CD Review: Blink-182-ers learn bright spots of breaking up

It was 1962 when Neil Sedaka first sang “Breaking up Is Hard to Do.” Little did he know that, not only would his words ring true for lamenting lovers, but for bitter bandmates as well.

Following the 2005 dissolution of pop-punk powerhouse Blink-182, the band’s rhythm section took their bitter sentiments and ran. For Mark Hoppus (bass) and Travis Barker (drums), the result was +44.

The unconventional name was inspired by the international dialing code to the United Kingdom, where the pair first discussed the band’s creation. Though Hoppus and Barker originally planned on a largely electronic-based venture, +44’s first album, When Your Heart Stops Beating, falls more along the lines of a standard alternative sound, albeit one that is noticeably more adventurous.

It is an effort that is the next logical progression of a sound that was alluded to in Blink’s last record; one that is somewhat darker and deliberate, but that still maintains a pop sensibility. And while it survives on hooks, it flourishes on candid, contemplative lyrics that will undoubtedly inspire countless teen-age fans to ink those words onto the covers of their school notebooks.

That is certainly an accomplishment, but what is more impressive is the variety of moods Hoppus articulates on When Your Heart Stops Beating. The title track is one of hope and sincere promises; “Cliffdiving” is a love song straight out of the Blink playbook; “No It Isn’t” is a lyrical sword pointed firmly at former bandmate Tom DeLonge, in which Hoppus begins and ends the track with the lines: “Please understand/This isn’t just goodbye/This is I can’t stand you.”

While the album is not blanketed with that kind of bitterness, it is certainly a noticeable underlying theme. It is readily apparent that Hoppus is a man trying to move on from the wreckage of a friendship likely forever gone. When Your Heart Stops Beating lets listeners peek at that complex process through a carefully constructed, 12-track window that is far more creative and optimistic than one might expect.

Though it has been more than 40 years since Sedaka’s hit climbed the Billboard charts, +44 is proving that though breaking up is still hard to do, it’s not without its bright spots.

From the Jan. 24-30, 2007, issue

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