s Eddie Breckenridge, briefly, before he too exited stage left with Kennedy, A&A cross-pollenated all mediums by way of the multimedia Top 40 album, THE DREAM WALKER (2014) {*6}. Embellished by the addition of comics, films, etc., and nurtured by downloads a-plenty by way of `Paralyzed’, `The Wolfpack’, `Bullets In The Wind’ and `Tunnels’, their space-race was re-set for a new generation of post-punk kids looking to the future.
The future was, however, bleaker for DeLonge, who was duly ousted on-line by his buddies at BLINK-182, who’d roped in ALKALINE TRIO’s Matt Skiba. Unperturbed, Tom came down to earth to unleash a couple of EPs, the first a freebie to coincide with a book, `…Of Nightmares’ (2015), the second an official mp3, `Chasing Shadows’ (2016). On a footnote, the DeLonge-less BLINK-182 secured their first transatlantic No.1 that July with the punk-fuelled `California’.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2016

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