nowListening: California by blink-182

All lyrics and music by blink-182, not me. Clearly.

Growing up, my mom was a big fan of heavy metal and grunge rock, while my dad mostly listened to country. I think there’s a degree to which we inherit tastes from our parents—like most things—so for a long time I listened to what they listened to. I didn’t strike out on my own into the musical world until I was 11 or 12. I could write countless pages about the countless hours I spent with a Walkman or a radio, mostly listening for something I recognized, until I started to recognize new songs, things I hadn’t inherited from anyone else. This was somewhere around 15 years ago now, but one thing I remember vividly is that my first actual favorite band ended up being blink-182.

I don’t remember the first time I heard them, or probably any of the earliest times. I know I heard of them long before I heard them; one day in 6th grade a lot of my classmates were giggling and making a general hullabaloo about the whole nudity thing. What ended up sticking with me was their music. I remember how catchy “What’s My Age Again?” was, and how I always listened to it on low volume or with headphones, because I knew my parents wouldn’t like the lyrics. I remember falling in love with their more serious-ish songs like “Dammit” and “Adam’s Song,” more catchy tunes with “The Rock Show” and “All the Small Things,” and mostly I remember how “Stay Together for the Kids” immediately became one of my favorite songs of all time.

Despite all this, I didn’t own any of their albums until I was in high school, when a friend burned me a copy of their untitled album. I knew “Feeling This” and “I Miss You” from the radio, and eventually I’d fall in love with the album as a whole. If I had to pick an album that was the most important to me in the formative years of my musical tastes, this would be it.

It didn’t take long before the infamous hiatus, and while I enjoyed both Angels & Airwaves and +44, none of their work meant as much to me as untitled did. Needless to say I was thrilled when the band reunited, and I love Neighborhoods for what it is. The second split didn’t hurt as badly, especially since it didn’t take long at all for the band to start playing shows with Matt Skiba in place of Tom DeLonge. I was never a huge fan of Alkaline Trio, though I did enjoy quite a few of their songs, but I’ve always loved Skiba’s voice, so this was exciting. It all paid off for me when the band released “Bored to Death.”

I pre-ordered California as soon as I was able to, and I’ve played little else since putting it on my iPod.

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“Cynical” works as a fun opener, with Mark Hoppus dropping the band’s classic angst-ridden lyrics before being interrupted by Travis Barker’s famous drumming; the man is easily one of the best drummers of all time. Following is about a minute of (literally) unapologetic pop-punk, as Matt Skiba furiously belts out “What’s the point of saying sorry now? Not sorry, not sorry, not sorry, I’m not sorry.”

“Bored to Death” was a fantastic way to introduce the band’s new sound, with Skiba and Hoppus trading off verses and choruses.

Save your breath, I’m nearly
Bored to death and fading fast.
Life is too short to last long.
Back on Earth, I’m broken
Lost and cold and fading fast.
Life is too short to last long.

—blink-182, “Bored to Death”

Hoppus takes over for a cleverly worded bridge, and then Travis Barker drives the song home. By now it’s clear that Matt Skiba is a good fit for the band. His voice doesn’t contrast with Hoppus’s as much as Tom DeLonge’s does, but his guitarwork is right at home for blink-182.

Track three, “She’s Out of Her Mind” is another piece of classic pop-punk, with a catchy pre-chorus declaring “She’s a-a-a-antisocial, a-a-a-she’s an angel.” In the second verse, Matt Skiba proves he can provide a more classic blink-sounding flat vocal style as well as his louder, more melodious singing. After this is “Los Angeles,” easily the darkest song on the album. Barker brings his hip-hop drum style while Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba set each other up for vocals, tossing the song’s lines back and forth until Skiba takes over, leaving Hoppus to tunefully shout out some “ohs” that hit a spot most instruments wouldn’t do justice.

“Sober” provides an interesting contrast to “Los Angeles,” being far more light-hearted and playful. It’s catchy as hell, with a thick chorus of vocals shouting out some of the words to the pre-chorus sections. “I can do bad, and you can do better” is a good example of the kind of fun, simple, yet clever lines found throughout the record.

