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Unrequited “Love” – Nothing new from Angels & Airwaves

I don’t doubt Tom DeLonge knows about love. Really, I don’t. The family man has produced two successful albums with Angels & Airwaves (AvA), pouring his heart out on every track. But maybe that’s the problem.

Taken alone, Love, AvA’s third album, is truly an epic display of precision sound effects, catchy drum beats and passionate, often heart-wrenching lyrics. But step out of Love and any AvA fan will ask herself or himself: Haven’t I heard this all before?

The answer is yes–to a large extent. Two and a half minutes of soul-stirring effects open the album with “Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce”–Latin for “lead the world by light”–whose absence of any vocals is a welcome signal that perhaps Love will lead us in a new musical direction from the San Diego group’s We Don’t Need to Whisper (2006) and I-Empire (2007). But for those looking for that new musical direction, disappointment may quickly set in.

Take “Epic Holiday,” for instance, whose pounding drums, floating synths and larger-than-life vocals are near-equivalent to those of I-Empire’s “Everything’s Magic.” Or “Clever Love,” whose quiet intro that repeats and builds for five minutes could hardly be more similar to I-Empire’s “Breathe” without being the same song. Or “Some Origins of Fire,” which, when laid atop AvA’s epic “The Adventure,” aligns itself almost perfectly for the same length of song. Not to mention each track’s over-extended intros and endings, effects-adulterated guitars and DeLonge’s obviously enhanced voice–all factors that play out in I-Empire and, to a lesser extent, We Don’t Need to Whisper.

Now, to say that Love may not impress the average AvA fan is not to say that the Southern Californians’ latest album, released Feb. 12 free of charge, is anything less than excellent music. In fact, if it were AvA’s first, only album, the group would still garner millions of fans. The ambitious DeLonge never fails to shoot for the stars with his lyrics, and those of Love are no exception. “The moon you felt, it has no side that’s dark like hell or safe from light, just blown apart by wind from stars with white dust tides” is the mantra of “The Moon-Atomic,” and DeLonge tries hard to connect with a higher being in “Letters to God, Part II”: “Dear God, I found out the same things we learn when we die. I found out the truth is it’s all a big lie.”

Other tracks clearly come from the heart of someone who knows and appreciates love for what it can offer. DeLonge, in “The Flight of Apollo,” appeals to his lover, “Please don’t look at me so sadly, life shouldn’t hurt so badly,” and he offers his own heart–“We all are loved and love is hard, so here’s my heart”–in Love’s closing track, “Some Origins of Love,” which offers a light, catchy opening and some clean guitar riffs. And, taking a welcome respite from heavy contemplation, DeLonge has a bit of fun with “Young London”: “Suit up, boys, let’s ride, it’s the weekend / Get down, girls, and dance with your best friend.”

However you look at it, Love is a clear indication that Angels & Airwaves have firmly established a sound that is unmistakably their own. And although Tom DeLonge has rejoined Blink-182, he has vowed that AvA will not stop making music anytime soon. Let’s just hope the ambitious frontman will dare explore something new for AvA, even if it means getting over a few musical hurdles first. As he sings with conviction in the band’s second album, “Everyone will listen, even if it hurts sometimes.”

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