Angels and Airwaves: We Don’t Need to Whisper
Take one part Blink-182’s last studio album, one helping of Boxcar Racer, a dash of braveSaintSaturn, a smidge of Dashboard Confessional, a smattering of U2 and a hint of 80’s stadium rock, and you have Angels andAirwaves.
The album is a journey, carrying a theme of war throughout the entire project. Sometimes it can even mask the true meaning behind some of the song’s lyrics. All of this is most likely because Tom DeLonge (lead singer and songwriter for the band) sees life that way. It’s not a bad analogy at times, and you can really feel Tom’s pain throughout the album. There were times listening to the album that I was able to share in Tom’s heartache for the world we are surrounded by that I had to check my iPod to make sure it hadn’t stopped playing and the music was only playing in my head. Since the album takes us on a journey from beginning to end, spinning a story the whole time, let’s review it in the same order you would hear it were you to sit down and listen to it.
We open with “Valkyrie Missile,” and this is where some of the U2 influence shows itself. Most of the songs on the record have an intro of at least 30-40 seconds.“Valkyrie Missile” takes two and a half minutes to reach the first words of the song! This is not a complaint, simply not what I was expecting from the former Blink-182front man. This song is an anthem of sorts, calling for people to listen, there is beauty in individuality screams the singer. There is hope for a fresh start, and hope in the human race banding together to keep going strong. The song may hint at a sexual relationship between the singer and someone else, but that is not too clear.
From there we move to “Distraction.” Here Tom sings about his heartache at the brokenness in the world around him. He uses the war imagery to convey the feelings of life around him ravaged by evil, fallen brokenness. And he offers to distract his love from the chaos and pain. Not the best answer, ignoring the pain and heartache, but he does offer it anyway.
“Do It For Me Now” comes next on our road, and this is the current single from the band (late August 2006) and it tells a story of a relationship that is going through the latest in a series of fierce arguments. Tom is tired of fighting and yearns for himself and his love to make up and leave the past where it belongs. There is anger, and the song does include one profane expletive, but in the end, Tom invites his significant other to hold on with him as they brave the storms together.
Next we embark on “The Adventure.” The singer expresses his desire to have the same dream he had just the other night, “the one where I wake up and I’m alive… Anything that’s dead shall be regrown.” This song is an anthem for life as adventure. Something to be lived to the full, to be optimistic about. It may even be hinting at eternal life as the greatest adventure.
“A Little’s Enough” comes up next out the window as we pass. And this is one of the more interesting songs on the record, at least lyrically. Tom at one point sings that it is“Like God Himself is coming home to say, I, I can do anything if you want me here, and I can fix anything if you’ll let me near…” The song delves deeper, speaking of turning water into wine, and so on. Though I do wonder at what exactly Tom means by the earth itself coming to life to say the same things God said. Curious.
At this point we are past the middle of the record. The music slows just a little, and we are treated once again to a song that uses the war metaphor heavily (“The War”). This could be a song about simple human fallenness or about a specific relationship, I am not sure. But it is a hopeful song, one asking for belief in the best that can happen.
“The Gift” is a brief stop that offers a romantic look at what it is like to offer all of yourself to someone. This song was probably written with Tom’s wife in mind, and we get a peek into his head and heart when it comes to sharing himself with his wife as they do life together. In this there is some sexual undercurrent here, and it really depends on who it is aimed at as to whether we can justify it or not.
The only really dark spot on the album is next. “It Hurts” is a song devoted to sharing the anger that exists because the singer’s lover has betrayed him and had an affair. The lyrics are quite poetic in nature, and it is both sad and uplifting at the same time to hear this song. The sadness is that the author has given into his temptation and done the same thing as his lover did to him. But he feels remorse. We almost never see this today! Regret and guilt that we screwed up! Wow. No one takes responsibility like that anymore!
By now we are nearly finished with our journey, and we arrive at “Good Day,” a song that expresses regret, quite possibly a continuation of “It Hurts.” In any event, the song by itself is hopeful of love winning out in the end. The only problem with the song is that it depicts True Love as being something that is easy, not something that takes a lot of work.
And with one more gasp. “Start the Machine” tells of the hope that lies in starting over. This can be applied to relationships with others, with God, with projects, anything really. The war is over, now we begin again anew. With a fresh slate. Nothing remembered of past transgressions, they are all forgiven.
Throughout this album we have encountered songs that deal with sadness at the brokenness of our world (“Distraction”), hurt in relationships (“The War”, “It Hurts”)and wondering at what happens after we die (“A Little’s Enough”). But there is light at the end of this tunnel. Of the 10 songs on this album, 7 of them look at the pain and hurt with an expectant hope – hope things will be fixed (“Start the Machine”, “The Adventure”), that love can grow in spite of bad spots in relationships (“Do It For Me Now”) and seeing life positively because of receiving love (“Good Day”, “The Gift”).
There are a few tracks marred by swearing, but that swearing is surprisingly minimal compared to Tom’s Blink-182 days. I am not one for gratuitous swearing, and I even ascribe to the belief that swearing is largely cultural. But when you get right down to it, the truly creative mind will find other words to use, and here Tom has truly impressed me with his efforts. I truly wish that some of the CCM “artists” would give people like Tom a listen and would sing of real life and hurt, instead of simply spewing forth fluff.
I would gladly recommend this Angels and Airwaves to anyone who wants to hear good music, that not only looks at the pain in life, but looks to a hopeful and positive future, not one that is mired in death and despair. If you are turned off by swearing, look for an edited copy, or skip over those words in the song. If you are a teenager, allow your parents to read this review and then ask them about the disc. Angels and Airwaves is one huge jump in redeeming music. Only a few small miscues keep it from being a complete leap forward.