All 15 seconds of “Built This Pool” were released well before the album. It’s a joke song, and if I had to pick one track to cut, it would be this one. It’s cute and classic blink humor, but it’s the kind of thing that probably made a lot more sense in the studio than out, and for some reason just sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe it’s that it’s the only track that doesn’t feature vocals from both singers, or just that the tone is off; it’s more of a joke than “Sober” and far too casual for the next track, “No Future.”

Speaking of: This one is fun. Barker’s drumming is on point, and while some of the lyrics are sort of mashed into their rhythm, this song has the perfect balance of playful and serious. The random bass note before the first chorus always catches my ear, and Skiba’s verse is insanely good; it’s not the best writing ever, but he pours his soul into singing these lines.

She said that it’s too late to try,
Someday I’ll smile and say goodbye.
Every night that you fight every demon in sight,
Sleeping on the floor.
Wide awake from the dream with a shake and a scream,
Hope for so much more.

—blink-182, “No Future”

The song leads well into California‘s major ballad, “Home is Such a Lonely Place.” I’m a sucker for ballads, and this is a good one. Its surprisingly simple lyrics get the job done without trying too hard, with lines like “I hold on tight, but not enough to hold you back” and “Wish I could slow down time, but not enough to slow you down” reflecting the desire to keep someone close forever, but realizing they need their own space to grow and move.

“Kings of the Weekend” is probably my least favorite song on the album. I just don’t care for the lyrics, though musically it’s solid, in particular the riffs following each chorus. “Teenage Satellites” is one of the bigger-sounding songs, with the now-classic blink space theme going on. Hoppus smoothly cruises through the first verse and provides sturdy backing vocals throughout, while Skiba dominates the choruses and owns the second verse. I absolutely adore his voice, especially when he’s crooning lines like “Then you kissed me like a storm at sea / Like I’m the only one you’ll ever need.”

After this is “Left Alone,” which starts with more spacey-sounding keys before being taken over by a flowing, melodic guitar section and Barker’s intense drumming. This quickly became one of my favorite songs in blink history, let alone on this record. Hoppus and Skiba split the song 50-50 vocally, trading off lines of each verse. The pre-chorus finds Mark Hoppus frantically asking “Can you remember the last time” followed by a hardly-there Matt Skiba contributing a memory, and the whole thing comes off as a bittersweet mixture of fondness and frustration, boiling down to a simple question: “Are we halfway gone, or halfway there?”

Then the chorus explodes, with Matt Skiba belting out some of the heaviest, loudest, most intense singing I’ve ever heard from him. It sounds like nothing the band has done, yet an entirely natural progression from their untitled and Neighborhoods eras. Lines like “Break me down, I’m not afraid of you” become album highlights.

“Rabbit Hole” was the second full song released, and is much faster  than “Bored to Death.” It’s a fun tune, with Skiba’s verse lyrically playing with Hoppus’s, a simple and catchy chorus of “I won’t fall down the fucking rabbit hole,” and a great vocal chorus for the outro.

“San Diego” tones things down, beginning slowly with Mark Hoppus reminiscing, clearly about the band’s past. Oddly enough, Matt Skiba sings a majority of the song, but his voice fits the tone perfectly, keeping the song from sounding bitter or too serious. The bridge is one of the best moments on the record, and I’d be interested to know who wrote it, as it’s one of two moments on the whole album that sound more at home with Alkaline Trio than blink-182 (and I don’t mean this in a bad way).

I never needed to hear
All of the pain and the fear
Your secrets filled up my ears like the ocean blue.
I never wanted to know
How deep these cuts on you go
And like a river they flow to the ocean blue.

—blink-182, “San Diego”

“The Only Thing That Matters” is one of the fastest songs on the album, and among the most playful. It’s classic blink through and through, except the second verse, which is the second moment that, to me, smacks of Alkaline Trio, but with the casualness of blink-182.

