Sometimes the worst people to listen to in regards to a band’s sound are the band members themselves. They’re just too involved and close to the music that they lack the necessary objectivity to accurately describe the music. This rings incredibly true in the case of Dogs Eating Dogs, the newest EP from long-running (and newly independent) pop punk act blink-182. In the time leading up to the EP’s release, drummer Travis Barker stated that the material present would be “100 times better than Neighborhoods”, helping to build up hype concerning the trio’s new music. When added to the fact that the band recently severed ties with Interscope Records and would be releasing the EP independently, Dogs Eating Dogs had the elements of a comeback story written all over it.
Of course, then you have to remember that this is the reformed blink-182 here.
For the most part, the EP is an extension of where Neighborhoods left off. The EP does find the band treading into new and unexplored territory for the band… but not necessarily new and unexplored territory for the band members, which leads to a few pros and cons. The unnecessarily long song introductions and the reverb-cranked-to-11 vocals of Angels and Airwaves are present in more than half the songs, which is a drag for anyone who isn’t also a fan of the spacey/proggy outfit. The aggressive guitars of +44 do squeeze their way into the title track, which is a welcome surprise; although it takes backseat the synth-y and hip hop elements of the rest of the EP.
Much like Neighborhoods, guitarist Tom Delonge sings lead over Mark Hoppus on most of the EP. While this may have been a conscious decision made by the band, it’s not necessarily the best decision, as Dogs Eating Dogs winds up sounding essentially like a collection of the more upbeat Angels and Airwaves songs (e.g., “Everything’s Magic”, “Secret Crowds”) than anything else. Based on the direction of songs from Neighborhoods, this really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, just as it’s unsurprising that the tracks that feature more Hoppus are the stronger songs.
Whereas “When I Was Young” and “Disaster” showcase what the band can do when it relegates Hoppus to harmonies and background vocals in the chorus, “Dogs Eating Dogs” and Boxing Day” show that the two vocalists can still share the spotlight without overpowering each other. The title track is, as previously mentioned, musically similar to +44’s “When Your Heart Stops Beating”, with Hoppus taking the verses and Delonge on chorus duty. It’s one of the more straightforward rock songs that the band has written in a long time (rivaling last year’s “Hearts All Gone”). “Boxing Day” takes the exact opposite approach of “Dogs Eating Dogs”, going for the somber, acoustic approach. It’s not quite a ballad in the vein of “I Miss You”, but it cuts it close.
The EP’s final song, “Pretty Little Girl”, is a perfect example of why just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. As you may or may not know, Travis Barker recently released a collaboration EP with rapper Yelawolf. This friendship eventually led to a blink-182 collaboration with Yelawolf. After the end of the second chorus, Yelawolf enters the song unannounced, raps briefly, and exits just as quickly. It’s puzzling as to why it was included, and the only reason one can really think of is the rapper’s friendship with Barker. Yelawolf’s contributions are just as weird as Green Day’s collaboration with Lady Cobra on their song “Nightlife”, although Green Day at least had a theme going on (even if it wasn’t a particularly successful one), this one is just jarring and out of place.
People will undoubtedly enjoy eating Dogs Eating Dogs. Hell, after a few listens I think it even began to grow on me. But on the whole it remains to be just another blink-182 release. Some of the choruses are really strong and catchy, but the over-layered production make some of the songs feel like leftover Angels and Airwaves songs that Tom brought to Mark and Travis to rework (particularly "Pretty Little Girl"). Maybe Dogs Eating Dogs is better than Neighborhoods, but only around 5x better… possibly 10x, but it’s certainly not at the point of being 100x better. It’s most definitely an appropriate follow up to the band’s last album, continuing the new sounds and themes that the trio has developed since reforming. So there is that... for better or for worse.