Released on Valentine's Day as a free-of-charge download album, 'Love' will receive a physical release in the future. To grab the album, head over to the Modlife subpage (Facebook account required).
Usually these are the albums which bands knock out in a few weeks using tracks which weren't deemed strong enough to make the A-list grade. To AvA's credit, Love is an album one year in the making, part of a multi-media project and is being initially offered free-of-charge. Quality-wise it also stands up to anything the band have released before.
There was one phrase which seems to have forever lodged in our minds when it comes to Angels & Airwaves. One quote from a long-forgotten source which beautifully summarises the work of AvA as: "the best music that Tom DeLonge could ever make".
Nothing much seems to change over the three studio albums which have so far been put to the band's name. Drum beats are often recycled, DeLonge's vocals retain the same nasally nature and the guitars stay buried under a thousand twinkling effects layers. On a larger scale, it's unlikely to garner more than a passing nod of approval when compared to contemporary indie/experimental artists, but there's something almost charming in DeLonge's messianic ambition and subsequent lack-of-delivery. He's like a puppy who plays dead when you tell him to sit. Obedient: no, adorable: yes.
Yet just because DeLonge and co. seem forever consigned to the 'just above average' region of the critical scale doesn't mean that their albums can't be an enjoyable experience.
There are even rare breakout moments, like say "The Flight of Apollo" where the guitars make a rare deviation from their usual low-key, fed through six settings on the effects pedal performance and are promoted to a full-crunch distortion role at the front of the mix. Riffs are rare on this album, the focus instead put towards constructing a pleasant atmospheric base for DeLonge's semi-spoken-word vocals; so when one is included, an impact is made, not necessarily a long-lasting one, but like a service-station on a motorway, it breaks up the journey a little.
Despite all of its vague positives, one major let-down comes courtesy of the words we're fed, supposedly meant to change our lives. When not joking about colonic irrigation, or showing off the dark side of punk as he did in Blink-182, DeLonge struggles to muster anything particularly memorable, and Love is no exception. There are intriguing moments, like on "Shove" where he muses "You can use some help / Cause sometimes it comes with a shove / When you fall in love" but this might be just down to the fact that it sounds kind of rapey.
For all his focus on heavenly bodies, atmospheric events, the larger issues of love, loss and betrayal and lamentations of human nature, AvA fail to state much beyond the vague, the abstract and the uncompelling. Scant observations on the human condition, zero witty turns of phrases, nothing to seriously engage. As was mentioned at the outset though, perhaps this is simply the best DeLonge can do, you can easily ascertain that he's trying his hardest, but some people are not born song-writers, capable of turning the prosaic into the profound. Unsurprising since he himself admitted that they formed Blink-182 because they were bored and wanted to score some chicks.
There is a second gear which the band seem to possess though. It came on "The Flight of Apollo" and it also comes on "Hallucinations". While much of the album comes across as treading-water, during these shifts, everything finally clicks together. The pace is picked up, DeLonge starts to stretch his vocal ability and tracks invigorate through epically building sections which implode into tremendously cathartic crescendos and stratospheric choruses. On this form, the band is always welcome, they may need to look deeper into expanding their sonic palette on the quieter, slower-paced tracks though, since barely one of them makes an impact.
Seinfeld once famously declared their mantra "No Learning, No Hugging". Angels & Airwaves seem to have taken such advice to heart, but inexplicably turned off the illumination to the wrong "no".