“California” closes the album as the last full song. Matt Skiba is mostly in the background for this one, which is a softer, ballad-y tune covering the ups and downs of modern day California. It’s one that hits close to home for me, because I was born there, lived there for years, and visited several times. Barker’s drumming is clever as ever, but quiet, along with Skiba’s guitars, letting Mark Hoppus’s vocals take control of the tune.

Two little kids out on the lawn,
Once we had love, now it’s gone
Good things haven’t happened yet
I’m empty as a movie set,
It’s what I’ve always wanted.

—blink-182, “California”

The song slowly escalates toward the final chorus, where the trio play and sing their hearts out, bringing the album to a fitting close, if you don’t count the next joke song, “Brohemian Rhapsody,” which would’ve been better off as a hidden track. After the first listen, there isn’t much worth going back for, except maybe Skiba’s epic lead guitarwork.

California is a good record for introducing the band’s new sound. It’s not going to oust the untitled album as my favorite, but there are some unforgettable tracks here. Good luck getting me to ever shut up about how much I love “Left Alone.” It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here—these three re-inventing themselves with a more serious sound à la the untitled record would be a welcome direction, and it might be fun to see the band move on as a four-piece with Tom DeLonge back in the mix, if even just for a song or two. Whatever the case, this band has a lot of history, for me and in general, and I’m excited to hear what happens next.

Never to Have Loved at All

It feels like rain. All the time. Not the good kind that lulls you to sleep, drowns out the city and all its noise so you can get some rest; the kind that ruins parades, sends kids inside, the kind you try to read to, but the thunder scares you and you lose your place. The kind that overflows your gutters, leaves puddles in your path and a cascade right outside your door, so you can run to your car but you’ll still get soaked to the bone. The kind that isn’t warm, it’s cold. The kind that keeps you up all night, quoting Tennyson and thinking about the different kinds of rain.

Only Ever

There is a world underneath this one,

Behind it and beyond it and all tangled up and twisted into it, a series of knots that will never come undone.

Sometimes you go there. Sometimes you never do. Usually you come back, but sometimes you stay.

It’s a better place than this one. It’s nothing and everything,

and you’re conscious but you’re asleep and dreaming,

and you’re asleep and not dreaming.

Sometimes people in black line up and they cry for you, but you’re happy, but they can’t know that. Sometimes no one even notices you’re gone.

You’re surrounded by people there, or just one person you’ve never met and never seen, but you’ve known them your whole life, you’re best friends, you’re lovers, they’re a part of you and you’re a part of them.

You go about your daily life, blissfully unaware that things here are out of place or impossible, unaware of the things and the people you left behind. Every color is vivid, some of them are brighter and more beautiful than any color that can exist. Everyone smiles, everyone sees forever, and forever stares back and smiles.

All light is sunshine,

and all darkness is sunshine too. The only secrets are the good ones, the ones you keep because they keep you warm. You love and are loved so profoundly, love stretches between you and the end of everything and back again, wraps you in its arms and asks you if you want to stay forever.

You do. You want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything, in fact you’ve never wanted anything else.

Then,

sometimes,

you notice one of those things that is impossible or out of place. Or you remember one of those things you left behind. Or maybe it’s just that love and forever were pulled so taut that

something had to give,

and everything bleeds away.

Colors fade, faces blur. Hands disappear.

The old world comes back into view, like drawing sunglasses over your eyes, or someone put a King on top of your Ace, yet somehow you lose.

You hold on tight, you claw and scramble to stay. You don’t know where you’re going but you know it won’t be like this other place,

you won’t have that person or that warmth ever again. If you can just hold on

But you can’t.

You wake up. Or snap out of it. Or just open your eyes.

And now sunshine is still sunshine, but not as bright. And darkness is darkness.

Someone might love you, but not like that shy boy and his family did, or not like that skinny girl with messy brown hair who lived across the street from you. Or like that ever-reaching warmth you felt,

and here the warmth is only ever tepid.

Colors are only ever pastel. And you might have a good day, and you might even smile.

But not like you did there, in that other world.

