Pop-punk band Blink-182 was justly and unjustly maligned for a number of crimes, from writing insipid pop to having a juvenile sense of humor. But the group also knew how to write a hooky song, sometimes with an emotional depth its accusers ignored. Still, the criticism apparently affected former Blink guitarist-vocalist Tom DeLonge, because he weighs down his new band's debut with a stifling earnestness.
DeLonge spent the past few months talking up Angels & Airwaves in practically messianic terms, clearly proud of an undoubtedly ambitious album. But We Don't Need To Whisper feels like 50 long minutes of DeLonge proving himself as an artist. He throws the gauntlet down immediately with the six-and-a-half-minute opener "Valkyrie Missile," spending two minutes building up a song that lacks any real chorus or hook. It's as if he's attempting to show how far he can deviate from Blink's template. The self-importance continues to the last second, where DeLonge says in a radio transmission, "Who do we think we are? We're Angels & Airwaves."
A catchy song doesn't arrive until the fourth track, "The Adventure," the album's first single. It works mostly because Angels & Airwaves balance their dramatic tendencies (sweeping keyboards, long buildups, moody interludes) with the quick sugar rush of refined power-pop. Even there, DeLonge reverses his songwriting style by making the verses loud and catchy, but the choruses quiet, slow, and focused on his voice. That's a problem, too, as DeLonge habitually holds notes too long.
Maybe a producer could have fixed that—but DeLonge produced Whisper, and the album suffers because of it. Not that his production itself is bad, but he clearly needed an editor, someone to release the hot air that makes this debut feel so bloated. Even when DeLonge desperately tries to mature, it still comes back to a fart analogy.