From the start, there was always something about Angels and Airwaves that didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t anything to do with who was in the band – after all, AVA has always featured a veritable superhuman lineup, right from day one. It wasn’t really Tom Delonge’s self-righteous attitude on earlier albums. We all think we’ve stumbled upon the best thing since sliced bread at some point in our lives, it’s just that most of us don’t proclaim it loudly in the music press. It wasn’t even the weird space theme, because I bloody love space.
No, I think what put me off Angels and Airwaves was that none of it ever felt focused. Every song seemed too long, too floaty with no real point to it. And if Delonge wanted to do that, then he was very much allowed to, and everyone just let him get on with it. Whether you’re a Blink-182 fan or not, you can’t deny that they’ve always been very to the point. However, with The Dream Walker, they’ve turned a huge corner. Now, AVA’s the baby of Delonge and the extremely talented Ilan Rubin, who you might have seen on tour with Nine Inch Nails earlier this year. All of the potential that AVA have carried and never quite reached all this time just reached fever-pitch.
The truth is, The Dream Walker isn’t even that cohesive. Of course, you’ve got those big space rock tunes, but then you’ve got songs that wouldn’t be amiss on a Tears For Fears record, weirdly funky disco numbers, and downbeat, almost goth tracks. And then there are tracks that, if you took away the electronics, sound like they’d be part of the new Blink-182 album, like ‘Mercenaries’. The important thing is that everything has so much more bite to it. The guitar tones have always worked in an AVA record, but in this one, Delonge’s found the perfect balance between atmosphere and aggression. That’s no doubt got something to do with Rubin, and his presence on this record can’t be denied. It’s sharper, tighter, with a more industrial tone in places – the fantastic ‘Paralysed’ is a great example of this.
Delonge’s permitted to wander at places, but never to the point where it gets tiresome. There are no six-minute epics on here. Take ‘Tremors’, my favourite track on the record. With its heavy synths, jangly guitars, big woahs and 80s rhythms, it perfectly sums up everything that this record is and pinpoints exactly where AVA have been reaching all along. It all finishes off with the beguiling ‘Anomaly’, which indeed lives up to its namesake. In it, you get the true feeling of this ‘dream walker’, as this acoustic ballad with weird, syncopated beats sings you out. It’s pretty. Pretty in the way that you probably didn’t expect.
And then, there’s the story. Apparently, all of this record ties in with a central character called Poet Anderson and there’s even a short film to go with it. I didn’t even notice. But then, I didn’t need to. The mark of a great concept album is that you don’t even care about the concept, but if you want to dig, then it’s all there. It’s not a heavy-going story, like Coheed and Cambria or Armor For Sleep might be, but the voice that’s telling is warm and familiar, and it’s worth sticking along for the ride.
It might be near blasphemy to say it, but The Dream Walker feels more like home than Blink-182’s Neighbourhoods ever did. Even if they’re two different beasts that one should never compare. It’s not to everyone’s tastes, but this is Delonge’s biggest triumph in years. And I truly hope that it will be remembered.
4 out of 5 high fives!