The lucky ones don’t have to come back from it, and the unlucky ones don’t remember they were ever there at all,

Just that they had a good dream they can’t remember anything about,

only that it was the best dream they ever had.

Maybe we hear a whisper of a name, see a face out of the corner of our eyes, catch a hint of a smell or feel a hand brush against our own,

but turn to look and nothing is there.

Well, it is there, sort of. Underneath, behind and beyond and all tangled up,

somewhere,

just out of reach.

At the Intersection

I remember this intersection. Last time I was here, we were crossing it on foot. The lights danced overhead, leading everyone along their roads, telling them where to go, and more importantly when.

Our light turned green and we started crossing. Almost halfway into the intersection we heard the screeching tires, and before we could turn our heads toward the source, we heard the impact. Metal bent in so fast it sent a percussive crunch into the city, glass shattered and spread across the pavement.

Someone took too long to clear the intersection. Someone else didn’t notice that it wasn’t his turn. That’s all it takes to make two lives collide. Maybe more; after all, the two cars hit, what, eight feet to our left? Ten?

It wasn’t a bad wreck. I’ve been hurt worse than that by words, I’ve seen harder crashes in my friends’ hearts. But it was frightening. One of the drivers, the one who wasn’t paying attention, got out to yell at the other. Then he got bored and sat back down in his car and waited for the authorities.

I walked on, because otherwise I was going to be late for work. You waited on the sidewalk in case they needed witnesses for the police report.

That sound has long since stopped echoing off of these buildings, the glass and all it dust have been washed away by a thousand rainstorms. Yet here I still am, sitting at this intersection, like so many others, waiting endlessly for our turn to go.

It’s still frightening. How many of us are in for the next collision? Not the one eight feet to the left, but the one head-on, heart-on, out of nowhere, so fast you don’t see it coming until it’s too late, but you feel the impact, and you’re left wondering if anyone in this world is ever going to be okay, let alone you.

Someday Will Eventually Come

Someday Will Eventually Come

There’s never been a storm that didn’t break,
Though there’ve been some we couldn’t see the end of til it came.
There’s never been a night so dark we went to bed but couldn’t wake
Or been a silence so extensive we had nothing we could say.

I know it hurts right now,
But there’s never been a problem so complex we couldn’t figure out
Or been a time so frozen still we couldn’t wait it out,
Or a word so painful you could never let it out your mouth.

And it’s okay to cry,
There’s never been a watershed so wet you couldn’t dry your eyes
Or been a dark so heavyset the sun refused to rise
Even after love so close you thought it too strong for goodbyes

You’re allowed to be happy.
There’s never been a suffering you needed an amount of,
Or been a pain so absolute it couldn’t be healed from,
And I wish that I could promise someday would eventually come

But that’s not fair to say,
There’s never been sincerity exempt from a mistake
Or been a promise so assured it couldn’t possibly break
And I am not infallible, despite how confident I stay

If I could make you better,
I’d do it right away.
But there are no diseases I can cure with my embrace,
Or wounds that I can close with all the words I softly say,
Or history I can erase by putting smiles on my face.

If I could really fix you,
I’d have done it long ago.
But there are no words I can say to force you to keep hope
And I can’t make you believe things nobody can know,
Or send you down a better road if you don’t want to go.

All that I can really do is ask you to believe,
There is happiness out there for you even if it’s not with me.
There’s never been a distance so great you couldn’t try to run,
But I hope you never stop believing someday will eventually come.

Stray Cat

I met a stray cat tonight, on the way out of my friends’ apartment. It came rushing up to us, to rub against our legs like it was greeting old friends. Before we drove away I opened and slammed the car door to scare it off, in case it had decided to wander under the car.

I got home and I greeted my own cat. She was happy to see me. I know this because I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and she followed me to eat from her bowl. She felt safe.

I wandered my empty house for a while. I’ve always been happy to call Kansas City my home, but tonight I miss the warm air of California nights. Tonight I miss the sunrise reflecting off the mountains in Utah. There are no mountains here, and it snows on the first night of Spring.

I guess I don’t feel safe. I think I’ll go to a bookstore later today. I need something familiar.

It feels like I’m a stray cat, and someone opened and slammed that door, but not to make me scamper off to safety. They just wanted to see me jump out of my skin.

You Harbor

You Harbor

I’ve grown so tired of the sea,
This salt-stained deck beneath my feet
The endless shaking of the waves,
That swallow everything I say.

And I can see the shore,
The places that I used to know
Too shallow here to moor,
And will be forever more.

So tie the anchor around my legs,
And help me walk the plank
Watch me fall for fathoms deep,
Into a bed where I might sleep.

The seagulls cry, but not for me
And hold wakes in the foam
My ship won’t be the first to sink
Just miles from its home

I thought I saw you on the sand,
Hair blowing in the wind
I thought I saw you lift your hand,
To wave goodbye again

And I’m a ship that has no crew,
The water gods had cursed
To roam the oceans, far away
For all eternity.

So sing your song for me,
Guide my ship toward the rocks,
Send me to the bottom of the sea,
Remind me what it’s like to breathe.

Oh, Winter Morning (from Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails)

by David J. Lovato

Oh, Winter Morning

Wake to find the whitened light
Sliding through my windows
Creep across a hardwood floor
The chill of morning scrapes at my nose

Crack my door to feel a greeting kiss from the cold
Stare into a winter sunrise as it stretches all the shadows
This is the only friend and oldest friend I’ve ever known.

Listen close as everything freezes
No birds or words or slightest breezes
Only ice as it spreads across all things,
The trees and skin and all my reasons

Fall into the loneliest of seasons, never pause
The air so cold it brings the seconds to a stop
Spend the rest of my entire life inside a broken clock
Stand barefoot in the snow until my toes fall off.
Stare into the dimlit sun til I see God.

Only the winter wind could ever move my skin and bones,
They are the only vehicle my soul has ever known.
The snow will hold all sound to stillness, kill the tone
While I run back to my bed and sleep until I grow old alone.

 

from Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, available now.

Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails Available Now

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

From today my poetry collections Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails are available.

cover art by david j. lovato   cover art by david j. lovato

Build Yourself Better is a narrative poetry collection, meaning the poems tell an overall story while also standing on their own. Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails is a collection of my narrative poetry collections, and includes Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, A Means to an Ens, Build Yourself Better, and a collection of poems originally scrapped from the above three works, titled B-Sides and Rarities.

You’ll find both available in eBook and softcover, as well as a hardcover option for Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails. Those interested in checking the books out before buying will find samples by highlighting the “Samples” link on my site’s top menu.

Store links can be found below.

Build Yourself Better
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, CreateSpace

Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu (hardcover)

As always, thanks for everything.

Now and Then (from Build Yourself Better)

by David J. Lovato

Now and Then

On the ride home she was singing songs to me
I was trying to stay conscious in the passenger seat, and
I was thinking there was nowhere else I’d rather be, but
Now I’m thinking that I’d rather be right there, forever.

Now I’m sitting naked on my bedroom floor
Trying to remember what led you to the door
I won’t apologize for not being good enough,
I know it wasn’t something wrong with me, but us

From the back porch I watch the light from her window stretch across the yard.
It’s the only light in the neighborhood, the rest of the world is dark
My eyes keep trying to adjust,
The way they were always trying to get used to “us”
I don’t think they realize that darkness is the point now.

She flicked cigarettes across the pavement
The way I skipped stones across the lake, and
I was thinking there was nothing we could lose, but
Now I’m thinking I’ve lost everything.

From the office I watch the dog stare out the window and whine
I think she thinks of herself more as yours than she was ever mine
My heart keeps trying to believe
The way it’s always trying to get used to now “just me”
I don’t think it understands that belief isn’t the point anymore.

She slept softly in the bed that I had made
The way I speak softly if I ever have to say her name, and
I kept thinking maybe she’ll come back for me, but
Now I’m thinking we should exist separately.

 

from Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, available in print and digital formats February 29th, 2016.